Reading “The World’s Richest Busboy” is a lot like listening to a friend share incredible (often nail biting) travel stories while relaxing over a beer.
This unique travel memoir by local surfer and author J.J. Brito is truly an adventure in reading. Brito makes it effortless for his reader to become engrossed in his quest to find perfect waves around the globe.
Throughout the book, you feel like you are right there with him – not just dropping in on the crest of a perfect wave in the Indian Ocean, but also on a motorcycle crossing the desert in Baja during a sandstorm, enduring the sweltering heat of the third-class section of a train departing Johannesburg, or lost on a dark night in a cobblestoned Guatemalan town.
His ability to laugh at himself and to admit to mistakes or vulnerabilities makes Brito all the more appealing and real to his readers. His passion and optimism are contagious and gives us the courage to more seriously entertain our own dreams.
In 1991, during his senior year in high school, yearning for more than his home breaks in Huntington and Newport, Brito convinces a friend to join him after graduation on a surf safari to Indonesia. His trip is funded entirely by saving his earnings from delivering pizzas and busing tables.
Arriving home six weeks later, Brito realizes that he has been bitten by the travel-surf bug. The only cure – keep traveling. He gets back to work delivering pizzas and busing tables long enough to save up and return to Indonesia. That’s followed by treks to Australia and South Africa.
On a chilly morning just after New Year’s in 1996, J.J. sets out on his biggest adventure yet – alone on a motorcycle rigged with surf racks. He leaves Huntington Beach heading south towards his final destination – Costa Rica. Brito and his board make it in one piece via escapades in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.
Underneath the engaging tales of travel, lies the true heart of the stor: Brito’s personal evolution from a surf-obsessed teenager focused on waves and parties into a man gaining an ever-widening perspective of the world and ever-deepening gratitude for his place in it.
While traveling, Brito is exposed to not only beautiful scenery, fun surf and interesting people, but must also confront the ugly realities of the world, too.
Brito writes, “Seeing real poverty on a television program was one thing; having its rancid scent dissolve in your every breath was quite another.”
During his travels, while eating meagerly, sleeping at times on dirt or camping in his car, almost entirely devoid of material possessions, Brito realized how truly rich he felt.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and visit with Brito. He works in Newport Harbor for the Fun Zone Boat Company, and splits his time between California and Fiji where he has bought property and built a surf bungalow. After the summer he will return to his bungalow with his love Susan and daughter Melita, enjoying the richness of a simple life of surfing, fishing, and making his own furniture out of bamboo.
When I asked how he feels about the swelling success of “The World’s Richest Busboy,” Brito answered, “It is beyond anything I could even describe.”
The irony was not lost on me – as descriptive writing is Brito’s forte. His humbleness and humility are as refreshing as a tropical ocean spray. His head has not swelled along with his book sales.
Brito says the idea for the book came from the encouragement of family and friends who eagerly awaited his detailed and entertaining letters from far corners of the world.
The book covers his journeys during the 1990s. No cell phone, no GPS, no iPad, Mapquest, wireless, or 3G.
Brito explained that in retrospect, not relying on anything hi-tech enhanced his travels.
“Being so connected has its drawbacks, taking away some of the mystery of life. I used my mind, solved problems. I had time to be introspective, to look inside more.”
Technology, he also points out, cannot take the place of the power of a positive attitude and an open mind when on the road. With a positive outlook, positive things will happen.”
When I mentioned the many strange brushes with danger and the people who came on the scene at the perfect times while on the road, he agreed that luck was a factor, but quickly added, “Opportunities may be missed by people who are not open to them.”
You can see photos and buy your copy of “The World’s Richest Busboy” for $14.95 by going to