What starts, ends

The question why I had chosen to walk to Santiago de Compostela, Rome and Jerusalem has come up often on my journey. I explained that those places were arbitrary on a personal level, because although I am open to spiritual matters, I am not religious. I told people about the queen’s Christmas speech and her comparison of kindness in the times of Joseph and Mary and kindness in modern times, where, according to the queen, individualism and the internet are dividing society. I wanted to prove that things aren’t as bad as the queen proposed and that in fact, the internet can be a great help to bring us together. By walking these ancient pilgrim routes with the help of the internet I wanted to make a statement. But it has always been about the journey, not about the destination.

My non attachment to the final destination made it easy for me to say yes when Ilco van der Linde contacted me with the question if I would consider to become the first pilgrim to make Paolo Coelho’s book The Alchemist come alive by walking on after Jerusalem to the pyramids in Egypt. I was already halfway through France at that time and I considered a couple of hundred kilometers extra on a 10.000 kilometer walk not much of a problem. I liked the book and agreed with many of its insights, and the prospect of finishing at such an iconic site and with a peace concert to celebrate my arrival appealed to me. I had already come to trust the things that crossed my path, and my heart for making the right decisions. So Cairo became my new end point.

Like the shepherd boy in Coelho’s story I have had doubts, leaps of faith, hardships, amazing encounters, lessons to learn and relationships that made me rethink what I set out to do. I thought it would take me a year and a half to arrive in Jerusalem; I am now almost three years on the road and I have made it to Sofia in Bulgaria. And with the war in Syria raging, Jerusalem seems further away now than when I started my journey in 2010. I have always wanted to walk everything, but political circumstances have made it necessary for me to reconsider either the walking part, or the destination. This is a process that started already when I was walking in Italy. Now it is time to share with you my decision and considerations.

Maybe it is best to start with the conclusion: Istanbul will be my final destination. Let me explain. Like I stated above, Jerusalem was never a destination I clung to personally, but having a symbolic significant end point is something I am attached to. Because there is no end in sight to the war in Syria, walking to Jerusalem is no option. I could take a boat or a plane in the south of Turkey, but the experiences of my fellow pilgrim Ken Schroder made me doubtful if I even wanted to consider it. You can find his account on the interrogations at Haifa and how he was refused entry into Israel here. He was put on a boat to Cairo.

I have never said much about Israel’s politics in my blog or on social media, because I thought it might make my walking there troublesome, but I think there is much to be very critical and very disappointed about. So I don’t really mind ignoring that country all together, even if that means missing out on many wonderful individuals that I have already been in touch with through social media. Egypt isn’t much better at the moment, but more importantly, if I would take a boat from Turkey to Egypt I would arrive there long before the MasterPeace concert on 21 September 2014. So I would arrive by boat to a city where there is no peace and no concert and my walk would in reality have ended in some arbitrary harbor in the south of Turkey. That doesn’t appeal to me.

I have shown the power of the internet and how I can find help everywhere from all kinds of people for almost three years, and I still think it is important for people to be aware of my experiences, but politically, other events have made the continuation of my journey less necessary. The world has seen the power of social media during the Arab spring, even if its end result is not yet satisfactory. And people like Julien Assange and Edward Snowden have made the public aware of the importance of a free internet. 

In the meantime, the queen of the Netherlands abdicated. Not that I ever walked to convince her exclusively, but it is relevant to my journey. In short, I believe I have made my point, and it is possible for me to arrive in Istanbul on the International Day of Peace of this year, on the 21 of September. I will have walked out of Europe and into Asia, to a capital with a history as rich as that of Jerusalem and Cairo. I think it is a great place to finish.

I never expected a treasure at the end of all this, but like Santiago, I have found it along the way. I am living my Personal Legend, as Coelho calls it in his book. And I know by now that I don’t have to dig next to the pyramids to know what the real treasure is. Many people have asked me if I wasn’t afraid that I would never be able to stay in one place again and work a ‘normal’ job. There is no doubt in my mind that I can. It is people that make life worth while, and I have many great friends and a wonderful family waiting for me in the Netherlands. The real journey is never external, it is within, and my heart is calling me home.

