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cory mortensen


Editorial Reviews

Blueink Review
Embracing Bewilderment is the third installment of Cory Mortensen’s irreverent travel memoir, continuing where The Buddha and the Bee and UNLOST left off.

Cory Mortensen is an adventurous traveler, and in this book he starts in Iceland for his jaunt through 13 different European countries. Then he heads to Asia, where he travels back and forth among eight different countries before returning to the U.S. “I hope this book guides in some way but this is not a guide book,” he writes by way of introduction.

Kirkus Reviews - UNLOST
A shaggy travel memoir with amusing recollections and occasional nuggets of wisdom.

Picking up where he left off in his debut travel memoir, The Buddha and the Bee: Biking Through America’s Forgotten Roadways on an Accidental Journey of Discovery (2020), the author continues his destinationless journey, setting his sights on South America. After leaving the bike he traveled with in the previous book, Mortensen headed to Mexico because “something was pulling me to continue south.” Such statements are indicative of the author’s travel planning; when he has a feeling or desire, he follows it. His feelings guide him through Central America to South America, where he hitchhikes and takes buses, trains, and planes around the continent. Mortensen is adept at meeting fellow wanderers, linking up with strangers and traveling with them if their desires align. One such stranger was Hans, a man from Holland who invited the author on an impromptu hike in Argentina—the Sierra Valdivieso Circuit. According to Hans, the hike was “twenty-eight miles long with 6300’ of elevation gain,” and should have taken three days. The ensuing misadventure is one of many times throughout the memoir in which Mortensen’s wry prose style adds levity to what could have been a more harrowing story if written by someone more self-important. Instead, he writes almost anti-seriously, inviting readers to see that his wanderings are intentionally aimless—the author even sardonically refers to himself throughout the book as “your hero.” This affectation could feel twee, but Mortensen’s unpolished reflections obviate any archness (the memoir’s friendly accessibility is one of its most prominent features). The author keeps his reflections short, even when waxing poetically about some destination or history, such as his discussion of the balsas he encounters in Copacabana, Bolivia. Occasionally, Mortensen’s sardonicism can become overbearing, especially when he makes broad generalizations and assumptions about groups of people. Still, the book fulfills his stated purpose: “I hope this book guides in some way but this is not a guidebook.”

Indie Reader
The Buddha and the Bee: Biking Through America's Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery - Cory Mortensen

"In the end, with no special preparations and lacking even the basic equipment, Mortensen came through in fine style, and ditched his day job back in Minneapolis in order to “let the world revolve underneath me”. It’s a fitting end for a journey that was as central to Mortensen’s journey of personal growth as it was grueling. "

Readers' Favorite
Unlost: Roaming Through South America on a Spontaneous Journey - Cory Mortensen

In Unlost, Cory tells the experiences with an excellent touch of humor, but he is also illustrative, giving honest descriptions and interesting facts about the places visited. Unlost is the second part of The Buddha and the Bee series, and it also shows how following your instinct can lead you to unexpected places.

Reading Cory Mortensen's book is like talking with a friend who tells you his anecdotes. His narrative is relaxed and fun. He knows how to connect his stories with explanations of historical facts. He shares the culture he is acquiring and shows you his ability to solve problems with astuteness. I admire his courage to travel into unknown territories."

Readers' Favorite
The Buddha and the Bee: Biking Through America's Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery - Cory Mortensen

"I thoroughly enjoyed Mortensen’s accounts of his day-to-day adventures, especially his encounters with the people he met. Mortensen is a talented writer; I felt like he was talking to me instead of me reading a book. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an entertaining tale of adventure, courage, and perseverance. It’s especially valuable to anyone who might be thinking about a similar ride, or even a day trip on a bike, but even non-bikers will delight in a superbly told story."

The Wishing Shelf Book Awards
The Buddha and the Bee: Biking Through America's Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery - Cory Mortensen

"A compelling jumble of facts, feelings, and dodgy hotel rooms. Highly recommended!" The Wishing Shelf

Kirkus Reviews - Embracing Bewilderment
A well-written, absorbing journey through Europe and East Asia.

