For some of the people going on our North Dakota walk, and for many of those who have undertaken journeys of a similar nature, the experience will serve first and foremost as a way to make meaningful, perhaps spiritually-tinged personal discoveries. For me, walking across my home state and all that it will entail will not be devoid of meaning—how could it be? But so far I am viewing the walk primarily as a fun adventure. I have loved the idea of an itinerant adventure practically from the cradle (watching and reading The Hobbit was a big part of that). But I’ve done few truly adventurous things in my life, at least things that fit typical definitions of adventure, and I want to have a significant daring experience before I get too much older.
Adventure! Photo from the 1977 Hobbit movie by Rankin/Bass.
As for fun, one of my major objectives in life, in anything I do, is to have more fun (I know I’ve mentioned this before, but bear with me). My fellow walk participants are guys I either have enjoyed spending time with in the past (Richard and Jeremy) or think will be enjoyable to spend time with (Tyler and Eric). And many of the things we’ll do will be fun in and of themselves. Walking: fun. Camping: fun. Admiring North Dakota’s beauty: fun. I know there are bound to be some distinctly unfun aspects to the walk, but such things are inescapable however a person chooses to spend their time.
The other goal I have is challenging myself physically, and to a lesser extent mentally and emotionally. I am pretty physically fit—considerably above average, I believe. But I pale in comparison to many athletes and people who are extremely fit for other reasons. I don’t have a desire to become as conditioned as I possibly can, but I love the idea of pushing myself physically in this concrete way. I want to be able to say—and to know for myself—that I was able to walk across half of North Dakota with a backpack on my back over the course of two and a half weeks. To second Jeremy’s quotation of Richard, I want a physical test that will be truly hardcore. Not that we’re doing something on the scale of sprinting up K-2, but it will still be an impressive achievement.
Of course, the more I blog about the walk, and prepare for it, the more the idea of meaning enters into my thoughts. I am not very concerned about the ultimate of anything, nor do I want to become someone who is. But answering questions like “What does it mean to be from North Dakota?” is increasingly intriguing to me. I imagine all of us will find our goals shifting, at least a little bit, as this time of preparation progresses.