The pussy trap, doggy style. Who's your daddy!

It was only a matter of time before I would get hooked on a woman somewhere. But I never imagined her stretched out on my cart while I walked on. In my dreams she was never hairy all over either, and she wouldn't garbage her food down in a second either. But hey, I'm a homeless person and beggars can't be choosers. So here I go, walking over hills and through valleys with a puppy barking at me when she needs to go wee wee. I shouldn't complain, at least she is cart broken, but it is hardly romantic.

Putnik makes up for her eating habits and her impatient cart surfing manners in cuteness though, as the video below will show. She isn't really an easy rider, but her ride sure is easy. And I think she doesn't have much to complain about given the fact that I literally picked her up off the street. I'll take that lick in the face in the morning as a token of gratitude. 

She doesn't make it easier for me to continue my journey. I think I have heard said once that all women are impractical. Not my words and actually her being a dog is much more impractical in this part of Europe. They are regarded only slightly higher than pigs or cows, but really the only reason I have for saying that is that they don't eat them. For someone who is brought up with dogs and cats being part of the family this is sometimes hard to imagine. But that goes both ways. They look at me like I am an oversensitive mother at best, but plain weird most of the times. 

I don't care. We are a team now. Putnik lost her mother to the road, but the road also brought her to me. My mission for next week: teach her to bark when I say 'Who's your daddy!' ;)

Building on fear

The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear.
Jiddu Krishnamurti


“I wouldn’t wear that shirt if I were you. That can be dangerous.” I am wearing a T-shirt of football club Rekreativo from Banja Luka. A gift from Goran Arbutina, a journalist who interviewed me when I was there. Rekreativo plays in the fourth division and has no ambition to promote to the third. Drinking beer after the match, ‘the third half’, is much more important. More important still are the activities around the football field. The members of the club donate blood regularly, organize community events and seek to lighten the lives of the people in the neighborhood where they are located. It is a poor neighborhood and because there isn’t much else to do and because no one has money for leisure activities the club doesn’t charge any fees for football training and coaching for the youth. Goran is one of the founders of the club and his brother, a professional football trainer, is coaching the kids, 43 in total.

The warning to better not wear the T-shirt comes from Stefan, a Law student in Sarajevo who read Goran’s article and invited me to stay with him. Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia Herzegovina, but in reality things aren’t so simple. Sarajevo is divided in different parts like Berlin once was. There is no Berlin wall, but there are area’s with only Serbs, with only Bosnians and area’s with just Croatians. In the center of town, going out, everything mixes, but you don’t want to give the impression that you are overly attached to your own ethnic group. Rekreativo is from Banja Luka which is located in Republika Srpska, a part of Bosnia Herzegovina, but as the name already indicates it is Serbian in majority and outlook. Rekreativo doesn’t care for ethnicity or religion and except for its community building ideals, it is tiny. Yet wearing that T-shirt in Sarajevo would be like walking around with a Real Madrid shirt in Barcelona. Not a good idea.

This country is full of contradictions. I arrived in Sarajevo yesterday, after having walked through a valley for two days were I saw Croatian flags waving and Croatian beer advertisements in the streets. On the edge of the city I crossed paths with another walker, Sefer, a 59-year old muslim from Mostar who is on his way to Tusla and Srebrenica. He will be joined in Sarajevo by 58 others and in Tusla by hundreds more. They will arrive on the 11 of July, the date of the Srebrenica genocide. He doesn’t speak English, but knows a handful of German words, and with what I have picked up from the Slavic language so far we manage to exchange thoughts. He asks me if I will join him on his first stop in Sarajevo, a catholic church on the edge of town. In front of the church he takes off his cap and presses his right hand to his breast while he stares up at the cross on the top of the tower. He doesn’t say anything out loud, but I am sure he is praying. His march is not just about commemorating the victims of the Srebrenica massacre, it is about reconciliation and mutual understanding. 

