Behold, my first walking day! Or rather, the day that I started to walk from Beijing, a major city in China, to Bad Nenndorf, a minor, eh… city in Germany.
Walk home for a few years. What an ambitious idea! What a ridiculous idea! What an embarrassing idea!
What a brilliant idea.
I had fought hard with it, with the idea of trying to walk home. I had wanted to stifle it, to kill it in its sleep, but it wouldn’t go away. At some point I knew I had to do it, or at least try.
The picture on the right was taken on November 9th 2007 at 09:48 in my apartment in the northwest of Beijing. It was a Friday. People were ready for the weekend. I was ready to leave everything behind.
It was my 26th birthday. I had given the walk as a present to myself. Waking up in the morning after an almost sleepless night, I looked out the window at a miraculously blue sky, and I had one thought in my head: this is it!
And another thought: damn.
I tried on my full backpack for the very first time. It weighed almost 30kg. I had never carried that much before. How exactly was I supposed to walk home to Germany with this thing? I cursed my stupid idea.
I placed the key on the table, for the landlord to pick up later. The apartment was empty. I had cleaned everything out and sent it back to Germany by mail. It would get there within three to four months, which was lightning fast compared to the speed of my feet.
I had to do it. I closed the door behind me. I took the elevator down. I made my first shaky steps out of the door of my apartment building and into the day. I turned around and took one last picture, the one that you can see on the left. The sky was still blue.
Then I walked.
I toiled for hours and hours. One time I had lunch in a busy noodle place. I felt as if everybody was looking at me in a funny way. It was very awkward to be there doing this, moving my weight like a mammoth through the afternoon traffic of Beijing.
Sometimes I stopped for a picture. I saw a guy getting a haircut on the sidewalk. It looked a bit like a cliché, but I took the picture anyway.
I too had gotten a haircut and a shave the day before, a sort of self-proclaimed initiation ritual for the one who starts walking: lose your hair and become the mammoth!
Also, I knew that I was going to miss Beijing.
Blog entry from the first day on the road: The Longest Way – The First Day