Until recently I found myself waking up in the middle of the night wondering where will I sleep on that first night outside Kusadasi, 12 miles into a 1300-mile journey. Is someone going to take me in and let me sleep on their living room floor? If I sleep on the side of the road, will the cops haul me in on a vagrancy charge?
I know that people in that part of the world pride themselves on their hospitality and openness to strangers, and I know from experience living in Turkey that they are proud of their hospitality for good reason. But I’ve never pushed that trait as far as I will push it on Heathen Pilgrim, where I will depend on it every single day for six months.
A few weeks ago I asked Cat Jaffee about this. Cat is an exceedingly bright young woman who has traveled extensively throughout the region. In a few sentences describing her personal travel experiences, she made me comfortable with this particular unknown, and now I sleep without that worry.
People regularly offer other help too, some of them introducing me to others who have done something similar, some of them offering technical help designing a Heathen Pilgrim iPhone app.
Other times people give me inspiration and spiritual support, even if they don’t realize it at the time. One of my best friends in Seattle is nearly blind and has multiple sclerosis, but he asked if he could walk part of the journey with me. Another friend encouraged me to walk through Iran when I thought it was too much to ask. Another friend, before I left Seattle, said to me, “Matt, you HAVE to do this.”
These days I wake up at 5:00 am every weekday to walk 12 miles. I won’t start the real journey for another six months, but when I start it I want to know my body can walk 12 miles a day, day after day, week after week. As I walk, these people, and others like them, walk with me in spirit. The journey hasn’t begun yet, but already I know there are people watching over me.
I may be solo, but I am most definitely not alone. Thank you.