Oh yeah, and he's spending the next nine months walking across the country. You read that right. Nine months. One very, very long cross-country trek.
He left Rockaway Beach, N.Y. on Saturday and expects to wind up at Rockaway Beach, Ore. when 2011 rolls around.
Now, you might think Matt's a wee bit nuts to try this. (Ok, you might be a wee bit right. But let's not get all judgey on the boy. Glass houses and all, right?) But sane or not, you've got to admit: this is kind of neat. And brave. And scary. And exciting. And crazy. And ... And...
So why the hell is he doing this? He admits to a need for adventure and some reinvention of his life. But there's more to it than that. I'll let him explain, from his FAQ:
There’s also no obstacle to stopping and exploring things when you’re walking. When I’m driving, I find myself saying “Oh, I should have stopped there” as I go flying by something that looks interesting. The idea of having to impede your progress, turn the car around, and find a place to park is such a mental barrier to exploring when you’re driving. Even on a bike there’s a hesitancy to stop and climb off the saddle to go check something out. But it’s easy when you’re walking. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing; you just walk in a different direction for a little and have a look around.
But perhaps the thing I find most important about walking is how connected it makes me feel to the space I’m passing through. I think it’s because walking is the way we experience our homes. We walk to the fridge, we walk to bed, we walk around the yard. We walk to the copy machine, we walk to the coffee machine, we walk around the grocery store. So this is that same familiar stride, that most basic form of locomotion we know so well, but through vast, immense, unknown places. It’s a way to live a continuous line across the country as if it were my home.
I’m very drawn to the simplicity of this whole pursuit. Each day I’ll wake up, pack all my possessions back in my cart, and walk a little farther. That’s it. That’s the extent of my world. I’m just walkin’. I think everyone dreams about such a simple existence from time to time, when the worries and pressures of modern life start to accumulate. This is my chance to live that dream for a while, and see how the reality compares to the fantasy.
He outlines the logistics on his blog: what's in his cart (A LOT), where he'll sleep (he's got camping gear but he's also hoping to rely on the kindness of strangers), how long he'll walk each day (far enough to make my fat ass go "ugh.") etc. But the coolest thing on his Web site is turning out to be the pictures of what he sees and the people he's encountered. While I'm sure this journey won't be all puppies and bunnies and roses and compassion of strangers -- in fact, I know there will be a lot of hardship and some dangerous situations -- he's off to a good start so far.
In Boonton, N.J., the pastor at a local Presbyterian (yay!) church, let him come in out of the rain and made him tea and soup. She even brought him the Haggadah, since it's Passover! (10-to-1 he becomes part of a Holy Week sermon. Just saying. I know my preachers.) The next day, the owner of a hardware store refused to let him pay for the supplies he was buying.
I know these stories abound in the communities along the Appalachian Trail, where it takes folks about six months to thru-hike from Georgia to Maine. But this is far from that area and Matt is far from a sight folks are used to seeing. It's been so refreshing to see the kindness of strangers as they interact with him. I know he's just starting, but I can't wait to see what happens.
So, if you live along his route and happen to see a scruffy looking dude pushing a modified jogging stroller with a sign that says "We may never meet again" do me a favor: Buy him some coffee, let him shower and rest his feet. And let him repay you with the awesome stories of his journey. You'll be glad you did.