Sefer’s first wife was shot during the war, which makes it all the more impressive what he is doing. He is a Bosnian muslim, but for he largest part of his life he lived in Yugoslavia, where nationalistic and religious differences were suppressed in favor of Tito’s form of communism. He is the second communist I meet, the first being Robert, a policeman from Busovaca where I stayed at a few days earlier. Robert is catholic. He had a portrait of Tito hanging on his wall and not just for nostalgic reasons. With all that came to pass after the falling apart of Yugoslavia, Tito’s image now more than ever represents the possibility of all these religions and nationalities living peacefully together. It is ironic indeed that most of the street names that referred to him have been substituted by new ones, in all the former Yugoslavian countries. It is not Slovenian to like Tito, it is not Croatian and it is not Serbian or Bosnian. It is anti-nationalistic and therefore has no place in the new order of things. 

I am no communist, not a socialist even, but in this part of the world I can understand the wish to return to it. Communism is as idiotic as any other ideology, because it aims to synchronize people to comply to an all-encompassing system. But at least communism had a vision about how people might live together, while the religious and nationalistic rhetoric shows only how they can die separately. In the days of Tito, Bosnia Herzegovina was the richest region of Yugoslavia, but in the war much of its industry and infrastructure was destroyed and it is now one of the poorest countries in Europe. Yet somehow they find the money to build new mosques and new churches everywhere. Personally, I believe they would be wiser to take the example of Rekreativo in Banja Luka and concentrate on things that bring people together. From what I have seen from the center of Sarajevo, they have excellent facilities for a great third half!

Wijnand Boon
War and Peace, Us and Them

The cold war
I am a child of the cold war. For many years in my youth my sense of European geography was defined by the divide between East and West. The political border between American oriented countries and those that were under the influence of the Soviet Union was as tangible as a mountain range or an ocean. Maybe even more so, because it was a line that you did not want to cross. There was nothing but poverty and oppression on the other side. Who would want to go there? 

“I hope the Russians love their children too”, Sting sang in the eighties, and that pretty much sums it up. It was impossible for me to imagine what the people on the other side were like. As a child it is hard to make sense of political subtleties and the easiest thing to do was to think of ‘our side’ as the good guys and the ‘other side’ as the bad. The political covered up all cultural, religious and linguistic differences that exist in the east as they do in the west. Then, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and the world witnessed Germans from the DDR running into the arms of their western counterparts. The ‘war’ was over.. 

The Balkan war
Soon after that, in the beginning of the nineties, former Yugoslavia fell apart. While part of Europe pressed on with a political experiment in the form of the European Union, hoping to abolish war on the European continent by increasing economic and political unification, Serbians, Croatians, Albanians and Bosnians fought each other in a war that was as violent as it was confusing. Ethnic cleansing, genocide, all the crimes that we in the west imagined was something that belonged to the past, were now taking place very close to home. I was 14 years old at the time and again, I could not understand. 

About a month ago I crossed the border from Italy into Slovenia, my first time in a former Yugoslavian country. It looked like Austria to me and the most striking difference was the overwhelming friendliness of the people. They assured me that the hospitality and friendliness would only increase as I moved further south into Croatia and Bosnia. I couldn’t believe it, but they were right. When I crossed the border between Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina I experienced something that I hadn’t experienced in three years on the road: culture shock.  

Peace is peace, until it isn’t
The internet is not of much help here, because outside of Banja Luka and Sarajevo, the villages I walk through are mostly tiny, poor and with an aging population. It is getting increasingly difficult to find people that speak English or German, but wherever I go I find hospitality. I have been generously hosted by catholic Croatians, orthodox Serbians and islamic Bosnians alike. Some insist that they don’t only differ in religious affiliation, but that they also speak different languages. But others assure me that that is only nationalistic rhetoric. It is like American and English; some words may be different, but there is more than just a family relation and they understand each other perfectly. 

