Q: Do you find that the reaction of most people is "What is this oddball doing?" Or are there people who have lost their fantasies who would like to join you?
A: If you could just see how big their eyes get or how excited their voices become when I talk to them about this. Everyone from hobos to millionaires -- the reactions's been super.
Q: What do they usually ask?
A: They want to know the logistics, mainly. How do you deal with getting through these countries without speaking the language? How are you doing to cross the ocean? How are you going to deal with the desert? The monsoons? The dangers?
Q: We're going to get to those questions.
A: But the reaction has been incredible. It's been a rarity when I met somebody who thought I was crazy. A lot of people see me living their fantasies, see me living my childhood dream -- and through me them living theirs, too. That's why they're so anxious to help me out and see me get down the road.
Q: Has your view of people and America changed since the beginning of the walk?
A: It's strongly reaffirmed a lot of beliefs that I had already. A lot of my friends are journalists. They're a very highly educated bunch in their late '20s and their early '30s. And they're such a pessimistic, caustic group. They seem to see no hope or goodness in the world. I was always in disagreement. I've always maintained that the world is just filled with incredibly wonderful people. This walk has verified my opinion and has proven those others wrong. Sometimes I have to turn down the offers of help, I get so many.
Q: Is there a certain social immunity for the traveler?
A: There seems to be a mystique about the young lone traveler with a pack on his back. It's as old as history. In the Middle Ages -- monks and people of the Church -- the Pope used to send them on these long pilgrimages by themselves. For thousands of miles they would walk and people always took care of them. And it's still true. People still feel a compassion for the lone traveler.
Q: Do you think it has to do with faith? Faith in survival? Faith in man?
A: Yeah. Many times I look tired and haggard and hungry and thirsty. And I am. And hot. People see me by myself with that big weight on my back. It just strikes something in their heart. They feel so sorry for that poor kid. They want to help him out.
I maintain that you or anyone could take up right out of this room without a penny in your pocket and just the clothes on your back and get clear to California by walking and make it alive and well fed. I think that people are looking to do good things. And when they see the lone traveler coming by, like myself, who's not threatening, who obviously needs help, they seize upon that moment. I've had a lot of people rush out of their houses to me on the street and say, "Have you eaten breakfast?" Or, "Have you eaten lately?" And I'll say, "No." They don't know who I am. And they'll say, "Well, you get in the house right now and eat!" (Laughing).
Q: Whatever prompted you to walk all the way around the world? Curiosity? Boredom? Notoriety? Personal growth?
A: About five years ago I finally decided that if I was going to do this, I'd better hurry up because I was getting older. I was about 23. It just seemed to fit. I like learning. I love meeting people. I love exploring. And I love traveling. When you're walking an area you are exposed to everything. Nothing misses you're senses.
Q: What are you going to to do for an encore? It might get boring when you stop.
A: Yeah. I have a newspaper friend in Montana and we talked about that one night. I said, "Well, I'll probably just go back to being a regular person in a 9-to-5 job. I will want to settle down eventually and have a family and a house and things like that." But he disagreed entirely. He said, "No, you're not going to be able to settle down. You won't be able to go back to a normal life. There will be books to write, lectures to give, appearances to make. It will be so much in your blood that you won't be able to get rid of it." Now, as I get further into the walk, I see that he was right.
Q: Does that appeal to you? Or, would you rather just have done the walk without anyone knowing about it?
A: Two months ago that's how I wanted it. Now though, when I see the reaction in peoples' eyes, when I see how their attitudes change, when they light up when they hear about this, when I tell them about it and they can become a part of it -- I know that this walk means an awful lot to a lot of people who have been a part of it and have helped me out. I don't think it's fair to learn as much as I will be learning and not share it with other people. It seems to have a good effect on everybody that I tell it to. (Laughter.)
Q: Have you traveled much before?
A: My nickname when I was a newspaper reporter was "Nomad." I couldn't stay still. I was always bugging the editors to get me out on the state beat, to drive around and cover a story in the oil fields on the other side of Wyoming or up in the mountains or something. I've probably hitchhiked across the United States six times. During high school I'd pick an area of the country that I'd never been to. I would just put some money in my pocket -- $20 or $50 -- at the beginning of the summer and just go to that part of the country and explore it all summer. I wouldn't even let my parents know until the day I left, so they couldn't stop me. (Laughter.)
