What It’s Like to Walk the Same Block 100 Times, and For a Lot of People to Know About It

Last Monday I had the interesting experience of doing an informal performance walking around a single city block 100 times (about 20 miles), and of it becoming more publicly visible than I anticipated. It was supposed to be a personal, ephemeral thing where I could immerse myself in something repetitive and reflect on it after, and maybe find out what it was like to interact with strangers in this vulnerable context.

Instead, it turned out that so many people who didn’t see it in person were affected by it.  I received messages from urban planners on Facebook about the importance of walking, and I was recognized by strangers days after the event.  This wasn’t what I intended, and I could have handled my interviews better, but I do love that this act was almost totally shaped by chance and other people’s actions/interpretations.  It was a fun way for me to think about at what point I am making art, how intentional I should be or should not be about it, and how actually nice people in Seattle are on the internet.  I decided to just publish my thoughts while it was happening, since my experience is probably the most interesting result of this experiment.

Lap 1:  It’s a nice day.  There are layers of stickers on everything, so I feel like it’s going to be a challenge to focus on something other than the stickers, street art, and posters.  There are a lot of typically Seattle things to notice here: a glass fish, an Elvis statue, some drunk people.  I should try to actually talk to some people today, I doubt anyone is actually going to go out of their way to talk to me.  Maybe I’ll ask this lady to take a picture of her dog.

Lap 5:  I finally get the courage to take a picture of someone’s dog.  I see some carpet cleaners (or something like that) getting their supplies out of their van, joking around.  They seem cheery for a Monday morning.

Lap 18:  I really have to pee, so I stop in the bar to use the bathroom.  At this point Wade is with me still, and I can hear him talking to the bartender.  “What is she doing?”  “She’s walking around the block 100 times.  I’m just hanging out until my job interview.”  “…Okay.”

Lap 22:  There are some people spray painting… something… by a trash can.  A couple guys coming and going and joking around.  I can’t tell what they are doing but don’t want to stare.

Lap 23:  One of the something-painters looks up, gestures to the other.  “Is that her?”  “Yeah.  It’s gotta be.”  I confirm that I am the girl with the posters and take their picture.  They are maybe painting some audio equipment?

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Lap 27: Stopping at Lost Lake for a bunch of potatoes.

Lap 28:  I notice some daffodils by the Rancho Bravo.  Also that their planters still have stickers with instructions on them.  Some new abandoned boots have materialized on the sidewalk across the street.  Hairstylists out for probably their second smoke break obviously notice I’ve passed multiple times, don’t confront me though.  This makes me feel super weird and vulnerable.

Lap 31:  Someone stood the abandoned boots up neatly on the corner.  A girl is carrying daffodils.

Lap 32:  One of my posters has been moved by someone putting up a ton of concert posters where it was.  I thank him for moving it instead of taking it down.  He smiles and looks confused.

Lap 33:  I see a parking enforcement person giving the carpet cleaners a parking ticket.  The daffodils by Rancho Bravo are gone.

Lap 36:  The painting guys have some baseball cards now.  I really don’t understand what’s going on.  They smile at me.  I stop in the same bar bathroom.  My bladder is so small… I’m glad the bartender is nice.

Lap 41:  A guy walks up to me and asks if I’m the girl with the posters.  He asks if he can interview me, and I agree but don’t understand why.  He explains who he is, and I’m halfway through a video about what I am doing before I realize I’ve totally heard of Dan Savage before.  I feel embarrassed for not acting appropriately impressed, also have no idea what to say in a video.  Is this random act even meant to be public in this way?  I thought I would have some awkward conversations with people who frequent this block; should I have expected this to happen?  I also look like shit because it’s raining.  Whoever Mr. Savage is with wants to know what kind of shoes I’m wearing.  They don’t make them anymore.  They disappear into an unmarked door.

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Lap 42:  I feel compelled to text people I know about what happened.  This is legitimately distracting, and I wonder if he will post something that will make people harass me in the street.  I am trying to focus on looking at the block again.