That these people were fighting and killing each other only 20 years ago is very hard to grasp for an outsider. Sure, here in Bosnia I hear chanting from mosques instead of church bells from catholic or orthodox church towers, but that merely gives this country a slight oriental flavor. The people look the same, I hear them speaking the same language and most importantly, they are just as friendly and hospitable. This is an important lesson for all of us to learn: the fact that we have been living in peace for so long should never be taken for granted; and being a so called ‘civilized’ people is by no means a guarantee that we would not be capable of the violence and destruction that has been a red line through the history of humanity.

Roadkill Requiem

Abandoned and forgotten like empty shells, I find animals that have died on the road everywhere along my path; unintended victims of our every day commuting. Some die with their bodies seemingly unharmed, which gives an eerie quality to their remains. Flesh and bones and skin and feathers perfectly intact, it seems as if the body is simply waiting there to be collected again by the soul. 

Isn't it strange how an insect, when alive, seems almost mechanical to us? You wouldn't soon talk about the soul of a fly - not unless you are a Buddhist. Yet when confronted by the bodies of these animals, it occurs to me that what is missing from them is that exact same spark, that mystery of existence, the difference between life and death. Where does it go? Where has it gone? 

Does it matter for life that it is conscious of its own existence? Life wants to live, unconditionally, but for these animals it ended on the road side. This is my tribute to life cut short: a roadkill requiem. Where it has gone is unknown. "Death is a wild night and a new road", said Emily Dickinson. We will all have to travel it one day...

Wijnand Boon
Every Hello is a Goodbye

It is impossible to do a journey like this and not learn how to be without certain people. The first year on the road I would have days that I was experiencing minor forms of homesickness. Not only to my friends and family in the Netherlands, but also to people I met only one or two nights before, if we had an especially good connection. But without noticing when it happened exactly, I realized at some point that I stopped experiencing this. Whenever I felt this way, almost always, that same evening I would meet another person or another family that was equally wonderful, and I guess my brain stopped making a big deal out of it. Is homesickness or whatever you want to call it then not an emotion? Is it the result of certain modes of thinking? Now there is something to think about, and I will in due time. 

But it is reassuring to find that my love for people in general, and the ones closest to me especially, is not diminished in any way. I have found that loving someone has very little to do with the anxiety that can come from not having them around. This makes goodbye's far less stressful and emotional. And so I dare to say that the following video is not a sad song. Every hello is a goodbye waiting to happen... But if we so choose, there is always the possibility to go back and say hello again.

Wijnand Boon
If it feels so bad, how can it be good...

I just killed a snake.

You may know that I take pictures of animals that have died on the road. You can find them in the In Memoriam photo album on this page (no bloody stuff, I promise). So when I saw a 50 cm snake lying still on the side of the road, I got ready to get my camera when it suddenly moved toward me. I jumped back of course, which was easier than I thought possible with my cart. I could tell from its movement that something was wrong. I don't know if it is biologically possible for a snake to break its neck, but that was what it looked like. It was suffering. 

What to do? It didn't feel right to leave it dying on the asphalt, either from its injury, the 27 degree sun, or a merciful car. I wasn't going to take a picture either. It is one thing to pay your respects to a dead animal and try to capture a remnant of its beauty and soul in a picture, it is quite another thing to wait and watch an animal die. I had to think fast and decided that the most merciful thing to do was crush its head under my boot. I dreaded it in advance, but there was no other way.

No animal wants to die and I saw with horror and anxiety how its body curld and twisted under my weight, but I couldn't go back now. Ten seconds past before it gave in. I jumped backward again and looked at the dead body of an animal I wouldn't come near if I ever encountered it alive, no matter what size. I crushed its head alright, and I hope that the death struggle I witnessed was like the twitching body of a chicken that had its head chopped off: a reflex of the muscles. I don't know. And it wont make me feel much better.

