While drinking mate in front of the sea, in Umag, Croatia, very close to the Slovenian border, Ezequiel Gignone (28) takes a break from his bike. He pedaled tirelessly for five years on a trip that would have been around South America and eventually turned into a trip around the world.. He knows that the next destination is Turkey, but he is still not sure where he will continue his journey. “I do what I want at the moment,” explains the adventurer, who lives on a budget of 10 euros a day and only spends on food because he sleeps in a tent. His followers on the networks accompany him and help him wherever he goes. His Instagram account (@ezequielgignone) is followed by 75 thousand people, his TikTok account almost 60 thousand and his YouTube account 116 thousand subscribers.
Four months ago his companion Manchita died. A puppy he rescued when he lived in Ecuador, or as Ezekiel prefers to call it, the pet that saved him. Together they had amazing experiences in unique places in Peru, Bolivia until they reached Ushuaia. The dog was in the saddle, on the roads with him, even if you had to pedal hard. His followers accompanied the moments when he had to take the dog to the vet, supporting him emotionally and financially. Ezequiel is never alone. His pet was vaccinated, well cared for, but a tick infected his blood and he couldn’t resist it. Here’s how he shot it: “Fly high my friend. You conquered not only the world on a bicycle, but also the hearts of thousands of people and taught me a lot about love. I will miss the sound of your breath in my ear as we slept together in our sleeping bag.” His followers cried with him.
Ezekiel was slumped on the pavement with his bike, remembering the date of the loss of his faithful and inseparable friend. I was in an amazing place, near Venice, in Fontaniva. “I was looking at my mobile phone in a bad mood and suddenly a car pulled up. Later, a grandmother called me and I didn’t understand much. He asked me, is he eating? No, I replied, I told him the truth. And he invited me to his home.
There was cooked food that she had prepared, lasagna, chicken, homemade bread. And we chatted. It was a beautiful experience and took me away from the moment. It was very nice”, he recalls the day that comforted his soul. The video was uploaded to his TikTok where you can see this Italian nonna treating him like a grandson. She expressed the “gioia” (joy) it gave her that he was there at her table. “Mangia mangia. enjoy your mealhe repeated. You must have seen him weak. Ezequiel is 1.81 meters tall and weighs no more than 60 kilograms.
The adventurer says that when you travel by bike, people help you. “When you cycle, you are naked to the world and wonderful things happen. I have eaten many times in family houses”, he assures.
Another video of him shows him following a man in a corner of Switzerland, on a bicycle with pedals where the handlebars normally are. When he found out that he was going to sleep in the square, he invited him to his home, where he had an extra room. Night was already falling, and the Argentinian had been following him for nearly an hour on his bike. And as he pedaled, he told his audience: “I feel safe because I’m in Switzerland. Would you trust a stranger?.
Everything went better than expected. He spent several days at the place because this cyclist and his friends ordered him to prepare about 315 empanadas. So much so that with this job he was able to replace a camera he needed. And Ezequiel knows a lot about this, since in Ecuador he became an empanada specialist with his own gastronomic enterprise.
Before going out to see the world, Ezekiel lived in Ecuador for five years with his father Gabriel. That he didn’t raise him because his mother and maternal grandparents got in the way. His parents separated when he was 3 years old, in Catamarca, where they chose to live. The boy was born in the countryside. He later returns to Buenos Aires with his mother and his life is not exactly a bed of roses. Especially during adolescence.
“When I was 16, 17 years old, my life was going pretty bad. My father at the time was addicted to drugs and my mother was depressed and I was even told she had schizophrenia. I could never confirm it. The truth is, they were both very bad. By then I had slept two nights on the street,” he says. Her mother had postpartum depression when her half-brother, who is now 12, was born.Then I was very afraid and felt safer in the square. A lady who worked in a repair shop invited me to her home and I stayed there for a month but then I went home. Everything seemed better. She was getting better, he was looking better, but a few months passed and he relapsed again. The fights were very strong“, I remember.