Lap 48:  One of the trees has a label saying what kind of tree it is.

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Lap 50:  I see the carpet cleaners back at their van on a break; they are laughing about the parking ticket.

Lap 62:  I feel like I should talk to the hairdressers, who are on another smoke break.  I could maybe take their picture.  I can’t do it because they just look so hip and annoyed with me.

Lap 64:  I get some messages with a link to the article with me in it, and I take a break at the coffee shop to watch the video.  I don’t really want to get sucked into reading internet comments, but I do, and I respond to some of them.  Someone finds me on messenger to tell me they want to walk with me, but they can’t because they live across the country.  A very overly excited guy sees my poster and tells me he just love loves what I am doing.  He hasn’t seen the video though.

Lap 68:  I get some high-fives from random commuters on their way home.  A couple in all Patagonia stuff tries to have a philosophical discussion with me.  The carpet cleaners have caught on and ask me what lap I am on.

Lap 70:  A guy who looks like he might be into The Grateful Dead asks if this is “some kind of neo-Fluxus thing.”  I tell him maybe.  It was mostly just a way to spend my day off.  I think he’s disappointed because he thinks I don’t know what he’s talking about.  Dan Savage comes back and asks me to answer questions by email later.

Lap 76:  Wade comes back and brings Paul.  They help me find new things to photograph, like an awful suit and an umbrella hanging from a power line.

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Lap 80:  Some people getting off a bus who I also saw in the morning ask me why I am doing this.  I get a beer.  I am a little overwhelmed by the dozens of people I have had to explain myself to.

Lap 82:  I haven’t eaten much, so I kind of really feel my beer.  Some people come and find me after seeing the article and walk a couple of blocks with me while waiting for dinner with a friend.  I try to make sense while talking to them.

Lap 90:  More high fives.  It starts to rain.

Lap 97:  I get ice cream at Molly Moon’s.

Lap 100:  I see some stores closing.  No one is talking to me anymore.  I go home.

5 Leave No Trace Practices You May Not Know, and Why They Matter

When I was hiking the AT, I learned a lot about the problems with heavily used trails. It’s difficult to convince people to practice good outdoor ethics without sounding preachy, but this is an issue close to my heart, so I decided to take a stab at spreading awareness. These are some of the problems I find people are most unaware of, or just tend to ignore because they see them as unimportant.

So next time you’re outside, keep these things in mind! I think knowing why rules are important can help you remember them. 

  1. Do not make new campsites in alpine zones.  Camping is usually rife with small rules/guidelines that depend on the type of use seen in the area you are camping in.  Many times, camping somewhere no one else has camped is an acceptable and low-impact activity, as long as you minimize your effect on the campsite (no fires, avoid moving many large objects, only stay one night, etc). But in alpine zones, the plant life is very different.  Alpine plants are more fragile and take much longer to grow with the limited resources available to them.  Mt. Rainier National Park recommends only camping on permanent snow or on grounds that have been used as a campsite before.  Camping in alpine meadows may not seem very different from choosing a campsite in a low-altitude forest, but in reality the impact can be many times greater, especailly these alpine zones are home to many rare species.
  2. When possible, don’t build a fire except in an established fire ring (and definitely don’t build new fire rings).   This one can be hard to swallow for people who love building fires, but fires are less important than they traditionally were for keeping warm and preparing food.  Building a fire isn’t always a huge problem (unless it’s actually forbidden), but camp stoves can be very light and much more convenient.  Plus, you avoid creating a fire risk, removing wood, and burning the ground.  Creating a fire ring and not dismantling it when you’re done is sometimes seen as a public service, but in reality, it just encourages people to build fires where it should not be specifically encouraged and creates work for trail maintainers, who often come through and remove them.
  3. Pick up after your dog.  Sometimes, leave no trace is about being kind to other visitors as well, and no one wants to step in or smell your dog poop.  And in some heavily used areas, the effect can be worse than a little grossness.  Dogs can poop near water sources used by backpackers, they can transmit disease to wildlife, and the nitrogen in their waste can contribute to altered soil chemistry and encourage growth of invasive species.  Pack it out, or on a multi-day trip, at least dig a proper cathole for your dog. (Notably, getting your dog a backpack can allow it to carry its own waste!)
  4. Don’t throw trash on the ground just because it’s “compostable.”  Not only are discarded orange peels ugly, but on a larger scale they can start to have a negative effect on wildlife.  Food trash is still something not normally found in the area, and animals may eat it and get sick.  It also contributes to animal behavioral problems, like annoying birds that stay too close to popular lunch spots and harrass people, or squirrels who get into everyone’s stuff at camp.
  5. Hang your bear bag.  On some level, most people know they are supposed to do this, but it can be annoying to do and so it is easy to rationalize skipping the chore if you don’t know of any bear danger nearby.  The problem with this is that this guideline isn’t just meant to protect you, but also other hikers in the future as well as wildlife. Not hanging bear bags in an area without bear problems can create them. Eating your food is bad for wildlife in general, plus it creates behavioral problems. Bears who develop these will likely be killed as a result. And future hikers may be annoyed or even hurt by the indirect results of your choices. A way to help mitigate this problem is to practice your bear bag strategies before you enter the backcountry and find out what works for you,  so you aren’t throwing rocks at trees late into the night.