I am sorry if you don't want to hear about such things. Call it therapy, but I needed to share this. I know I did the right thing. But man, how doing the right thing can freak you out.

Wijnand Boon
The Queen and the Soldier

The Queen has quit, long live the King?
The Queen of the Netherlands has called it quits. After a thirty three year reign she is passing the buck to her son today. She announced her abdication herself about three months ago, which according to some anti monarchists is too short a period to organize any real protest. This may be, but the fact of the matter is that a vast majority of the Dutch population is in favor of the monarchy.

How little time one needs to protest against something was shown by the national outcry over ‘Koningslied’, i.e. ‘King’s Song’, a song written to celebrate the installation of the new king. The song is quite aweful indeed, but the future king can be pleased, it diverted all the attention from the debate about the monarchy to the question whether we really want to sing this tune at his coronation.

The fact that so many people are in favor of the monarchy is a compliment to how Queen Beatrix fulfilled her task. Most people will agree that it is an undemocratic and anachronistic institution, yet they support it all the same. It shows that the monarchy has more to do with emotion than with anything else. It will be a tough job for the new king to follow in his mother’s footsteps.

I am not a monarchist, as you may have guessed, but my social media pilgrimage was never a protest against the monarchy as such. This has confused some people, because they wondered why I should take the queen’s words so seriously and give up my job and home to prove her wrong. Unsurprisingly, my inbox filled with messages stating that I could come back now, because the queen was going to abdicate, but they are missing the point. I am protesting against what she said in her speech, not against her. And I am taking her words seriously, because as the head of state, they have serious implications. Whether I agree that our head of state is a queen, or from now on a king, is irrelevant. Still, the abdication of the queen does give cause to reassess my project. The fire is still burning, but with the spark gone, it is only natural to think about whether it is meaningful to continue in the manner I have chosen.

Whose bread you eat her song you sing
When I started my pilgrimage not everyone had a clear understanding of the full potential of social media in terms of political action and therefore didn’t quite grasp what was at stake in the queen’s speech. But since then the world has witnessed how social media can empower people. The Arab Spring may have cooled down to an uncertain autumn, but it is clear to everyone that social media and the internet are tools to reckon with. This is why they should remain free from state control. This battle is far from over, but I am realistic enough to know that my pilgrimage is a minor statement compared to actual revolutions and political reforms.

Because of these developments the convictions underlying my project have become increasingly important. I believe that the responsibility we feel for our fellow man can only be altered by the amount of responsibility we actually have for each other. With social rights written down in laws and our governments securing them, that responsibility is reduced to a minimum. This may have been done with nothing but good intentions, but it could be argued that what we are witnessing in terms of anti social behavior is an unforeseen side effect. With the state taking care of the weak and needy, our only concern is the well being of our selves.

Political rights and social rights are actually at odds with each other. To secure social rights it is necessary for the state to infringe on our political rights, firstly our property rights, but also the freedom of speech, if the expressed opinion should become a threat to the system. Since political rights find their origin in the need to protect the individual against the state, it is only natural that the state emphasizes the importance of securing our social rights. It will argue with misleading vividness that without the protection of the state, we would find ourselves (back) in a struggle for existence in which the most fit couldn’t care less about the weak.

This is not an argument to abolish social rights all together, but I believe that many of those rights can be obtained and secured by society itself. Being social is in our genes, it simply varies with the circumstances how social we actually behave. It is this belief that enabled me to start walking and trust that I would find help everywhere from anyone, regardless of nationality, race, religion or whatever other category we like to identify people with. This belief has been strengthened by my experiences and more than ever I wish to show people that we needn't be afraid that our whole world will fall apart when government does.

And now, the end is near…
Now to come back to whether the queen’s abdication is a reason to reconsider my project: no it is not. Yes, the queen’s speech was the spark that got me started, but like I said before, the fight between forces that want more control and the freedom that is at stake is far from over. It is very probable that we have only seen the beginning of the financial crisis, and the disappointment, anger and insecurity that can result from economic decline are an immediate threat to our freedom. Political oppression leans heavily upon fear and although this may seem like a very melodramatic statement now, it is only a thin line that separates civility and violence and freedom and oppression. I will be happy to be judged a pessimist or even a clown if my stance helps to keep people alert and aware that what I fear is not what they want.

