This was the last day of The Longest Way. It was October 25th 2008, almost one year after I had started my walk home from Beijing to Germany. It was a Saturday, and it was the day of my unraveling.
I had just arrived in Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang, which is the most northwestern part of China. Behind me, there were 4,646 kilometers of roads and dirt tracks, of snow, dust storms, mountains and industrial wastelands. But there were also many friendly faces behind me on that road, and some of the most beautiful skies of my life. I had been walking for what felt like one long, intense moment, and now I was here, with my beard. 10,000 kilometers to go.
But something had happened.
You can see it in the weird beard video at the 03:18 mark. It says: -heartbreak-, and since the frame is only visible for a split second, most people never notice it (even those who triumphantly point out the naked lady at 00:50).
For almost one year of my life, I had been walking like a madman, sometimes behaving like a madman, and I had been cultivating the bearded, hairy look of a madman. But I had always kept one thing: a sense of direction. I was walking towards a place where I knew I was being awaited.
With this sense of direction, everything felt possible.
Only now it was gone.
My friend Uncle Shen watched me idly deteriorate for a few days, then he took me to a hairdresser.
It was hard for me at first. I was the beard. With the beard gone, with the hair gone, with the walking gone, with the Caboose gone, with the purpose gone, with the beard gone, with the BEARD gone – what was there left of me?
The hairdresser smiled as I sat down in his chair. And then it only took twenty minutes.
Never will I forget the words that Uncle Shen said to me after: “So you really are just a little boy.”
Blog entry of the last day of the first walk: The Longest Way – Downfall