What I Learned from Your Survey Responses

The answers to this survey were so diverse and thoughtful, I put off writing this for a long time because I was trying to figure out a way to do it justice.  The responses were surprisingly diverse, with people from every region of the US, an equal number of past thru-hikers and aspiring thru-hikers (20% of each), 40% people who don’t hike often, and a few people from Europe.  An unexpected issue with the survey was the number of people who didn’t answer arbitrary numbers of multiple-choice questions (I expected this with the open-ended one but got more/better responses than I imagined), and because of this combined with the modest sample size I think the results are not going to be statistically super scientific.  That being said, here are some of the things I noticed/my favorite responses.

Trail Maintenance
Around 30% of respondents named at least one trail club.
 The most mentioned was WTA (only 4 mentions, one of which was me) and the rest of the answers were totally unique.  People named big clubs, local park organizations, or said simply “there are none in central Kansas.”  I think this is pretty good, considering only around half of respondents hike at least once per month.  Only 40% of previous thru-hikers in the survey do trail maintenance, though.  We can do better!

Beautiful Reasons for Hiking
Spiritual reasons
were the most often cited as reasons to hike, as well as getting away from other people, communing with nature, and mental clarity.  Some of my favorite reasons mentioned were “chasing waterfalls” and “meeting people with dogs.” Sphagnum P.I. gave a good description of what you see when you are on foot and in nature: “There are endless discoveries waiting out there, whether they’re bugs, birds, plants, or people. The speed of walking to a destination allows chances to see everything in a detail we can’t get by any other mode of transport.”

Why We Walk
For hiking, the most important factors among those listed were a good workout, an interesting destination, and a lack of crowds.  This makes sense given the number of people who specifically mentioned that they hike to get away from people.  Convenience of location and availability were surprisingly middle-ranked for most people; I thought they would be major factors.  Three people put “the hike is close to my favorite pizza place” as the number one factor.  I can get behind this.

For walks around town, the most important factors were that the walk took people somewhere useful and that it was less than five miles long.  Weather and attractiveness of the route came next.  Some of the least important factors were someone to walk with and walks less than a mile.  I was encouraged by people’s willingness to walk more than one mile!  Some people mentioned specific problems that kept them from walking, such as lack of trees and confusing intersections.

Walkability and Urban Planning
On average, people rated their neighborhood 57% walkable
, even though a lot of the respondents were from rural/suburban areas.  Predictably, people in the northwest and northeast as well as Europe rated their neighborhoods most walkable, and the midwest did worse (except someone who loves walking around Columbus, Ohio!  You go Columbus!)

