Doing it differently

Cities, people and lots of languages

It’s about people as much as places

Whenever I see images of people on long walking expeditions they always seem to be in the middle of some wilderness. And while it is impossible to complete this adventure without encountering wild landscapes, I know from experience the most interesting places are where there are people. Humans make stories. Tundra rarely does.

Speaking the language

For me, this challenge is about people. I want to meet as many as possible and communicate too. To do this, I plan to learn as many languages as I can as I roam. In countries I pass through quickly I’ll only learn the basics. But anywhere I spend several months I hope to learn a useful amount.

As well as improving my limited French, Spanish and German, I’d love to gain an useful ability in other world languages like Russian, Hindi, Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese. (I’ve already started to learn a bit of Croatian and Albanian for this year, with Turkish next on the list.) This’ll keep the brain active while the trek works the body. It’ll also give me plenty of opportunities to make a tit of myself internationally.

One of the key tools for language learning on this trip is Pimsleur. It isn’t perfect, but it is effective, especially for those well-supported languages that have five levels of courses. One of Pimsleur’s shortfalls is that the course is recorded in 30 minute lessons and therefore every student learns exactly the same material. There’s no flexibility.

To remedy this, I’ve written a series of interactive web pages that work in a similarly audible way to Pimsleur. However, they allow me to add my own sentences and learn the vocabulary most relevant to me and my adventure. I’ve made this code available to all my Patreon supporters on the Resources page. Hopefully, it will be useful to you soon.

City walking

Back to the subject of wilderness versus people, I’m hoping to include another element that’s rarely a part of long distance walks. Usually, population centres are purposely avoided, but since that’s where the most people are I plan to walk right across as many as possible of the world’s largest cities, including London, Istanbul, Delhi, Shanghai and Tokyo. That is, from countryside, through the suburbs and industrial wastelands, to the centre (or downtown) and back out the other side again. I think this is a great way to try to understand each city. Yes, I know there are risks involved in this. Ask me if I’ve reconsidered after the third gunpoint hold-up.