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10-Year Anniversary - Christoph Rehage's "The Longest Way"

Lessons and Inspiration from the Greatest Walkabout

November 2018 marks the 10-year anniversary since Christoph Rehage snapped his final photo for his "Longest Way" video, marking the end of his original (though incomplete) walkabout.

He had walked for over a year across China. He talked to strangers. He pulled a cart with all of his belongings. He slept in strange homes on strange beds, or camped on the ground. 

When it surfaced, the video became an instant hit, drawing millions of views, and the nomination for several awards and film festivals. 

In the time since, Christoph has parlayed his original video into books, a successful travel blog, and a string of follow up walkabouts. 

On a more personal note however, his video has provided some of the impetus I've needed to pursue my own dreams over the years. 

I was 26 in 2008 when his last photo was snapped, and didn't even have a passport. While I had always felt the pangs of wanderlust, I still hadn't pulled the trigger. 

2008 was the year that changed. Inspired by so many others, I began to actively look at what I needed to do to take my first surf trip to El Salvador. 

Turns out, not much. 

Getting a passport was the matter of an application, some photos, and a fee (curse the government). 

Flights and hotels came next, and pretty soon, I was eating pupusas with friends in the surfing province of La Libertad, El Salvador. 

That first trip was all I needed to be hooked. In the years that followed, I took subsequent trips to Nicaragua, Belize, Mexico, and Lithuania. 

I loved traveling, and I vowed to live in another country someday. 

The Road Map for Quitting

Anytime somebody brings up "The Longest Way", the conversation invariably includes a mention of the fact that Christoph quit his journey, or "couldn't make it." 

First of all, shame on you, for wagging your finger at a guy who only walked 4,500 km through the Chinese countryside. I'd be curious to know how many of your own promises made while having beers with friends have come anywhere near that far. 

Second, his journey isn't over. In fact, it continues to this day (check out his progress here).

While it would've been great if he had been able to walk all the way to his hometown in Germany, there's something almost cooler and more sacred about the fact that he didn't. 

In my own pursuit of travel, I also hit some major speed bumps. 

Less than four months after my inaugural surf trip to El Salvador, I met a girl that I began dating, and eventually married. Then we had two kids, that turned out to have a rare and life-threatening disease. 

I thought my ambitions of travel and living internationally would be impossible. And for a few years, they were. But slowly, my wife and I became more comfortable with my children's medical needs. Our kids got a few years older, and slightly less fragile. We learned what they were able to do, and what they couldn't. 

When my daughter was five and my son was three, after hours of research, debate, and contingency planning, we clicked the "buy" on four tickets to Panama. And this time, the tickets were one-way. 

We lived in Panama for a year, made friends, learned Spanish, rented a house and bought a car. We swam and explored, ate new fruit, and learned new customs. We did our own fair share of sleeping on crappy beds and makeshift camping mattresses (though since decided to invest in some solid inflatable pads!) 

It was everything I ever wanted and hoped it would be. We had genuinely fought and worked to get there, and were now able to enjoy the fruits.

And then we kept traveling. Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Canada, and most recently, Spain. 

Like so many of us that start out in pursuit of goals, plans changed for Christoph. Things came up, and decisions were made. His original "Great 18" cities that he planned to visit, were altered, and eventually just called "The Route." Some places he stayed longer than he thought he was going to. There were setbacks from illness and injury. And in November of 2008, he put the whole journey on indefinite hiatus. 

But he didn't quit forever. To this day, he is still walking and enjoying life. 

Like him, many of us choose to stop or take a break from our goals. But just like Christoph, we all have the opportunity to keep going. I appreciate Christoph's example in charging a unique goal, but perhaps even more so for how he returned to that goal after taking a break. 

The very last line of his bio page sums it up perfectly: 

"Good dreams don't die."

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