A couple of people made the totally valid point that public transit and bike lanes/paths make a lot of difference in the navigability of the city.  Of course, in order for buses to work, a city has to make it easy to walk to the bus stops, and bikes and pedestrians often share paths, so these things go hand-in-hand.  They are just as important for making a city feel livable, for sure.

Several people mentioned a need to encourage making “walking a part of our culture again” (Mouse) and that cities tend to be “designed with cars in mind” (Kathy).  Many felt that they had no idea how to advocate for walkability or that these concerns were largely ignored.  Some people expressed excitement about new developments to aid in walkability or expressed specific concerns, such as a person in Spain who was distressed about the lack of available dog poop bags to help with a waste problem.

If you want to help make your community walkable/bikeable, here are some simple things to do in your community  and some political advocacy tips.

 

Three Very Different Books About Walking

This book was a meandering but accessible description of why, culturally, we walk and how this has changed over the course of history. Everybody walks (well, almost), so the culture of walking is relevant to almost every field of study and every person. Walking, as Solnit says, is “an amateur act,” and it may be because of this that it is not examined as often as it could be. This book seamlessly combines Solnit’s personal experiences, science, and cultural analysis to examine how walking as a human activity has evolved. From Greek philosophers to ridiculous theories of bipedalism that postulate that it evolved in order to display the penis as a “threat display organ,” it covers a lot of ground from a lot of angles. It encompasses such diverse phenomena as pilgrimages, walk-a-thons, flaneurs, mountaineering, and English gardens. Notable (to me at least) is the almost complete absence of any discussion about thru-hiking and its culture, though it does mention the evolution of hiking as a pastime and Peace Pilgrim, who hiked the AT. Solnit mentions the trend, especially in America, of public spaces designed for cars endangering walkability in many cities. “When public space disappears, so does the body as… adequate for getting around.”

A book entirely about urban walkability, this treatise beats into your head the thousand different ways walking improves the economic, physical, and psychological well-being of a town.  Though somewhat dry and repetitive at times (yes, I understand that parking requirements are bad), it is very factual and well-researched.  The facts behind proper urban planning are so counter-intuitive, books like this are crucial to prevent politicians from making backwards decisions to earn the vote of an uninformed public.  Most normal methods of improving life for drivers, Speck tells us– such as widening roads, building more highways, and free parking– actually not only decrease walkability but also make traffic worse. If everyone were to read only one book about urban planning (which, honestly, is already being optimistic), it should be this one.

On the other end of the spectrum, Herzog’s book details an entirely impractical walk in the middle of winter from Munich to Paris. He believed walking to see his friend, Lotte Eisner, in the hospital would help her stay alive.  Herzog’s account is a stream-of-consciousness journal not originally intended for publication, and it is both mundane and magical.  His walk is far from hospitable, he has a difficult time finding a place to stay (which he frequently resolves with the questionable practice of breaking into people’s unoccupied vacation homes), and people often treat him like a vagrant.  He recognizes the pedestrian-unfriendly landscape- “you pass a lot of discarded rubbish as you walk”- and the all-too-relatable physical challenges of walking- “I had no idea walking could hurt so much.”  Even as he goes slightly crazy and has “long dialogues with… imaginary persons,” he notes the movements of birds, the activities of people in the towns, and other mundane things with matter-of-fact and beautiful language.  A short and digestible book, it has something intangible in common with his films and could make anyone want to embark on a poetic feat of human endurance.



You can click on any of the titles to buy the book on Amazon. The links are provided for convenience, but I figured I’d set up the commission system just in case anyone wants to buy them (gotta pay for that domain, yo).  So if this article did make you want to buy one of these books doing it here would be greatly appreciated!

Two Thru Hikes, 38 Years Apart: An Interview with My Dad

I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail earlier this year (2016).  My dad thru-hiked back before it was really even much of a thing, in 1978. Obviously, a lot has changed about the trail in 40 years, but just how much?  While we were on a little hiking trip on the AT in Georgia this holiday season, I asked him some questions to compile some comparisons between our hikes.
(Note:  I hiked northbound.  My dad flip-flopped somewhere in Virginia and walked south from Katahdin.  Also I didn’t record my dad speaking so I just paraphrased unless it’s in quotes.)

