Daniel Troia’s Cross-Country Bike Journey Was an Exploration of Human Kindness

Troia with his sign in Forsyth, Montana (All photos courtesy of Daniel Troia)

On your next trip to the grocery store if you ran across a 38-year-old man holding a cardboard sign that read “biking across country, ran out of food, anything helps,” would you reach into your pockets to help? That’s exactly the question Daniel Troia wanted to answer on his cashless cycling trip from Monterey to New York and back again.

It all started when Troia read a book called The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America, whose author hitchhiked across the country depending only on help from strangers. “I had started to really feel the tension and division in the country and it was really having an effect on me,” Troia says. So in 2018 he decided to duplicate the journey depicted in the book, this time using a bike. He wanted to make a film “showing people coming together, helping each other out and showing compassion and kindness.”

After seven grueling months on the road, thousands of hours of footage shot with drone, GoPro and camera glasses (the latter used so that genuine emotions were recorded), hundreds of interactions, thousands of miles and a year of editing, a film was made. And it is what audiences apparently needed to see: We Are All in This Together has won award after award on the film festival circuit and premiered on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Google Play in January.

The journey did not come without difficulty. There was the time Troia ran out of water in the Great Basin Desert in Nevada with 35 miles left to go on a road littered with dead animal carcasses. And the time he suffered three consecutive nights of 13-degree weather and was forced to wear every piece of clothing he brought.

Troia didn’t bring winter gear because he wasn’t planning on being out for so long, but when he arrived in New York after a few months he felt something was missing and so he decided to extend the trip and cycle back to California. “I hadn’t found what I was looking for. I think it was that I needed to go through a lot more of the hardship,” he says. “I tried to remind myself that when things would get difficult there was a reason and it was creating an opportunity for something special to happen.”

And sometimes those special interactions came from the most unlikely sources. “I was really amazed at the fact that I would receive a lot more help and attention from people in impoverished neighborhoods,” Troia says. “There were times when people bought me groceries with their food stamps; it was beautiful to see. I learned that the people who face the most adversity had the most to give.”

There was also the beauty of the landscape. “I loved Nevada and just camping out there in the middle of the desert and hearing the coyotes howling at nighttime,” he says. “Or crossing the Rockies in Colorado, working five hours to get to the mountain pass and the feeling of that downhill after.”

As for all the awards, Troia doesn’t feel they are just for him. “This film was a collaboration of all the people who I came across, their acts of kindness without even knowing [in the moment] they were being filmed,” he says. “They were just being genuine in the moment and recognizing someone who needed help and was vulnerable.”

As for his root mission: did the filmmaker find what he was looking for? “I think everybody feels the tension and division and we don’t like it. I think a majority of Americans don’t want to be this divided,” Troia says. “When it comes down to it, the people that I met showed me that we all share the same human experiences.”


drone shot of Daniel Troia on a bicycle in Colorado
Lizard Head Pass, Colorado