Q: What is your intended route?
A: My route will cover around 15,000 miles of walking. About 30,000 miles altogether. I will go through 22 countries on five continents. From Boston, I will fly to Dublin. Go up to Belfast and then over to Scotland and down to London. From England I will go to Belgium, down through France and Spain to Morocco. Then I will cross Northern Africa -- near the coastline, in the irrigated part there -- through Algeria and Tunisia. From Tunisia I will sail up to Sicily and walk all the way up through Italy and then around through Yugoslavia and Greece and sail from Athens down to Egypt. I want to walk up the Nile River for a few hundred miles -- because it's so vastly different. Then come back down it in a boat, to Cairo.
I will probably have to either fly from Cairo or sail from Suez to Pakistan. I will go around Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afganistan, for obvious reasons. Then in Pakistan, I will walk from southern Pakistan -- from Karachi -- up to Lahore, in northern Pakistan. Then walk down the Ganges plains all the way across India into Bangladesh. From Dacca, I'll have to fly to Thailand because Burma won't let me walk across their country. They wouldn't say why. I walk down through Thailand, to Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia. Then I sail to Darwin, Australia and work my way over to eastern Australia, along the coastline, to Sydney. From Sydney, fly back to Los Angeles. Then I'll walk from Los Angeles to San Francisco and catch U.S. 50, an old highway, all the way across the United States, back to Cincinnati.
I've walked so far on U.S. 50 to Washington, and then on U.S. 1 to Baltimore to Philadelphia. From Philadelphia I took the Black Horse Pike down to Atlantic City.
Q: You've been pretty lucky in your travels across America. People have picked you up and taken you to their homes.
A: Yes. I'm not trying to be a hobo or a leech or a chintz. I purposely am depending on people to help me around the world -- shelter and food -- because I want to break down the conception that this is a cruel, cold, selfish world. Depending on people for help forces me to meet people day in and day out. When I'm hungry and I'm thirsty and I need a shower, I have to go to people to ask them. Consequently we strike up a conversation and we get close to each other and I learn a lot about their lives. I know from having hitchhiked across the country that more than anything else, people love to help other people. They love it. They can't get enough of it. Because I'm clean cut, no one feels fearful of me -- that I'm going to beg for money or anything like that. I have found that Americans will give you anything off their backs, but don't ask for money.
Q: Has the age of the great explorer ended? Were you born too late?
A: I think has been gone for several decades now. Life's too easy any more. I think that -- especially with the older people -- I'll strike a chord. This lone, skinny kid, entirely on his own trying to conquer the world. They remember the Earharts and the Lindberghs -- those days. They think it's such a noble act. I just think it's walking around the world. I don't think it's such a big deal.
Q: Have you woken up and said, "My God, what am I doing?"
A: Oh yes. Especially when I wake up in some dank, dark, moldy, old barn and I'm laying in an inch of water. My clothes are sopping wet because I've walked through the rain all day before. I haven't eaten nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for two days. All I can smell is cow manure. It's still raining outside. It's cold. I wake up and I say, "You know, this is stupid. This is nuts. I don't want to do this." Don't ask me what it is that makes me put those clothes back on and fold my sleeping bag up and put the backpack together and put it on my back and walk out there in the rain and keep going. I honestly don't know at times like that what it is that makes me go on.
Q: What did you pack in your backpack?
A: Bare necessities. Sleeping bag, one change of clothes, a shaving kit, a little mirror, a hunting knife for protection, a sweater, a rain jacket, a tape recorder, a camera, a sewing kit, a ground cloth.
Q: Will this vary from country to country or from climate to climate?
A: Yes it will. If it gets too cold in one place, I'll buy some extra clothes and then throw it away when I get to some place warmer. That's one of the signs of a survivor, of an adventurer. He's able to somehow get through each day.
Q: Did you make much preparation? Do much reading in advance?
A: Yes. It looks so simple. Just put a pack on your back, some money in your pocket and go. But it's not. It's like a full-fledged expedition. I've spent years preparing for this.
Q: How did you get money together?