“I always liked the perspective of the world upon landing,” Mortensen reflects in the book’s opening lines, noting that, from the vantage of a plane 30,000 feet in the air, “the world is cut up in large, segmented swaths.” It’s the descent and landing that expose the “hidden mechanics” of a new setting as city blocks, moving cars, and houses come into view. An entrepreneur who sold his business and shed his possessions, the author has spent the past decade traveling by plane, train, boat, and bicycle across the world to foster connections with local communities. Picking up where his last two bestselling travelogues—The Buddha and the Bee (2020) and Unlost (2021)—left off in the “forgotten roadways” of North and South America, this book continues Mortensen’s adventures to nearly 20 countries in Europe and East Asia. He takes readers from Iceland’s Driftwood Bay and Prague’s Vltava River to the temples of Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and the bustling cityscape of Hong Kong. Part travelogue, part commentary on human history, society, and culture, the book pays particular attention not only to each region’s geography, but also to its people. The appendix material features an essay on “How To Become an Entrepreneur Without Wanting To Become an Entrepreneur” that includes the author’s personal success story. The memoir also touches on the class dynamics inside German train cars, Iceland’s newfound emphasis on tourism, and humanity’s age-old fascination with dragons. Written in an engaging (and occasionally literary) prose style full of evocative imagery, the book effectively captures the landscapes and people of the nations surveyed while avoiding problematic exoticization. The accessible text is accompanied by an ample array of full-color photographs and maps. While familiarity with Mortensen’s previous books is not necessarily required, references to them abound throughout this volume, which may leave new readers lost regarding the full backstory and nuanced motivations behind the author’s escapades.

Kirkus Reviews - The Buddha and the Bee
A humorous, insightful book for readers who enjoy the outdoors and tales of pursuing one’s dreams.

On August 22, 2001, Mortensen began a 2,000-mile trek from his father’s home in Chaska, Minnesota, to Truckee, California, on his 1999 Specialized Allez bike. Eschewing a planned route or timeline, and even proper equipment, he threw caution to the wind and hit the open road. Three days in, he wanted to quit. After pushing on, he would be chased by a pack of dogs, narrowly avoid a possible kidnapping, and fix too many flat tires to count—all while taking in the Rocky Mountains, the Great Salt Lake Desert, and the Sierra Nevadas and singlehandedly keeping small-town Subway restaurants in business. At the end of the journey, he found the courage to leave his desk job and use his savings to spend his time traveling: “On the road, no one asked anything of me. I was…coasting, looking, hearing, smelling, seeing. I picked and chose what was important. I had never before had such control over who I was or wasn’t.” Mortensen’s storytelling perfectly captures the casually intimate tone of a spontaneous conversation with a stranger. Intriguingly, the sense of freedom he describes feels like a thing of the past. Without a cell phone, he could only communicate with his loved ones via pay phones and library computers; he heard of the 9/11 attacks from passing cyclers while biking over the Rocky Mountains. Mortensen also spent his days cycling through ghost towns founded during the westward expansion of the 19th century, and, like every good travel writer, he’s a master at capturing forgotten places at specific moments in time. Travel takes on greater significance with the past as a backdrop; the book has a personalized feel to it thanks to the addition of historical anecdotes, along with photos Mortensen snapped along the way.

Literary Titan
The Buddha and the Bee: Biking Through America's Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery - Cory Mortensen

"The Buddha and the Bee is an entertaining memoir and dramatically different from what readers typically find. Mortensen gives us an in-depth and funny look into his journey through America’s roads. I highly recommend this to anyone who wants a not-so-average travel read. With his wit and facts, he gives us a superb read that you don’t want to put down."

