Fear and Loathing in Indonesia

Fear and Loathing in Indonesia

An Interview with Illumine Collect brand ambassador and videographer, Bronson James

Interview by Jeremy Lux, article written by Eric Gasa

When asked about his gig as a full-time videographer and Illumine Collect brand ambassador, Bronson James is simple and to the point: “I do lifestyle videos, I travel, and I try to film anything exciting that people don’t see every day.” But the story as to how he got here is anything but uncomplicated. It starts somewhere in Florida with a friend of a friend named Dustin Smith and an ill-fated trip to Indonesia ala The Hangover that would change James’ life and perspective on travel forever.

But before James hit the South Pacific, he was a Georgia transplant who grew up in Ohio, a film kid obsessed with extreme sports, nestled in the largest Amish community in the whole United States, or as James likens, “There was nothing to ever do so we’d just start filming to keep busy.”

James remembers the early days of YouTube viral videos, back then his camera didn’t even have audio but he still garnered hundreds of thousands of views. After getting a 9-5 job at a bank he soon found that it paled in comparison to his experience in filmmaking. For his birthday that year, James traveled to Florida and met Justin Smith from the famed YouTube channel JOOGSQUAD, known for daredevil-y viral videos like “Tubing Down LA River Gone Wrong!” and “Lining 8 Trampolines Into The Ocean”.

Smith’s project was a little less dangerous and offered James a chance to travel with him to Indonesia for a month to film him skim board.

James, who hadn’t left the country before, probably thought of his bank job back home and accepted; it was an offer he couldn’t refuse but James was in for a surprise when his plane touched down that morning in Bali around 3 am.

 “It was cool, but it was definitely not what I expected on Instagram. You see Bali and all these amazing resorts—and that was what I was expecting but this trip went in the complete opposite direction that’s for sure.”

After the first few days, James realized that Smith didn’t have that much of a plan. The guys kind of just winged it for a few days as they traversed the coast on scooters.

Things came crashing down one day while James was riding down the highway on his scooter and collided with a local traveling on the wrong side of the road.

“This guy had his mirror sticking out and it hit me on my left arm while we were going like 60 mph…then I turn around and his bike is just flipping through the air, scraping on the ground,” describes James.

The situation got testy when a crowd gathered around the injured local man then pushed James and Smith away for being Americans.

The two later made it to a hut in town called the Tasty Hasty Café, where a family treated James to some orange juice and a free massage. Things only got more bizarre from there.

“So, they had this table set up and I laid down on it and she's giving me a massage and there's a huge stack of speakers right in front of my head and she turns it on,” says James, “I'm thinking like it's going to be like spa music, but she started blaring System of a Down. I'm like, this is not relaxing, but okay cool.”

Next thing James knows he wakes up in fuzzy stupor, his vision “on a ten-second delay”. Panicked, he runs into the ocean, throws up, and passes out on a dirty mattress back at the hut.

James wakes up again to find his phone broken and all his money gone. Long story short, the orange juice back at the hut was Bali moonshine and the masseuses made off with his cash. Miraculously, James’ filming equipment was still with him.

The month-long trip to Indonesia had now turned into the excursion from hell.

Things went from bad to worse when James suffered a second wreck on his scooter, this time almost losing a toe. With no hospitals in the area, he wrapped the wound in a shirt and went to bed. That night he woke up to shooting pains in his foot only to find fire ants crawling into his wound…James bit down on his t-shirt and used his fingernails to scrape them out.

“All this happened within three days and I’m just thinking, wow I hate this place. I can’t wait to go home… holy cow. How am I going to do this?”

To make a long and perilous story short, James and Smith are hassled and detained by corrupt local cops, and somehow avoid paying a bribe thanks to James bluffing about knowing Krav Maga. It’s honestly the thing of movies, but after so many setbacks, pit falls, and a turbulent flight onboard the infamous Malaysian Airlines, the two find themselves deep in the serene mists of an Indonesian jungle; it’s the first time in weeks where James says he found inner peace.

“It was a turning point where I wasn't really worried anymore. I felt super calm and relaxed and after that my mindset kind of changed. I started embracing it. Nothing really scared me or bother me anymore. I just thought, this was a blast. This is such a cool adventure.”

James has gotten a few more international trips under his belt since his time in Indonesia but looking back there isn’t a single thing he would change; not one fire ant, scooter wreck, or sip of Bali moonshine.

“I would go back in heartbeat,” he says, “It’s hard to explain but you just gotta do it. When you go through something like that you learn so many lessons about yourself. When you start embracing the struggle of everything, it’s almost enjoyable.”

No matter where James goes that wild month in Bali stays with him, pushing him to the uncharted and undecided.


For more info on Bronson James and his art, check out his Instagram, @bronsonjamesallison and his YouTube channel, Bronson James. His online store, Live More Shop also features clothing and art inspired by his trips abroad. To hear the full details of James’ adventure, be sure to listen to Illumine Collect’s Life in Motion podcast with Jeremy Lux on iTunes.

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