There aren’t many photos from my dad’s thru hike, but this is one.

Was hiking the AT fun?

Dad: “Yes.”

Me: Usually?  It wasn’t always fun, but I definitely had some of the best days of my life.  Not when I was so cold I started yelling nonsense at mountains or had poison ivy… but definitely when we were cresting the ridges in the whites or finding the hot tub in hot springs it was.  Maybe in 40 years I’ll think it was always fun.

How many people did you see?

Dad: There was a big northbound bubble, and I saw it coming south.  It didn’t last long, though.  I saw about 60 hikers a day for about 2 days and then no one.  When I was hiking north I sometimes saw 5 people in a day, but one time we fit 30 people in a shelter when it was raining.

Me: I thought it was super awful crowded in Georgia and the Smokies, then other times we would sometimes have around 20 people at a campsite or shelter, but never saw too many during the day.  Somehow even with crowd problems in some places there were also days-long stretches we saw literally no one.  It felt like when we got into town we suddenly had 50 friends.  Everyone told us we were ahead of the bubble, and somewhere or other there were over 100 people in one place, but that’s impossible to confirm.

What was your trail name/did everyone have one?

Dad: Pretty much everyone had one.  I started off with the name Semi, because I was slow going up hills and fast going down them.  I don’t remember who gave that to me.  Then I was Aznageel, because I wrote these stories in the shelter logs and that “seemed like a whimsical name” (it’s from a T.Rex song). They were the Snifforn Stories, some people I met would remember me by them.  The best trail name was probably Ann and Al Weed, who called themselves the tumbleweeds.  (When talking about people, he used their real names more often though.)

Me: Everyone except maybe 2 people I met used trail names, and I didn’t usually know their real name.  I was Mishap, because a guy named ETA said “after all your mishaps, you’ll be the first one on Katahdin if you make it through.”  We had probably 5 Tumbleweeds, and my favorite trail name was Sphagnum P.I., who spent a lot of time carefully inspecting mosses.

Where did you stay?

Dad: Hostels where we could, but there weren’t very many and they were usually something bare bones like an unstaffed bunkhouse.  We stayed in The Place in Damascus (it’s still there but there are other hostels too now), and the Jesuit hostel in Hot Springs (pretty sure that’s the Laughing Heart now, also Elmer’s was founded the year my dad hiked but he didn’t know about it), and somewhere in Rangeley.  We stayed in a lot of cheap motels and a BnB in Caratunk.  The shelters were there, some of them still had wire bunks at the time and almost no privies.

Me: We stayed in tons of hostels (at least…8?), in someone’s RV, in some random people’s houses, in some cheap motels, in a very nice cabin in Shenandoah as a treat, and in our friend Elle’s parents’ house.  A couple of times we paid more than I wish we did to go to a hotel and dry our clothes and not get trenchfoot when it rained for many days in a row.  People in New York were offering their houses to us with a frequency we couldn’t accept, for some reason. (Thanks, people in New York!)  Also, we obviously camped a lot, and toward the end I got over my aversion to shelters.

What did you eat?

Dad: So much macaroni and cheese.  Sometimes we put MnMs in it because we were desperate.  Oatmeal, peanut butter, always a block of cheese.  One time when my dad visited he brought these “Mormon dehydrated eggs” because, you know, Mormons have to dehydrate a certain amount of food to store just in case.  It was the best thing ever after oatmeal for so many days.  Also we picked so many berries we started carrying bags to put them in.

Me: My parents sent me boxes with dehydrated meals that were either homemade or Backpacker’s Pantry/Good-to-go meals.  I think they were all actually really good.  We ate a lot of tortillas and almonds, and I hate them now.  We didn’t bother to cook oatmeal anymore after a while, and ate granola with powder milk.  I ate so many snickers I think I kept them in business.  I think Wade ate a 1lb block of cheese all at once at some point.  I picked blueberries a lot, and put them in our granola.  We also ate ramps in the south.