I still think that my project has value in showing that people are not as selfish as they are said to be. I have found that my experiences help people to look at the world more favorably and it is a joy to share those experiences when I can by giving presentations, talking about them in the media or discussing them with my hosts at the dinner table. Even if people disagree with my political views, my daily experiences are proof that we haven’t lost our ability and willingness to help others all together. It is not me who makes this journey possible, it is the selfless aid of hundreds of people I have met so far. I am simply the messenger, who for once, is the bringer of good news.

My only frustration is that the walking and the talking takes up so much time, that there is hardly time to share my experiences. Opportunities to talk about them always have to come to me, instead of me actively seeking ways to share them. That is something I have reluctantly come to accept, but only because my journey is finite. I may commit myself to setting up similar projects in the future, and right now this journey is still teaching me a lot that can help me with that. Moreover, even though I lack the time to do many things, thinking is not one of them: Twalk With Me 2.0 is slowly taking form in my head…

And so I continue. Only, maybe not to Cairo, and maybe not to Jerusalem, because I am seriously considering changing my final destination. Events in the middle east are more or less forcing me to do so. But that is for my next blog.

Wijnand Boon
Io non parlo Italiano

Well, that is not entirely true. I speak some Italian and it is getting better every day. In Urbino I was truly tested as I was interviewed by the regional TV station for Urbino and Pesaro Tele 2000. Luckily the introductions to the questions covered most of what I wanted to say, so I could keep it short. The journalists were well prepared, had asked me most beforehand and rightfully concluded after hearing me answer all their questions that it was better not to put me through that in front of the camera. From what I understood from their introduction and questions, though, I must have given a pretty accurate description of what I was doing and why. I will find the Italian in me yet!

Wijnand Boon
Colder, Higher, Fatter, Slower, Happier

Ridiculous title of course, but I wanted to do a short update and the Daft Punk song title is a good template for this. So in short: I am back in Italy and winter hasn't left yet; from the moment I came back until now I have been walking up and down mountains; this is harder, because I gained some weight in Lisbon; which makes me slower; but it feels good to be back on the road again!

I just received a request from the ORF, Austrian national television to do an interview over skype and this morning I was interviewed for local television in Urbino. I will be in the papers here tomorrow as well. So I am walking, and I am talking. Back in business!

If you know anyone between Urbino, Rimini, Ravenna, Padova and Venezia who might want to meet and host me, let me know!

Wijnand Boon
Be water, my friend

There is a book by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly with the title ‘Flow’, about the psychology of optimal experience. You are doing something that is easy enough to not have to wreck your brain, hard enough to not bore you to death, successful enough to keep you motivated, imperfect enough to keep you pushing for improvement, and really, there isn’t anything else in the world that you would rather do. If you have never experienced it yourself, I can promise you, there is nothing quite like it. I have experienced flow more than once, also on my journey, but the past year and especially the past half year I lost it somehow.

Some of it may have to do with growing frustration. I want to make better pictures, do more interviews, write more regularly about my experiences on my website, upload more photo’s and find more schools to do presentations. But I find that I don’t even have the time and the energy keep up with daily updates. There is also the constant worry about funding. I am still fully dependent on donations and the amount I receive is still not enough to get by every month. And of course the occasional existential doubt. Is it all worth it? Does anyone really care about what I do? Do I still care? Is it important? Even the Queen quits her job and abdicates, why should I continue? But more about that last one in a later blog.

