The Walker

screenshotBy Lentus Ambulandus, inspired by a brief encounter with an ultra-vagabond

We were out cycling yesterday, near a place called Curarrehue, to the east of Pucón, Chile. It was an out-and-back ride, and as we approached our turnaround point, we came across a young man walking in the opposite direction. He was pulling a two-wheeled trailer, the type you might see someone towing behind a bicycle. Actually, I wasn’t sure whether he was pulling it or pushing it…there was a bar that came across his waist, so I suppose he could pull or push, as he wished.

The Walker and I made eye contact and nodded to each other as I rode past. He was extremely fit, had long hair and a healthy beard, and generally looked like a wild man. Gotta talk to him on the way back.

We hit the turnaround point, started riding back, and soon caught up with The Walker. I pulled up beside him. He had a rucksack and a few dry-bags under a loose-fitting tarp, and there was a reflective vest strapped to the back of the trailer for safety.

Me: Hey, where are you walking to?

Silence.

Me: Hablas español?

The Walker: No. Japón!

Me: Ah.

I pointed behind him, and in front of him, and raised my hand in the universal “what’s the story?” gesture.

The Walker: Ushuaia [pointing behind]. Ecuador [pointing in front].

See map image above. All in favour of calling this guy a hero of Escapology, please raise your hand and say “aye”. Ushuaia (the southern tip of Argentina) to Ecuador is around 9,000 km. 1,900 hours of walking, if you didn’t stop, according to Google. Averaging 30 km a day, with a few rest days, give yourself a year. Oh, and by the way, now that he’s through Patagonia, he still has to go up through the Atacama Desert and Peru. He’ll probably go through Cusco, which means he’ll cover some high elevation along the way.

There wasn’t much more to say. I shook his hand, saluted him, and rode off.

As I rode, I contemplated what it must be like to just take off and walk across a foreign continent, pulling a trailer. Lonely, for sure. A very healthy dose of Stoic voluntary discomfort. “Freedom” comes to mind.

What will The Walker do once he gets to Ecuador? Go back to Japan and get a day job? How does one fit back into “regular life” after such a feat? Or does the experience so change you that regular life is no longer a viable option? Mind you, if I ever find myself in the (very unlikely) position of interviewing people for a job, and there are two equally-qualified candidates, but one has just dragged a trailer across South America, I know which person I’ll hire.

The whole event makes me want to walk out the front door, pick a direction, and start walking.

★ Incidentally, walking is precisely what the forthcoming Issue Twelve of New Escapologist is all about. You can pre-order it at the shop; buy our most popular digital bundle; or pre-order the book.

About

Lentus Ambulandus is New Escapologist’s Chief Leisure Officer. He advocates doing the things worth doing (hiking, cycling, sipping coffee, reading books), and proudly accomplishes less in a month than most people do in a week. His creed is simple: Death Before Employment.

11 Responses to “The Walker”

  1. *raises hand and says ‘aye!’*

  2. Eric B says:

    Reminds me of the Olympic Rickshaw: http://www.chenolympicrickshaw.com/

    I first heard of this guy when a few colleagues snapped pictures of him coming up a local bike trail. Somehow he has made it from Asia to Europe and now North America. Quite a trek…

  3. Lentus Ambulandus says:

    Ah, that’s really cool, thanks Eric! You know, I look at these types of people with both respect and a bit of envy. What I like most is that they are usually – other than their outsized sense of adventure – normal people. Very inspirational. Again, we ought to think more about what our life is for, and contemplate how we could spend it in the most interesting ways possible.

  4. Spoonman says:

    Aye!

    Maybe he’s a representative of the Freeter community. I remember someone writing a NE article about Freeters. I very much doubt he’ll go back to Japan to become salaryman. I wouldn’t wish that fate on anyone!

  5. You know, that crossed my mind too.
    Bumped into a Japanese traveller in Budapest a couple of years ago. I asked if he’d ever be considered Freeter, but I’m not sure he knew the word. Lost in translation possibly, or maybe it’s a bogus Western idea after all.

  6. Jon Marsh says:

    Freeter is definitely a widely used word in Japan.

    Rosie-Swale Pope’s book on running round the world (aged 57 I think) has always been an inspiration.

  7. Jon Marsh says:

    Was it this chap perhaps?

    http://alkinist.blog111.fc2.com/

    He’s already walked around the world west to east by the looks of it.

  8. Lentus Ambulandus says:

    Wow! Yep, that’s the guy, although he’s sporting a beard at this point. My Japanese isn’t what it should be, but that’s pretty impressive. Looks like he’s been at it since 2008? I’m thinking there’s no 9-5 in his future.

    Thanks for the link and comments, Jon.

  9. Wow, that’s pretty extraordinary. Love that he has a blog and whatnot, and even an outlier like him is findable on the Web.

  10. A relief to know. Thanks Jon. And I’ll look out that book.

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