What did you carry?

Dad: When we started, my pack probably weighed 90 pounds, but I had to go back and rethink some things. My pack was military surplus.  I carried a “crappy, no-name sleeping bag” and a wool blanket.  It was not great when it was cold, it was definitely a summer bag.  I had a Svea stove, some kind of old boy scout pot, a net hammock from K-Mart, a foam insulite pad, Georgia brand boots (with nails to hold the sole on).  For clothes I had a thin wool sweater and a windbreaker, and a single shirt and pair of shorts that I would just throw away and replace occasionally.

Me: At the start, my pack probably weighed 30lb, and Wade’s maybe 38.  They got probably 5 lbs lighter. My pack was an 8-year-old Kelty 40L thing I couldn’t part with, and I had a nice 20 degree sleeping bag with a liner.  I had a homemade alcohol stove that weighs nothing and started with a tiny, one-person pot for both of us, which we traded for something a guy at an outfitter gave us for free because he didn’t need it anymore.  I started with an air mattress, but it was about 3 times as big as me and I just got a 3/4-length thermarest instead.  I carried a down jacket, 2 shirts, shorts, a hat, and 3 pairs of underwear.  At some points I also had another thin jacket and long underwear, but I am more cold-natured and also started much earlier in the year.

Who were your friends?  What did they do in real life?

Dad: I don’t remember many. There was Lucinda and her dog Sunshine.  I almost didn’t remember her name, only the dog’s… There was a blind girl thru-hiking, who made us feel really bad when we took the easy way up Albert Mountain and we saw her coming up the steep side with her seeing-eye dog.  Helen and Jerry were some grad students, and Helen and I wrote a few times after the trail. I met Allen, who was a chef, in Maine.  He smoked so much pot. I specifically remember someone I met who was hiking north when I was hiking south, and we called ourselves the “thru-hiking slugs.”  I think we could have hiked together.

Me: We met a lot of other engineers, some retirees, some people who owned their own businesses and took time away, some people with seasonal jobs like a farmer and someone who packed boxes for Amazon.  We met a couple of people who just finished high school and some people who were about to go to grad school.  I don’t want to list a bunch of people’s names because I’m not sure if any of them would mind, plus there are so many!  We met so many wonderful people.  We hiked with some of them for a day here and there, saw some randomly throughout the whole trail, and stayed with some on purpose for weeks at a time.

Did people think you were weird?

Dad: Absolutely.  Most people knew what the AT was but had no idea how or why we were thru-hiking.  There was not trail magic.

Me: In so many places we felt expected, but random passerby would still ask us 1000 questions sometimes, and you would occasionally find someone who had no idea what you were doing. A lot of businesses were geared toward thru-hikers, though, and people went out of their way to give us free stuff, almost like we were travelling monks.

Do you think hikers followed Leave No Trace principles?

Dad: As far as I know, no, because it wasn’t even a thing at the time.  I just thought about not leaving an impact like based on the boy scout motto.  Most people didn’t carry cathole shovels because they were heavy, and there was always a decent amount of trash at shelters.

Me: So many hikers picked up a ton of other people’s trash, but because of the trail being so popular there was still sometimes trash at shelters.  I think most people tried to follow LNT, but there were some people who just didn’t care, and quite a few people got really lazy about bear bags, even in areas with a lot of bears.  There were a lot of bear problems this year.

What was your favorite thing about hiking the trail?

Dad: The exercise.  I had a lot of solitude and I liked that.  I also miss the smells.  There was a hail storm in the middle of a bunch of hemlock trees, and it smelled like Christmas.  I remember it to this day.  And earthy smells, even the smell of wet dog.

Me: I think I liked the simplicity of goals and routines, and the fact that everyone around you was doing the same thing.  Also I miss chipmunks, newts, and tiny snakes.  And my friends.

