I had a friend who spent a year and half on the Camino de Santiago. The long walk was intoxicating and hard to break up with. Meeting people, the enjoyment of loose plans and the opportunity to meet anyone along the way couldn’t be satiated. He walked, shared and learned. And one day he returned back to the mainland over here across the pond—it took him two years to bother fixing his car. He preferred to be on foot, preferred the sound, the smell and the voice of the side walk. All the racket is removed when we’re in our car, listening to Spotify and blabbing on the phone. We’re often reminded that the significance of the trip is the trip itself and not its destination. Walking, a good walk, remember what Thoreau petitioned for, is to meander and listen to the sounds of the journey, give them names, give them voices and sometimes practice a little invisibility.
Chris Andrews is going for exactly that. Freshly graduated from Scotland’s St. Andrew’s and back in the States, Chris is spending the better of part of the next year walking across the country under a project he’s dubbed “Let’s Talk”. He and his cart of supplies are going from Virginia to California this winter posing a dialogue with the digital age. Chris, like many, sees the brutality of a technology driven world. Communication is being lost to texts and emoticons where the meaning of the message is lost to clear memory on an IPhone or tablet.
He’s got three goals. First, is recording conversations he has along the way and looking forward to sharing them with others. Second, he plans to interact with communities and schools raising discussion about how we communicate with each other. And, third, he’s inviting people to join him on his run.
OK, it sounds a little Forest Gump but once you get over the side joke, you might be inclined to get jealous about a few miles away from your work and responsibilities. We make so little time for real one on one bonding. It’s an accepted norm to look at your phone during a conversation or a meal. All this access has made us lose sight intimacy and certain level of respect for one another—how often do we take five minutes to hear someone’s story, eyes only on the narrator, ears only on the voice.
Unplugging, according Chris isn’t the message, highlighting what the importance of face to face conversations is. He believes these choices improve how we treat each other and how we feel, just like the choices one makes with the food one eats. “The digital age is so passive and intangible, there’s a true loss over time. Just like food, if you choose to eat poorly, your body suffers.”
There’s a certain purity to long walks that can’t be replaced. Like any meditation, it comes from regular practice so the rhythm can find its hum, and transform the individual. Chris has walked the Camino de Santiago and the West Highland Way in Scotland. He’s looking forward to being back in the USA and discovering the unknowns, especially the rural South, an area he knows little about. He’s hoping to be in Austin by Christmas but despite having the fitness of Division I lacrosse player and a long distance runner, he knows his training can only prepare him so much for this test of endurance. “I get energized by the long distance journey. This trip across country is not about breaking land speed records, it’s more about the rhythm. I have been training which means running with my cart for the last year as well as focusing on strengthening my joints and flexibility.” Chris sees this first month as a bit of a learning curve to getting his body routed for the journey.
We’re really excited to be supporting Chris on his trek, keeping his energy up and nourished with real food. For a taste of the adventure, follow Chris at: letstalkusa (instagram) and @Letstalkusaproject (Facebook). He took off yesterday morning!