Inspiring People Of The Week: The Purvis Brothers Roadtrip Across America Before Going Blind

tod and jay purvis in front of canyon

Brothers Tod and Justin Purvis have a rare genetic disorder called choroideremia. The disease, which affects 1 in 50,000 people, causes people to slowly lose their eyesight and eventually become blind over time. There is currently no cure or treatment.


That’s a heavy diagnosis that really puts the brevity of life into perspective. Instead of focusing on all the negatives, however, the Purvis men decided to use their circumstance as a wake up call to live life to the fullest. To do that, they set out on the road trip of a lifetime, which eventually became the award-winning documentary “Driving Blind.”

We had a chance to interview Tod about their travels, the documentary, and what he and his brother learned about life along the way. They have an amazing perspective and profound thoughts on what really matters in life!

The Purvis brothers in action

brothers who are going blind, driving
Image via Driving Blind Film

Jay Purvis

jay purvis
Image via Driving Blind Film

Tod Purvis

tod purvis
Image via Driving Blind Film

InspireMore: What initially inspired you and your brother to go on this epic journey across America?

Tod Purvis: Justin and I had talked for quite some time about doing an epic road trip around the U.S. I had been recently diagnosed (Justin had been diagnosed many years prior) and was struggling with the diagnosis, so both of us thought the trip could be a way to get out of our ruts and challenge ourselves, as well as a way to have experiences that might be unavailable to us if our eyes got worse.

tod eating corn
Image via Driving Blind Film
purvis brothers looking out into a canyon
Image via Driving Blind Film

IM: What was the greatest thing you discovered about yourselves? Life in general?

TP: I think both of us discovered that new experiences, while challenging and even a little scary, can bring amazing benefits. We had to be in new places with new people pretty much every day of the trip, something that our eyes would normally make us try to avoid in our everyday lives. But we had such positive experiences that it was a great reminder that everyone, even people who perceive themselves as limited or disabled in some way, should get out and live their lives to the fullest. It sounds like a cliche, but it’s actually really uplifting to be looking for new sights and sounds in your everyday life.

idaho natives the purvis brothers met
Image via Driving Blind Film
purvis brothers holding cobras
Image via Driving Blind Film
purvis brothers with radio show host
Image via Driving Blind Film

IM: What memory from this journey will stick out to you most once you fully lose your eyesight?

TP: Visually, Devil’s Tower in Wyoming was a huge highlight of the trip for me. Another experience that was very moving to me was going in a sensory deprivation tank in Portland, Oregon. The experience of actually being “blind” in the tank was overwhelming and frightening, but also made me realize that I could get through it.

purvis brothers looking into darkness
Image via Driving Blind Film

IM: Do you have any practical tips for someone who is looking to go on an epic road trip just like yours? Planning, budgeting, etc.

TP: The trip took many months to plan and schedule. We financed the trip through generous donations from friends and family as well as our credit cards! We were incredibly lucky in that Brian Griffo, the director of the film, as well as our two crew members, Ryan Detzel and Adam Buckley, donated their time and huge talents to follow us around the country in a cramped crew van. The story that is “Driving Blind” could never have happened without them. We also used a network of friends and family around the country as crash pads and resources, as well as camping.

tod taking picture of mountains
Image via Driving Blind Film

IM: How many states did y’all travel through? Did you enjoy any states more than you originally thought you would?

TP: We “touched tires” (meaning we at least drove in to those states) in 33 states all around the outside of the country. I think the state that surprised us the most was South Dakota. There is an abundant amount of parks, monuments and road side attractions in that state, and we’d love to get back there.

scenic roads with canyons
Image via Driving Blind Film
view of river and forest
Image via Driving Blind Film

IM: What is the main thing you want people who watch your documentary to leave with?

TP: Setbacks and obstacles are a part of any life. The key is not to be defined by those setbacks and obstacles. No one lives a 100% positive life, and it’s OK to let yourself have bad days, but don’t let bad days be your only days. Appreciate the beauty around you wherever you happen to find it.

Watch the trailer to the “Driving Blind” documentary below:

“Driving Blind” has been able to raise significant awareness about choroideremia. The documentary was funded via Indiegogo and remaining proceeds went to In 2013, the film received multiple awards and was shown at a whopping 17 film festivals. Pretty impressive for two guys who just wanted to see the beauty of the USA.

You can watch the full documentary here.

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