“The road to success is not easy to navigate, but with hard work, drive and passion, it’s possible to achieve the American Dream.” –Tommy Hilfiger, via PizzaRescue.org
William Taudien is a 26-year-old Swedish man whose visa is set to expire in early September. His ambitions, pride, and joy for the country he has called home for the past six years is second to none, and he plans on milking out every last second he has left as an unofficial American — with hopes and dreams for more.
Beginning in mid-July, William Taudien (“tau-di-an”) will be traveling around the country in his personalized American flag-painted van while serving handmade pizzas to homeless people for a non-profit he created called Pizza Rescue to give back to the country that has been so good to him. His passion for the Land of the Free is eye-opening.
“The lifestyle, if I could describe it in one sentence: ‘It’s a party,’” Taudien said about America. “It’s really fun here. I wish I could stay.”
“I love it,” Taudien added. “You’re supposed to have fun in life — that’s the number one thing for me. That’s why I like it so much.”
Through several trials and tribulations in trying to maintain residency in the U.S., Taudien has started three businesses, been laid off from a well-paying job in San Antonio, and still keeps a hyper-optimistic attitude about his tough situation. He feels that being a good samaritan for the nation he loves is his duty, and he refuses to complain.
Taudien has never gained U.S. citizenship, but since an eventful visit to America in the spring of 2009, he has become an American in essentially every way.
After electing to dropout of college in Sweden in the fall of 2008, Taudien decided to visit a close friend from home at Texas State University in San Marcos the following spring semester. This turned out to be a fateful voyage for him, as it opened up an important door.
“I was talking to the track coaches here, and they said, ‘If you want to come here, we can give you a full scholarship,’” Taudien explained. “So I was like, ‘Yeah, why not?’ So I just packed a bag a few months later.”
Nothing was stopping Taudien from chasing his own new American Dream. In August 2009, he arrived again in Central Texas — this time, to stay for a four-year college degree. Despite his enthusiasm, William admits he wasn’t setup to thrive right off the bat, especially since the Swedish friend he visited at Texas State had since left the school.
“I didn’t know anybody here,” he said. “I didn’t even know if someone was going to pick me up from the airport. I couldn’t even really speak English.”
Majoring in Graphic Design, Taudien competed for the Texas State Bobcats’ Division I track & field team for four seasons, specializing in the 800 meter run. He holds the school’s third-fastest 800 meter indoor time, clocking in at 1:50.62. After graduating in May 2014, he scored a job drawing foundations for houses, which he left for a higher-paying job in the oil field business. It was at this job that he planned on having his work visa sponsored and extended, but bad luck in the oil world caused for a change of plans.
“I got laid off from the job when gas prices started dropping,” Taudien said, “and that screwed me over. They said they were going to sponsor my visa, and everything was good. Then after that, I got laid off together with 10,000 other people.” Since this incident in April, other prospective companies have been shy of hiring him due to the fact that he has only a few months before his visa expires, which is too short of a timeline for them to try to go through the sponsorship process.
This hasn’t made William ever think about giving up, though. Knowing that corporate sponsorship is no longer an option, he is aware of two more ways his visa can get extended: (a) marry a US citizen (a la Tom and Wendy Haverford in Parks and Recreation), or (b) have $150,000 invested into his visa. The latter option suits his fancy more, so he’s looked into options to keep that dream alive.
Among his business startup ventures include a portable electronics distribution called SOEZPZ (“so easy-peazy”), a personal training company called Adrenaline Rush, while also doing his best to find work independently as a graphic designer. The project he is perhaps most passionate about is Adrenaline Rush, but he has had to put an end to it due to the reality of his likely departure, allowing clients to find trainers elsewhere.
“It’s been fun to help people,” Taudien said. “The goal for this was to encourage all men, women, and children in America to live a healthier lifestyle, to start eating healthy, and become athletic and fit. I think when you execute your plans, it’s imperative to have a goal with it, and remember to think about that goal and work for that goal everyday.”
Through these spontaneous ventures, the objective remains the same.
“That’s been my main goal: to put together a lot of money so I can stay,” Taudien said. “But since my work authorization expired, I can’t really just get any kind of job. I don’t even have that option.”
With the September 6 visa expiration date quickly approaching, Taudien knows that even if he doesn’t succeed in his quest, he’ll go out with a bang. His non-profit pizza distribution — which he will cook out of his van — will be paired with seeing the best this country has to offer.
“That’s why I want to drive across the US: I’ll be able to see the whole country before I leave, and execute my Pizza Rescue mission at the same time.”
Taudien plans on wearing a costume that resembles both a Captain America-esque superhero and a fireman as part of his presentation.
“In case I get a girl along the way, I have a costume ready for her. It is a secret costume that I will reveal only to a special girl,” he said.
Taudien is just as passionate about the service he plans to accomplish along the way. The fact that it’s illegal to serve food to the homeless in several major US cities bothers him, and he wants to make a statement about it.
“If I do have to leave, my goal is to do something good for the country,” he said. On his PizzaRescue.org website, he applies the iconic John F. Kennedy quote to his mission: ‘My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ Taudien added, “One thing with this pizza thing is that it’s something good. It’s something that will help the country. Currently, it’s illegal to give out free food to homeless people in 71 cities in America. I think this trend is absolutely horrible coming from a nation built upon Christianity.”
As mentioned on his website, the main inspiration for Taudien to start this pizza-to-homeless-people mission was 90-year-old Fort Lauderdale resident Arnold Abbott, who was arrested for violating the city-mandated law as an advocate for homeless people. Without skipping a beat in the interview, Taudien continued to let his passion as an advocate for homeless people and his love for America shine.
“Scripture tells us in Matthew 5:42: ‘Give to the one who begs from you; do not refuse the one who would borrow from you,’” Taudien recited, applying the concept to the Rescue Mission. “Are we the kind of nation that assists in helping homeless people? Or are we a nation that makes helping homeless people illegal? For people to notice something wrong, you have to do something crazy.”
Aside from the chances he gets married within the next three months, with his ultimate goal of having his visa extended through raising $150,000 invested by September, he does have an adventurous bonus route in mind.
“I have a little plan,” Taudien said, half-jokingly. “If I do have to leave, I’ll just sell the van, and maybe I’ll buy a sailboat in Florida and sail away. That’s my backup plan.”
While he understands why the technicalities of his stay in America are so difficult, Taudien admitted the logic behind his likely departure frustrates him sometimes.
“I can speak the language. I love the country and I want to stay here,” he said. “I have a degree and I had a good job. If I had work authorization, I would find another job. I can’t do that — there’s no option for me, since I can’t work. People think it’s easy, and ask, ‘Why can’t you just get your citizenship?’ It doesn’t work that way. It can take 15 years.”
While he has strong hopes to be able to stay in the States beyond September somehow, he’s beyond grateful for the time he’s been able to have since arriving in Texas as somebody who could not speak English very well and knew nobody.
“I’ve loved it. It’s been the best time of my life, no questions asked,” Taudien said. “This lifestyle, I think is awesome. It’s definitely been the best time of my life. There’s no way I would’ve had this much fun if I’d stayed in Sweden.”
“If cleaning toilets would let me stay in the country legally, I would do it.”.
To help William Taudien with his trip’s finances, you can contribute to his Go Fund Me campaign here. You can also follow him on Instagram, Twitter, and his personal website while he completes his journey across America.