The Wishing Shelf Book Awards
Unlost: Roaming Through South America on a Spontaneous Journey - Cory Mortensen

"A compelling insight into the ups and downs of traveling through South America." The Wishing Shelf

Online Book Club
The Buddha and the Bee: Biking Through America's Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery - Cory Mortensen

"What I enjoyed the most about this memoir were the author’s philosophical and existential reflections. Right at the beginning, the author felt that he was unprepared for was the overwhelming sense of loneliness. “The fields of produce represented nothing but loneliness.” He says that Thoreau identified the four necessities of life in 1854: food, shelter, clothing, and fuel. In this case, in 2001, he amended Thoreau’s postulation to reflect his situation: bicycle, tent, clothing, and a debit card. I felt that remarks of this kind were a noteworthy positive point."

Devon Street Review
Blog Post: The Buddha and the Bee: Biking Through America's Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery - Cory Mortensen

[Excerpt from Post] At times, The Buddha and the Bee feels like what would happen if Jeff Spicoli, Sean Penn's iconic anti-hero from Fast Times at Ridgemont High had taken up biking and set his sights on San Francisco. Dude.

The Buddha and the Bee sort of turns the idea of the inspirational memoir upside down, a few obscenities here and there joined at the hip by an occasional joint and near daily rural roadside Chinese dinners and overnight stays in forgotten America's roadside motels.

Podcast Interviews

The Quest Express
Part 3 of 4 - Getting Unlost, Micro-Adventures & The Express Quest Yacht Party

WARNING: This episode may induce sudden fits of wanderlust, exuberant adventuring and potential overdosing on airline miles. Please listen with caution and travel responsibly. :)

The Quest Express
Part 1 of 4 - Author, Uncle, Neologist & CEO White Condor Publishing

BONUS WEEK: We meet a fearless explorer who sold everything and traveled the world for two years. He established & grew a business into a multimillion-dollar venture and turned his extended Quest into three best-selling books.

Finding Ourselves - Travel Podcast
Finding Ourselves Travel Podcast: Season 3, Episode 1 - Unveiling Wisdom with Cory Mortensen 🐝

Liz Dowling and Sean Hicks are back with the latest escapade in "Finding Ourselves," Season 3. 🎙️✈️ This episode is an absolute gem as they sit down with the award-winning author, Cory Mortensen, taking us on a captivating journey through spirituality, adventure, and self-discovery. 🏆📖Cory Mortensen, the wordsmith behind "The Buddha and the Bee," opens up about his profound travel experiences, offering a glimpse into the transformative power of exploration. From tranquil temples to bustling markets, his stories inspire wanderlust and self-reflection. 🌏

But that's not all! Cory's upcoming book, "Embracing Bewilderment," is set to launch on 2/14/2024—International Book Giving Day and Valentine's Day. Save the date for this literary treat that promises to be a perfect blend of adventure and introspection. 📆📚

Join Liz and Sean in their excitement as they also discuss their upcoming travel plans, ensuring more tales of cultural immersion and discovery. 🌟🗺️

👉 Join the "Finding Ourselves" community on Facebook: 🌐🤝 Connect with like-minded travelers, share your stories, and become part of a vibrant community passionate about exploration.

Embark on this odyssey of wisdom, adventure, and self-discovery with "Finding Ourselves" Season 3, Episode 3! 🚀 Tune in now to catch the excitement and mark your calendar for Cory Mortensen's upcoming release, "Embracing Bewilderment"! 🎉

Secrets From the Saddle: All things Cycling Podcast
Interview 045: Cory Mortensen | The Buddha and the Bee: Biking through America's forgotten roadways on an accidental journey of discover‪y‬

"Cory Mortensen has ridden his collection of bicycles over a million miles of asphalt, dirt, mud, and backroads. In addition to the cross-country journey detailed in his first book, The Buddha and the Bee, he has traveled to over fifty-five countries, cycled from Minneapolis to Colorado solo to raise money for children born with congenital heart defects. He’s completed sixteen marathons on five continents and survived three days of running with the bulls in Spain. In 2003, he took time off from roaming, and started a company which he sold in 2013. That same year he married his best friend, and explored the state of Texas for two years. The couple sold everything they owned, jumped on a plane to Ecuador and volunteered, trekked, and explored South America for sixteen months before returning to Phoenix, Arizona, where he works as a consultant and bestselling author."