I also found some things that were still there after all of these years.  I ate at the same restaurant my dad did in Rangeley, Maine.  He also always told a story about seeing a sign for pancakes that were free if you broke the pancake-eating record (which of course he did), right off the trail in Maine.  It’s not owned by the same person, but I’m fairly sure it was what is now Harrison’s Pierce Pond Camps.  I also had pancakes there, but only twelve.
If you have any more questions, let me know. 🙂  My dad is just a call away.

My dad and his friend George, probably in NC somewhere.

Seattle’s Own ‘Peace Pilgrim’

While on a walk in downtown Seattle, I saw a cart that said, in bright red decal letters, “equal and unconditional love for all our fellow creatures” and “I am walking across the world.  I do not have any money and do not want any.  I just need food and water.”  I wondered whose it was and wished they were with their cart so I could ask them about it.  We kept on walking.

Eventually, we saw the owner of the cart ahead of us, pulling the heavy-looking green monstrosity behind him.  We asked him if he needed any food.  He said, “actually I am not hungry right now, but I can talk.”  He said he was walking across the world to encourage people to love each other and find peace, and that this was the only way to “get out.”  (He never actually said explicitly what we are getting out of, but I’m sure there are many things we can all agree we as a society need to escape.)

Despite my immense respect for the original Peace Pilgrim (actually also part of Appalachian Trail lore as well), I had cynically wondered if this guy would just be an incoherent crazy person, or someone making up a story to get attention. In fact, he was a clean, cheerful former aerospace engineer with a Canadian citizenship and Chinese accent who was very passionate and cogent about what he was doing, but who admittedly made it hard to get a word in edgewise.  His name was Bing Bing Lee.

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“Sometimes, I play music.  Sometimes I sing.  I’m not very good at playing music, but I have these maracas.  Everyone can play maracas.”

He had actually just started two weeks before, maybe 200 miles away in Washington.  He said he had originally wanted to start in China because it was his home, but he was afraid of “disappearing” if he disagreed with the status quo in China.  He said “America is the best country in the world, despite so many problems” and that he thought it would be easiest to spread his message here first and go to China last and live there.

His big plan was for 35 years, but he had planned only the first 5 years in detail, going down the west coast, then up the middle, then down the east coast.  “I won’t go to Maine,” he allowed. “I need to spread my message to as many people as possible and there just aren’t many people in Maine.” After he finished with the Americas, he was hoping he would have enough exposure that someone would lend him a sailboat.  It couldn’t be another kind of boat because he wouldn’t want to create any pollution.

The beautiful thing about his message is that, even if he only gives his spiel about how much better humankind was without money or how a silicon valley career isn’t the path to happiness to a few people in every city, his actions really do perfectly describe his message without many words.  He is giving up everything material, except his clothes and tent and maracas, to give himself to the world and live off of the kindness of others, with no expectation.  Of course he isn’t the first one to set out to do this, but this does not lessen the degree of commitment required.

It’s impossible to say whether Bing will actually make it around the world, but I hope I can find out what does happen to him.  As far as I can tell, he is fully committed to his journey and really doesn’t have a backup plan.  “If I die because I have no money, I guess that is just what will happen.”  I hope that the world continues to feed and house him as it seems to have been doing so far, and that he has a chance to share his story.

 (This guy did give me permission to share his photo and story.)

Why do We Walk? (Super Fun Survey)

This survey is finished!  Read about the results here.

Hey- I need your help!  If you fill out this survey, I can get more information to write about walking and its cultural importance and relevance to conservation efforts!  If that isn’t fun enough and you want it to feel more like a Buzzfeed personality quiz, you can tell me in one of the comment boxes and I’ll give you a PERSONAL AND HANDCRAFTED vague, generally positive assessment of your personality.  🙂  Click the cute button to participate!

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Anyone should fill out this survey, even if walking isn’t a big part of your life.  I can’t afford Survey Monkey’s logic options to not show you irrelevant questions, but none of them are required, so feel free to skip some if they are totally irrelevant to you.