Matt Green has a Masters degree in Civil Engineering. He graduated a few years ago and started working in New York City. Things were looking up: he was well-educated, making good money, enjoying the lifestyle of New York, and was well on his way to a safe and worry-free corporate career. But as a young man embarking on the journey of life, he could not help but ask himself: “is that it?” This cubicle for a few years, followed by a bigger cubicle, and eventually the corner office? He realized that the safety of his corporate job also meant a death warrant for his sense of adventure, discovery, and exploration. So two years ago he decided to “stop playing it safe”, quit his job, and took time off to think. Free from attachment to any predetermined ideas about his future, he discovered that he loves to walk. He started leading walking groups around New York and found great joy in the walks: the discovery of new places, the great outdoors, and the physical exercise were a winning combination. So he decided to take it to the next level and take a 3000 mile walk from New York City to the West Coast. Just like that.
Matt and I met last week and spoke about our experiences crossing the country. It was fascinating to “compare notes” and talk about our experience. My trip took 5 weeks, his took 5 months. I rode 6000 miles, he walked 3000. That’s an average of 20 miles per day. I wish I was in shape like he is. Sitting back on the cruiser was much easier. Interestingly our main insights and realizations are very similar:
1) People are good. When you go out on long trip by yourself friends will tell you that you have to watch for crime, and be suspicious of the strangers you meet on the road. Matt walked for 5 months and was never the target of any attempted robbery or violence and never felt unsafe. In fact, at some point he stopped locking his stuff when he left it unattended. Who would still from boxes in a makeshift stroller/shopping-cart? Moreover, each night he would knock on the door of a random house and ask if he can set his tent on the lawn. Three of four families had no problem hosting his one-night camp, and some of them even offered to let him in to sleep in the house. For the most part people are generous, compassionate, and friendly.
2) Fears are exaggerated. When walking though rough neighborhoods, through pouring rain, or when meeting people who say some bothersome things, it is mostly your behavior that determines the end result. If you are not fearful and open up, you realize that the risks are not as prominent as you had initially thought, and – you also realize that you would miss out on some great experiences if you surrender to these fears.
One big difference between our journeys was the type of relationships we formed with folks we met on the road. Matt would sometimes spend a whole day with someone, so there was more time to talk and grow the seeds of a real relationship. I was passing through quickly, and conversations only went as far as one hour. Interestingly, the result seems to be that people actually confided in me and told me deeper, more personal things. The fact that there was no relationship made it easier for people to share things that they would not share with others.
If you have not checked it out yet, go to Matt’s blog at http://www.ImJustWalkin.com. His journey is a true inspiration and there are some amazing pictures there that words fail to describe.