“What are you walking for?”
I looked around and saw a woman smiling and eyeing my backpack. I had just finished the 2nd to last day of my walk and was explaining my journey to a curious bystander. She must have overheard the last bit of our conversation and missed what I was walking for. I opened my mouth to say what I had been telling everyone this whole trip… “For Haiti!”…. But as I began to say that, I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion and memories of the trip. While Haiti had been the backbone of this walk, it had turned into so much more. I took a second to consider how to best word what I was feeling but then realized there is no good way to explain it.
How can you say that I walk for the love of the outdoors. For the feeling that everything I see during my days on the road is all mine. That I walk for the opportunity to meet new people and make friends with the most unlikely people. For being serenaded by the cutest little girls or for tastiest strawberry cake in Tennessee. That I walk for catching snakes, the feeling you get as you watch a sun set over a golden field, or the way water tastes after 32 long and tiring miles. I struggled to think of the way of saying that I walk for finding the brother I never knew I had or for the anticipation of seeing my girlfriend again. That I walk for home-cooked meals and copious amounts of chocolate milk.
She gave me a look that said, “Helloooo… Did you hear me?!”, so I tried harder to think of what to say. But the same feeling came over me. How this walk had been also about never wanting to take another step at times and for the feeling of believing that I could walk on forever. For the pain of losing a loved one and the joy of releasing baby sea turtles in the ocean. That the reason I continued my walk was learning to turn negative situations into positive ones. That everyday I get to share a sliver of my experiences with 10,500 people who are genuinely interested in it. That with every step I took, someone in Haiti would be able to take a drink of clean water. That I walk for becoming part of a stranger’s family and for the time alone. How can you say that I walk for the idea of doing something so simple that any of us can do it, it’s just about taking those first steps.
She was now staring at me with a look of humor and confusion. She looked into my eyes and I knew she understood that I was searching for the right words. I could say that I walk for Haiti. I walk to try to make the slightest dent in the battle of world hunger. That I walk for the idea of helping others while experiencing a personal, life changing experience. But how can you wrap all that up into one sentence with the slightest chance of having someone even begin to understand what you’re talking about. What way can you say it to embody all those experiences and emotions. And with that, the answer seemed so obvious it made my face flush and my heart skip a beat.
I looked at her, smiled and said, ” I walk for Love.”