The Quest Express
Part 2 of 4 - Why every writer should lose their manuscript at least once

BONUS WEEK: Who knew the miracle of the cloud could bring the sunniest day ever? And what happens when you follow your instincts and go off the beaten path? Serendipity Central. Travel crushes. And, are travel angels real??

Zee Michaelson Travel
Cycling Through America's Heart with Corey Mortensen

Have you ever felt the call of the open road, the allure of landscapes unrolling before you, and the promise of discovery with each mile? This episode features the remarkable Corey Mortensen, a best-selling author whose spontaneous bicycle journey from Minneapolis to California is as much an exploration of the American spirit as it is a personal odyssey. As Corey recounts his hitchhiking escapades to Antarctica and his heartwarming romance in South America, you can't help but be drawn into a world where every turn brings a new adventure and every encounter, a potential story.

Talking with Cory Mortensen

Today I had the pleasure of meeting Cory Mortensen. Here's some background:

Born in the small town of New Prague, Minnesota, and raised amidst the sun-soaked landscapes of Scottsdale, Arizona, Cory Mortensen embarked on a unique journey that shaped both his life and literary career.
Choosing an unconventional path, his journey began with dropping out of college to immerse himself with a job on Wake Island, gaining valuable experiences that would later infuse his writing with a distinctive perspective. Returning to the United States, he started a dynamic career as a project manager for several prestigious architecture firms, coupled with a venture into real estate by flipping houses.

The allure of exploration took center stage when Cory made the bold decision to sell everything and traverse the globe for two transformative years. This period of travel not only broadened his horizons but also laid the foundation for a successful entrepreneurial endeavor. Cory established and grew a business into a multimillion-dollar venture, eventually selling it to pursue a shared dream with his wife, Kate.

Cory has written three books about his travels. You can find out more by visiting his website:

Bike Tour Adventures Podcast
Interview 045: Cory Mortensen | The Buddha and the Bee: Biking through America's forgotten roadways on an accidental journey of discover‪y‬

"In this episode of Bike Tour Adventures, I speak with Cory Mortensen about his 2-month leave of absence in which he cycled from Minnesota to California. In this story of self-discovery, Cory broke away from society’s expectations and embarked on an adventure that forever changed his life’s trajectory. After 20 years of adventure and travel, Cory has finally written a memoir on his life-changing adventure. Titled, The Buddha and the Bee: Biking through America’s forgotten roadways on an accidental journey of discovery. Today, we will discus Cory’s new book, how the adventure changed his life, and what compelled him to make such drastic changes to his life in the aftermath."

Press Articles

Cycling News
Best Christmas cycling gifts at Amazon

Cory Mortensen decided one day to ride across America from Minnesota to California. Setting out with minimal planning, including an absence of a planned route, he wended his way through the backroads of the USA. This is a travelogue of the people, places and experiences along the road.

EXCLUSIVE: 'I went on a bike ride after a break-up - and didn't come home for two years'

"Cory Mortensen has chronicled his adventures in the award winning book, The Buddha and the Bee: Biking Through America’s Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery Cory Mortensen left his home and kept going "

Travel Writing World: Resources for Readers and Writers of Travel Literature
Cory Mortensen - Author Profile

Cory Mortensen stops by Travel Writing World to answer a few questions about his career as a writer. He is the author of The Buddha and the Bee: Biking through America’s Forgotten Roadways on a Journey of Discovery (White Condor 2020). You can find out more about his work on his website.