A: I quit my newspaper reporting job. I had a very promising career. I'd won a nice, great big award, even though I was a rookie reporter. And I went right to work on the oil rigs. That was the quickest way to save up money. It was also a very physical job. It would train me to deal with rough-type characters, rough weather, long hours, loneliness. The guys couldn't figure out in the three years that I was on the rigs, why I never spent my money. We were making fabulous money. One month I made over $3,000. And I never did tell them why, either. I let them keep wondering. I put away $15,000 for the walk.
Q: What happens if you run out of money?
A: Maybe I'm being wishful. But I don't worry. I don't worry about where I'm going to sleep each night. Or, where I'm going to get my next meal. Or, if I have enough money to make it around the world. Or, if I'm going to be allowed to go here or there. Or if I'm going to get killed. I don't worry a single bit about a single minute, about anything. It's neat to get up in the mrning and not worry about a thing all day long. There're 10 million things that could go wrong and keep you from making the walk. So why worry about one?
Q: David Kunst suggested that you should walk with another person from each country. Have you considered this?
A: No. The only country I may be tempted to do that in is Pakistan. Their very own embassy in Washington told me that I wouldn't live walking across Pakistan. That's kind of scary. You develop a sixth sense on a walk like this -- a sense that is tuned in entirely to danger all the time. I sharpened that up especially on the rigs. Accidents happen everyday on the rigs. And you could be the next one. And that's how I am on this walk.
I'll give you an example. The other night, I slept in a ratty old abandoned hotel in New Jersey. It was a dark, dank room and rainy and rats in it. Something told me when I got in the sleeping bag, that there was danger involved with this motel. I just went to bed that night with the big hunting knife beside me. Sure enough, late that night I woke up and only inches from my head was some animal growling a vicious, blood-curdling growl. You could hear it gurgling, like it was salivating. I thought, "Oh God. It could be a rabid dog." It's the classical horror tale. You're trapped in a closed space where you can hardly move -- a mummy-type bag. The only way out is right into the jaws of death itself. What do you do? Well, I grabbed the knife real quietly and I closed my eyes, put my hands up by my face and sprang out of the bag. I started slashing the knife around in the air. I didn't hit him, but he backed off towards the open door. You could see in the grey moonlight that it was a real muscular doberman type. With big fangs. He was debating whether to go for me anyhow. Then I yelled at him again and waved the knife a little more and he ran off.
Australia is a good example. Once you leave the city limits, you're in a big desert. There's nothing for another couple of hundred of miles, except for a little uranium camp south of Darwin. Everything you depend on, you've got to have it right there with you. You can't just run down to the store when you get hungry or thirsty. There are no stores.
Q: How are you going to do India, when there are starving people?
A: I'm going to have to learn to live on a little bit of food. (Laughter). You adapt. I may go across India and lose another 10 pounds that I didn't think I had to lose. Never know what its like to have a full stomach for those 700 miles. Even if I just have to live off of one or two slices of bread a day, you can do it. Might look like hell when you get done.
Q: Have you had very much trouble, other than that dog?
A: Yes, I had a car that kept pulling over one night on a lone country road. He was a desperate type character. I shouldn't have been out walking that time of night. He kept pulling over. When I got there he'd say something really lewd. I'd tell him to get lost. But then I got to think, "Boy if I turn down this guy one more time, he might be crazy enough to shoot me." So I pulled out the knife and I showed it to him. I told him that if he didn't leave me alone, he was going to get a taste of the knife. He took off. I wasn't going to use the knife on him, really. I just used it to scare him. There may come a time when I will have to use a knife on someone.
Q: Are you prepared to do that?
A: I have a knife scar on my hand. On the rigs there were a lot of knife fights. I saw a man stabbed to death once, just a few feet away from me.
Q: How about carrying a gun?
A: Pakistan, maybe I would. But then, I'm kind of leery. It draws too much attention of the wrong kind. I don't know whether I am safer with a weapon or without a weapon. I know that sounds weird. I wouldn't be afraid to kill another man. One of the signs of an adventurer is to make sure that he gets through that day one way or the other. If it means killing or stealing, I'll do it. I won't kill or steal from anybody unless it were a matter of life or death. By nature I am a very gentle and a very kind person, I think. I love smiling and jokes and laughter much more than being a tough guy.
Q: When will we see you back again?
A: Probably somewhere around mid-1987 I'll be coming back to Bethel.