The violence became extreme when his stepfather threatened him with a knife because he went to take the psychiatric medication his doctor had prescribed. “I was already 17 years old, there were those who said to take them and others who did not. As a teenager, I went to one of the psychiatric centers where she was hospitalized and presented them with the medical prescription. They gave me the pills and when I came back he was overheated because he didn’t want mom to take that medicine. And he started pushing me, yelling at me and knocked me to the floor. He had grabbed a knife trying to threaten me and that’s when I left the kitchen and stayed in the patio, in a state of shock.. A close relative advised him that it was best to leave this house because it was very dangerous. And he heard it.
His father had not understood what he was going through. His maternal grandparents had kept him away from him: “They never wanted him to see me.” My grandmother had thrown my mother out of the house at that time when she went out with my father. I was 17 or 18 years old. They said he was a hippie or a traveler. So she knocked on my father’s door and they went to Catamarca for a job opportunity,” she says of her parents’ background.
When they separated, Ezekiel was three years old, and he and his mother went to his grandparents’ house. “My father decided to continue traveling and when he called on the phone, they hung up.. She was finally able to meet him again, with whom she found great affinities (design, photography, travel and nature) and held no grudge against her mother or her partner, who found refuge in an evangelical church and eventually recovered . In one of his videos that Ezekiel shared on his networks, you can see the emotional hug with his young mother after eight long years.
When his father came back into his life, of all the moments he emphasized one trip was very telling. He had turned 18. “He told me that you are now an independent person. We spent three months camping by a river, the Quilpo, in the San Marcos Sierra in Córdoba. They were three months of a lot of learning for me., more than anything, connect with nature, learn to respect it. We lit fires every day because we ate wood and drank water from the river. So I had a problem: I still couldn’t smile because of everything I’d been through,” he says.
After three months, Ezekiel looked at himself again in the mirror of a huge bathroom and hardly recognized himself. If before he looked like a pale, sad boy hidden behind his bangs, he was tanned, very muscular from the daily activities of searching for water and wood. He saw her back straight, not a hump. He had shaved his head and was meditating. “It was like I loved what I had become. My father said to me “you went into that river not knowing anything, like a child and well, you came out a man‘. Saying it makes me feel uncomfortable, but it’s a phrase he says,” the adventurer expresses. The good times began and the boy’s smile appeared on his face again. He remembers noticing while they were fishing and felt a peck after a long wait. His father said, “I saw your gums again.”
Before going to Ecuador with his father, they lived in Rafaela, Santa Fe, where Ezequiel saw his grades improve not only in the department but also in school. Back in the Andean country, father and son lived in separate houses, but a block away from each other. Ezekiel thought it was good to feel independent. During this time, he devoted himself to the gastronomic field, which he was best at, and even opened an empanada business.
And so one day his father told him he wanted to go back to Argentina, while Ezekiel wondered what he wanted to do. I thought I wanted to live in Brazil by choice, but I wanted to travel first. One thing led to another, he ended up selling everything, and on his father’s advice, instead of going with just his backpack, he took his bicycle, even though it was too heavy for that purpose. “I went on my bicycle to deliver some loaves of bread and when I was riding happily, I went with no hands, I felt a breeze on my face, a sense of freedom, and I thought I should do it this way.”
With their dog Mancha, they traveled together through Ecuador, the desert of Peru, Cusco with huge climbs, then they toured Bolivia, with its salt landscapes. In Argentina he passes through Catamarca to see the place where he was born. His followers are increasing kilometer by kilometer and he finances the trip by selling photos and stickers of him with the pet, small cafes that collect money and more. Everyone knows his story. In Ushuaia, they were surprised by the pandemic and the love of Milagros, a native of Tandil. They began touring Europe with her and are now in a long-distance relationship in hopes of seeing each other again.