30 Best Books about Travel (2023)
The Buddha and the Bee: Biking through America's forgotten roadwayson an accidental journey of discovery - Cory Mortensen

"What is it like to cross America by bike? Cory Mortensen, the author of this book, starts his journey in Chaska, Minnesota, and plans to finish in Truckee, California. He has no plan or timeline, he just cycles. During his trip, he meets many interesting characters and experiences some scary encounters. It’s not a book about all the amazing things you encounter during a trip like this, Mortensen also addresses the bad experiences. Keeping it real!"

लड़की से रिश्ता तोड़ घर से गायब हुआ युवक, पूरे 2 साल बाद लौटा तो...

"ब्रेकअप के बाद एक शख्स की जिंदगी बदल गई. उसने साइकिलिंग करना शुरू कर दिया. वह अब तक 55 देश घूम चुका है. कई किताबें लिख चुका है. दुनिया भर में उसका नाम है. लेकिन ब्रेकअप से पहले वो एक साधारण नौकरीपेशा आदमी था. खुद उसने अपनी जिंदगी के बारे में बताया है."

Reader Reviews

Honest, emotional, funny

Cory takes the reader on a journey into the vast landscapes of the American West and into his deepest thoughts. Told from an honest, emotional, funny, self-depreciating perspective, it gives the reader pause to reflect on their own life and perhaps light a fire or at least stir some dormant embers of a quest for adventure. If you are a fan of Blue Highways, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, On the Road, Into the Wild, A Walk In the Woods or other similar tome, then you should put The Buddha and the Bee on your reading list.

-John Heckenlaible

A welcome distraction

What can go wrong or right in a short bike ride? A lot. What can go wrong or right on a 2,000 mile cross country trek? Also a lot.

As a cyclist myself and lover of random trivia bits, I enjoyed watching Mortensen’s quick evolution from novice to sunburnt chaffed road veteran. I’ve read quite a few journals of similar journeys and this one is easily one of the most humorous; plus Mortensen is a bit of a maths nerd, computing for fun when times are rough.

The journey did change our “hero” but the self revelations are gentle, tinged with humor and it doesn't feel like they are laid on too thick. Especially in a time of Covid it was a welcome distraction to spend a few evenings reading of Mortensen’s adventure and I wouldn’t mind reading about more - where did our intrepid hero go next?

-Book Snuggery

Well written and witty

I really enjoyed this book! Cory Mortensen writes about his journey biking from Minnesota to California. I "oh, no'ed" everytime a car pulled up. And, I had a mini-anxiety response everytime he blew out a tyre! What really caught my attention were the historical aspects of the towns he went through. Interesting, engaging, entertaining! Well written and witty. Thank you, Netgalley, for the opportunity to read this book for an honest review.


Great Escape During a Pandemic

Many of us long to leave our everyday life behind and travel and explore new areas. Usually this escape is in the form of a road trip with the family piled into the car. There are exceptions, and Cory Mortensen's, "our hero" love of biking allows him to take his Specialized Allez bike from Chaska, Minnesota to Truckee, California. Even though Mortensen is an experienced outdoors enthusiast and marathoner, he is ill-prepared for a cross country bike ride which provides many humorous moments in this book. Mortensen's solo bike trip allows him to meditate during his isolation on the road: "It wasn't just a bike trip. It was an adventure, and adventures were not dictated by the expected. They were adventures because of the unexpected things that happened and how we embraced the challenges."

This book is engaging, humorous, and a great escape during a pandemic. Interesting facts and trivia about the landscape and cities Mortensen travels through are an added bonus. This book is a gift to the reader to examine our own lives and reveal our adventurous spirit!

This book was provided to me through a Goodreads Kindle giveaway.

-Joyce Edmeier

A great storyteller.

This guy is crazy, someone who you don’t want planning a trip for you, but who you’d probably love to have beers with or read a book by. A great storyteller with tons of asides and background info. If you have any interest in biking cross country, reading this will either convince yourself to do it or never try such a thing. Hopefully if you decide to, you’ll plan it out better than he did.

