10,000 miles from Manhattan to Panama with a piano

If you think that backpacking around the country is hard, try doing it with an upright piano.

That's what musician Dotan Negrin has been doing since starting his Piano Across America project in April 2011.

In that time, he's clocked over 19,000 miles and traveled to some 53 cities with his dog Brando and his 500-pound piano --playing music for people all the way.

Negrin’s incredible journey began after graduating from a New York City performing arts college. The underemployed Negrin worked odd jobs to get by in a bad economy, but nothing ignited his true passion like playing the piano for people.

"It was so frustrating waking up every morning doing the same routine working towards someone else’s dream instead of my own dream," he told FoxNews.com.

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So Negrin decided to pursue his dream by traveling across the U.S., playing music on city streets, in small towns, and even at the magnificent Grand Canyon.


Now, the 26 -year-old native New Yorker is taking his piano on the road again --this time going beyond the U.S. for a 10,000-mile journey from Manhattan to Panama.

On his South American tour he has already played in El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.

"I had some pretty awesome crowds in Guatemala City just hanging around my piano. It’s a different kind of energy and vibe. I thought people were going to request songs I didn’t know. I was surprised by how Americanized it was in Guatemala and El Salvador."

These crowds are important to Negrin because he pays for his travels with the money people give him. On the road he sleeps in his truck, which transports his piano, or he uses the website couchsourfing.com to find a family to stay with.

In El Salvador, a family took Negrin in on the condition that he'd give them a free concert. It’s this kindness that Negrin says follows him in his travels.

"I find the people in Latin America very welcoming, friendly, and outgoing. They want to talk and make friends and stuff like that. That’s part of why I love Latin America just because I have always felt that."

Negrin proves you don't have to have a lot of money to travel, and he gives the following advice to others looking to explore the world.

"Learning to live on a budget and not going shopping, going to grocery stores and not eating out," he said.

Negrin also advises people to talk to the locals and not always have a set plan when traveling to other countries.

"When I get to a city I ask around like where is the best spot or where are some cool bars. I didn’t know I was going to end up in Santa Tecla before I left on this trip, but now I am here."

It’s this laid back approach which Negrin says has helped him explore new sites and meet interesting people. Negrin recommends visiting Antigua for the Catholic processions and Guatemala for the Mayan culture, but says don't forget about the small towns.

Negrin realizes many relate to his story because it’s all about following your dreams and not letting someone else define them for you. When asked what advice he would give to someone struggling to purse their own dreams, he said: "You have to constantly ask yourself if you have enough passion for what your going after. And also part of it is throwing your self into a situation and fumbling through it, which is so much better than waiting. I found that through my trip instead of just waiting. I threw myself into things, and I didn’t ask questions or wait."

As for what's on the horizon, Negrin said he plans on filming his journey to put a web series together about different types of music. And once back in the States he would like to start a free music workshop for children and possibly plan a European piano tour.