Another change in the past year was meeting someone that became more to me than I had planned. Knowing that a life on the road is hard to combine with an intimate relationship is fine, until you are in one. Needles to say, it failed, and it confronted me with the limitations of my current way of living. It was not being apart that was the problem - at least, not for me, I have become quite an expert at this - but the necessary communication. I can’t say that she demanded too much, but I simply couldn’t meet her expectations. I won’t bore you with the specifics (besides, it is none of your business), but the break up made me realize something that I hadn’t considered before: that at some point in time it will be impossible for me to keep in touch with everyone I meet on my journey. And I actually may have passed that point without noticing it in the past year.

I now have over 2000 Twitter followers. My Facebook page has more than 1700 subscribers and with my personal account I am connected to over 1300 people. Not all of them contact me regularly, but with every new town I walk into the number of people to stay in touch with grows. I will have to learn how to be more selective and less social (online that is), which is more or less the same as asking me to stop breathing. If there would be no contact with the people I met along the way, then meeting new people every day would become a senseless enterprise. I simply have to put more trust in people’s understanding when I don’t reply immediately.

Paradoxically, the people I am closest to are the last in line to receive prompt answers. I guess that subconsciously, I know that they are the first to understand. And it is true that I haven’t had any real complaints from family and friends, for which I am very grateful. So in some twisted way, not hearing from me is a compliment ‘Those that matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter’ pretty much sums it up, but it bothers me nonetheless.

Something is wrong when you walk 30 kilometers every other day, but still have the feeling that you don’t have any time for yourself. I don’t have an apartment where I can retire from the world for a while to get myself organized and energized again. This makes it crucial that I can do so while I am walking. But it got to the point where my head was constantly grinding away at all the stuff that still needed to be done and any sound coming from my phone would cause me to panic: another message to answer! I don’t have the ambition to become the first pilgrim in history (or so I assume) with a burn out and although that may sound exaggerated, I was certainly experiencing some form of emotional exhaustion.

It took me two months, but today for the first time I feel like I am getting back on track. For the first time in weeks I can say that I am excited again to continue. I needed the rest and Lisbon has definitely done me good. But I have to make sure I don’t fall in the same trap. There is still a lot to be done in the next few weeks, but I finally feel that I can manage it again.

It is time to bring back the flow. Or like Bruce Lee said: be water, my friend.

Wijnand Boon
Happy New Year

I wish everyone some wonderful and joyous days. I hope watching this special christmas compilation makes you as happy as it does me. These people are my inspiration and my guardian angels along the way. Thanks for twalking with me, also next year!

Wijnand Boon
All roads lead to...

Dear follower, supporter, friend, fan, sponsor, host, fellow traveler, family member and everyone else that has supported me over the last two years,

I am about to walk into Rome, my second destination after Santiago de Compostela. Tomorrow I walk to Grosseto, and with almost 6000 kilometers behind me I have less than 200 to go to reach the Italian capital and the seat of the papacy. Another milestone on my 10.000 kilometer walk to show the power of the internet and the kindness of people everywhere. I have been hosted by almost 350 different households in six different countries: young people, old people, families, singles, christians, muslims, jews, atheists, agnosts, buddhists, rich people, poor people, male, female, homosexuals, heterosexuals, leftists, rightists, anarchists, communists, students, teachers, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. I feel blessed with all the help I have found on my way, without which I would not have made it this far.

I write to you now only to give you a quick update on what is going on. I plan to arrive in Rome on the 29th of November and if all goes as planned I will do so with a journalist of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. That is the same newspaper that published an article about my journey and mission two years ago, which led to the Queen of the Netherlands sending me an email through her personal secretary. This time an article is scheduled for the christmas edition. I will be curious to see whether the Queen still reads it and if she will contact me again.

If you are checking the map on my website and you see the line end at Colle di Vale d'Elsa, that is because my GPS tracker is not working. I hope to find a solution to that soon.

For some reason, the German press seems more interested in my walk than the Dutch press. This article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung was published two weeks ago. But I am happy to share with you the link to the website of a Dutch magazine about Italy, De Smaak van Italie, where I am now writing a weekly column. It is in Dutch, so my apologies for my non-Dutch speaking friends.

