Walking Home – a short review

walking-homeWalking Home by British poet and writer Simon Armitage is gaining popularity with current reviews in the New York Times (positive) and the Wall Street Journal (trending negative). And now here too.

The author, a well known writer in England, walks the Pennine Way, a 270 mile north-south hike across the spine of England, following the valleys and (small) peaks of the land as it travels across moorlands and cuts in and out and around small towns. Mr. Armitage, married and 47 years old, sets out to walk alone after having arranged  nightly lodging from well wishers and a series of poetry readings along the way as well. He made these arrangements while publicizing his trip via the internet. And at each poetry reading he passed the hat, or in his case a sock to collect funds to help supplement his expenses.

Mr. Armitage writes directly about his experiences, injects some humor, describes his surroundings and the people he meets, stays with and walks together with as well. I found his writing style pleasant if not always engaging and some of his observations thought-provoking. In one paragraph he reflects on the experience of staying each night in someone else’s house, usually in a spare bedroom of a child long since grown yet still decorated with awards and books and other memorabilia from years ago. These rooms are memory chambers he writes, just not his.

For hikers and backpackers the thought of a thru-hike of the Pennine’s is enticing. Not too long. Food and lodging are nearby. Not too steep, with the tallest peaks less than the 3,000 foot high peaks of the Catskills. Yet with the fog and rain, one can get lost in the Pennines, making this walk not a ‘walk in the park’. Whether you are enamored with Armitage’s writing style or not, give him credit for introducing us to this 2-3 week walk, over hills and dales, across boggy moorland yet passing touchstones of Wordsworth and the Bronte sisters along the way.

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That’s using your feet!

Walking around the world I would say is the ultimate way to use one’s feet. Walk through desert. Walk over mountain ranges. Walk through war zones. Walk through history, geography, geopolitics, anthropology, sociology. Walk through humankind.

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Paul Salopek, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist has begun his trek Out of Eden, the name of his project by walking from his starting part along the great rift valley in Ethiopa. He is headed across Africa, the Middle East, Asia, across the Bearing Strait into Alaska and down the west coast of the United States to his ultimate destination, the southern tip of Chile. But Mr. Salopek’s destination is not ultimately one of mileage. Rather it is one of understanding human history, as it was and as it is today.

Salopek is posting a ‘milestone’ on-line every 100 miles which consists of photos of the ground, sky and people and an audio recording of where he stands along with a blog post. His seven year journey will cover about 21,000 miles on this journey sponsored in part by National Geographic as well as news organizations including The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Nieman Foundation at Harvard.

The journalist adventurer can be followed by reading blog and twitter posts, receiving emails or visiting the Outofedenwalk.com web site. On a recent twitter post Mr. Salopek wrote: “On walking and concentration: We were not meant to sit still.”

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