ALAMEDA — Aaron Cruz embodies at least two truths. He is an endless tinkerer and a voracious world traveler.
Growing up in Mexico City, one of eight children raised by a single mother, he could only dream of traveling to the pyramids in Egypt seen on the poster on the bedroom wall of his childhood home.
By the time he was in his 30s, Cruz got to Egypt. In the past 14 years, he’s traveled to 40 countries.
And for years, the 47-year-old Alameda resident has been tinkering in a small corner of his west Alameda garage to make a prototype of a travel pillow better than any of the dozens of pillows currently on the market. That pillow, the My Lofty Pillow (www.myloftypillow.com), launched a Kickstarter campaign this week.
“I tried all of them,” Cruz said, lamenting the flaws of travel pillows that allow your head to bounce around, that pool sweat around the neck, and that slip all over the seat, “and then I made my own.”
Cruz is an electrician by trade who immigrated to the United States in 2000 and he works for solar companies. He loves the job because he wants to “see the world a little greener” and he travels frequently to the East Coast and Hawaii for work.
For pleasure, he’s been to much of Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin American countries. He’s a diver with a rescue certification and has swam with manta rays the size of his two-car garage.
But when the day is over and the kids are asleep, he is an inventor, sitting in his garage and paying attention to the details of what he wants to see in a pillow that will make him feel rested when he arrives at his destination and end what he calls “flight neck syndrome.”
My Lofty Pillow is a travel pillow that supports the head and neck in a new way, a way that cradles the head so it doesn’t bounce around. The model helps users breathe and rest they travel around on airplanes, buses and trains.
Cruz designed several prototypes until he came up with the one currently being funded on Kickstarter. He has contracted with a factory in China to do the work and has gotten all the patents and trademarks he needs to sell the product legitimately.
“At first, I wanted to solve a problem,” he said. “Then I found something really good. This is no longer a hobby.”
The device has pockets for travel documents, chargers and lip balm. It folds into a zipped bag that ends up being the size of a compact disc and about three-quarters of an inch thick. You can blow it up the traditional way or hook it to an airplane fan above your seat to inflate it. It comes in blue, black or pink denim.
With millions of travelers hitting the skies and rails daily, he sees a big market for his invention. The Kickstarter offers the pillows to the first few hundred backers for $15 and then the prices go up. He hopes to earn $10,000 during the campaign and then eventually sell the pillow retail for about $25 to $29.