Going to bed now, got 25 kilometers to walk tomorrow...


Wijnand Boon

Those that visit this page regularly and check the map to see where I am walking will have noticed that I have been stuck in Colle di Val d’Elsa for a week or two. Well, I am not there. I actually walked on to Pentolina, Chiusdino and Montieri, but my iPhone broke down so I couldn’t update my whereabouts. 

My phone had been slowly falling apart in the past year, but he’s had a tough life with me on the road. I already had it before I started my journey so it isn’t a big surprise that after three years of service, of which two on the road, it should throw the towel at some point. But now what? I don’t have the money to buy a new one and if there is a tool that is essential for my journey it is this one. So I decided to post a cry for help on Facebook and Twitter: “Is there anyone who is now very happy with a new iPhone 5, so that they would be willing to donate their old phone?”

The social media did not disappoint me and neither did my followers. I got several offers, but there was one that was of the ‘an-offer-you-can’t-refuse’ category: a brand new Samsung Galaxy III. It was Dutchtel that came to my aid. 

I used to be in primary school with Patrick Balleur, one of the founders of Dutchtel, a telecom company from Breukelen in the Netherlands. We lost contact when I moved away at the age of nine, only to get back in touch again years later through the internet. At that time I was a barista trainer and had just written a booklet for a big Dutch milk company about the secrets to making the perfect espresso and how to pour latte art. Patrick turned out to be a fanatic coffee lover with the tools at home to do what I taught the professionals. So that is how we got reconnected after more than twenty years.

You can never be sure in your life whether things happen for a reason. And if they do, it might be that you were important in someone else’s life instead of the other way around. But it can be fun to trace the steps that were necessary to bring two people in the position that they are able and willing to help one another. In this case, I don’t think I would have been able to do what I am doing today if I hadn’t moved around so much when I was young. And if I had never gotten interested in the coffee roasting and serving trade and I hadn’t written a booklet about it and Patrick had not been interested in coffee and Facebook hadn’t existed and Patrick wouldn’t have been in telecommunications… then I wouldn’t have owned a brand new Galaxy right now, and you would at some point think that I had settled down in Colle di Val d’Elsa.

Thanks Patrick and Dutchtel for your support! I guess I will have to change my slogan now.

You can find Dutchtel also on Facebook. Please like their page as a thank you for their support !

Dear believer

Imagine you sent out a message of love and you discover that the receiver is using your words to oppress and to murder in your name. Would you send out another one? So if your God spoke thoussands of years ago, and remained silent ever since, wouldn't this be the time to consider the possibility that He (or She?) isn't too happy with how you have interpreted His words?

Or consider the possibility that He is still speaking to you today, just not directly, but through the voices of all those who dare to speak out and stand up to oppression, violence and intolerance; those who risk their lives to protest, because they believe that their cause is more important than their earthly existence. Transcendence, you know, the thing that you claim is the prerogative of the religious.

People hardly ever sacrifice themselves for an opinion. They don't merely think that they have a right to say what they feel, they believe they do. It is a conviction. So by oppressing and restricting the freedom of speech, you are curtailing the right to practice a belief. You don't want anyone to do that to you, so don't do it to others.

I don't care what book you read or what God you pray to. But if He exists, then your critics are as much of His creation as you are. Don't make laws to silence them, don't make bombs to killl them. If you believe they are off the path, show them the way. If you believe they are doing wrong, show them how to do right. If you believe they speak disrespectful, show them why you earn their respect.

But if you decide to oppress and to use violence and to fight people for what they say, we will speak out about what you do, and the pen is mightier than the sword. But of course you already know that, or else you wouldn't try continuously to silence your critics and I wouldn't have felt the necessity to write this in the first place.

This world is not of your creation. Stop acting like you think you own it, because you believe you are buddies with its maker. Destruction and oppression are surely not what your God had in mind.

Forgiveness is a virtue and if I can understand that without the commandment of a God, surely you should be able to understand it too.

Wijnand Boon