-E.W. Bertram


Humorously written book that proves life isn't about the destination, but about the journey and all the beauty that unfolds if you simply allow life to come to you... with some effort of course.

This book is a page turner. I found myself lying in bed at night laughing aloud at the situations the author experienced, while biking across the country. And at the same time, distilling life lessons that we all encounter into compassionate and simple statements that reminds us that we're all human, living life and wanting to be happy and smile... even when hardships come our way.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the sequel. Fore as the reader will discover (without giving anything away), this book is obviously just one journal of a continued journey.

This should be on the New York Times Bestseller list...

-F. Schilling

Captures the lure of movement

Oh, this was so much more than I expected!

This book was the perfect escape from pandemic isolation and a billion Zoom meetings. Cory Mortensen's account of his spur-of-the-moment bike ride from Minnesota to California in 2001 made me feel like I was outside in the sunshine, heading for the next little town. Whether you bike, run, walk, or drive, this book captures the lure of movement - to crest the next hill, to press on until dark, to chase that vanishing point on the horizon.

There's a lot about biking in this book (and about not biking, as tire-fixing and beer-drinking are also persistent themes), but the book is also a genial travelogue about the states the author crossed. Tidbits about history and landmarks pop up here and there, as though the author is whizzing by them. It's disconcerting at first, especially as the voice tends to shift from raconteur to instructor, but by the middle of the book, I found I was looking forward to it.

I really enjoyed the author's accounts of what he saw and experienced on the trip, from the acres of terrifying corn, to the cowboy boots on posts, to the heartbreaking days after 9/11, to the grandeur of the Rockies, to all the scuzzy motels he stayed in, to the aliens he may or may not have encountered. (Yep. Aliens. You try riding/driving through the Salt Flats at night.) He's particularly lyrical about the scuzzy motels, which have magnificent names and similarities in décor: chained TV, plastic-wrapped cups, mold lurking somewhere in the shower.

Great book. Once I read the footnote, even the pretentious spelling of "tire" made me laugh.

Many thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

-Rosemary Reeve

Perfect book for an escape

Perfect book for an escape. Mortensen’s story of his trip from Minnesota to California is engaging. It’s fun to see how he progressed from enthusiastic to almost quitting to not wanting it to end. Makes me want to do a similar ride, but also also glad that I haven’t!


Changing Life

Cory was going to a wedding in California from Minneapolis. No problem except he decided to ride a bicycle. Not being a biker he didn’t realize what he was getting into. After the first day he was ready to quit but surprisingly he didn’t. To me it was insane riding up mountains (I couldn’t do it). With no cell phone and only using pay phones and computers at the library to let his dad know he was OK he actually made it. A lot of mishap along the way. A lot of history of the different places he stopped. Cory had a two month leave from work but by the end of his ride his life had changed. He called his boss, quit his job and let the wind take him onto his next book—can’t wait


A Great Change of Pace

I was in just the right mood to read a book like this. Different from my usual fiction, mysteries, etc, The Buddha and the Bee is the story of Cory Mortensen, who decides to make his way by bicycle from Minnesota to California with almost no supplies, no helmet, and practically no plan. Along the way, he meets his share of characters, eats a ton of Subway Italian sandwiches and Chinese food, stays in some of the country's sleaziest motels and takes in the sights in every town he visits - like the giant stuffed polar bear - The White King in Elko, Nevada. His bike breaks down multiple times, but he finally makes it to California.

Cory Mortensen is a true free spirit. I have never done anything like he's done and I am envious I hope he continues to have adventures and write about them! This book was a great change of pace for me from my normal reads and I enjoyed it immensely.


I’m ready for the sequel.

The only thing I didn’t like about this book was that it ended. It’s not just for bikers. It speaks to the heart of anyone who’s ever wondered if their life is going in the right direction. Every page is a reminder that life is meant to be lived, not spent wishing for something to change. At best, this book will change your life. At worst, you’ll be left hoping Saturn returns for you.

-Lisa A. Thompson

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