Yesterday, on the second day of my descent from Sertavul Pass, I stopped in for a couple glasses of tea and some chat at a village called Gecimli, a small town with a population of a couple hundred people.
The owner of the tea garden mentioned to me that he had seen me on the news a few nights before. I asked him what channel. He said, “TRT,” a channel I recognize and have watched many times.
I asked him what they had said. He told me they said I was walking around the world, and that I had walked 7,000 kilometers (4,200 miles) before arriving in Turkey. He asked me what countries I had walked across before this one.
I told him I wasn’t walking around the world, that I hadn’t walked 7,000 kilometers, and that I had never walked across a country before. Turkey would be the first.
From the first day of the walk I have been meeting people who have heard about me on the TV news, or read about me in the papers. Truck drivers. People at gasoline stations. Waiters. And now a tea garden owner.
The news reports often have significant errors. My first thought is why don’t the journalists contact me beforehand, I’d be perfectly happy to talk to them. They seem to know where I am. It’s not like I’m hard to find.
But my second thought, and yes, it took me all of three months to come up with it, is this…
Why is no one greeting me? Why do I enter the towns alone and leave them alone?
Don’t any of the mayors, or city councilmen, or townspeople, or anyone in any of the towns I’ve been passing through for three months see those news reports and think, “Hey, here’s a foreigner who is interested enough in my country to walk across it, I’m going to go to the edge of town and greet him”?
When I pass through a town and sit and have tea and chat people up and tell them what I’m doing, doesn’t anyone think, “Hey, here’s a foreigner who is interested enough in my country to walk across it, I’m not doing anything right now, I’ll walk with him to the edge of town”?
The other day I was having lunch and chatting with a man about thirty years old. He sat there smoking and complaining about how Turkey is poor, how he is bored, how he is underemployed, blah blah blah. How he wished, he said, he could live a big adventure like me.
Come with me, I said. Walk with me. Not a long ways. A couple kilometers.
No, he said. It’s hard.
I’ve been on the road for three months, and I’ve invited countless people to join me for the walk. Just a kilometer or two. Come with me. Walk with me. And do you know how many times I’ve had someone take me up on that invitation? Twice. An American on the first day of the walk, and two Brits about a month into it.
I wish I knew what’s going through these villagers’ minds. I’m interested enough in their country to walk across it, and I’m interested enough in my life to give everything I have to that activity. Why do they say they love their country and then not show their own village to someone? Why do they tell me they are bored and want adventure and then say walking to the edge of town is too difficult?