Why I am walking to Jerusalem without money
For the past 7 years I’ve gone on all sorts of adventures around the world; Among other things I paddled the entire Mississippi River in a kayak in 110 days, I walked from England to Rome, led pack horses across the Canadian Wilderness, and Cycled from Holland to Istanbul.
Wherever I went I was showered in kindness and hospitality, but when I came home and turned on the news, I saw a very different world, a bad world. This was not the world I knew, and so I decided to walk from Holland to Jerusalem without money to show that the world is much better than what you see on TV. To show people the other side. Because what we focus on is what we see.
I'm trying to raise money for a small UK charity called Acorn Overseas. They are focusing on providing food, shelter, and education for a small group of orphans living in Thailand. I chose this cause because I worked with the kids in the area personally in 2015, and feel the donations will be put to better use in comparison to larger charities where you often don’t know where the money goes.
How many kilometres did I walk:
By the time I reach the wall in Jerusalem it will be roughly 5800km. So I walked pretty much 6000km, across 13 countries, in 6 months time.
Start date: 29th of April
Finish date: 9th of November
I left from my home town; Stadskanaal, The Netherlands. As you can imagine; I had been nervous for days leading up to this moment. I had no idea if people, strangers, would actually give me food.
I gave my wallet, CC’s, and any remaining cash to my dad. I didn’t want to have anything to fall back on because if I got really hungry, and I had a CC, then I would use it. My dad thought I was crazy. That’s because my dad and I see the world very differently. I see a world full of kindness, generosity and people that want to help. He sees a bad, rotten, world filled with people that are out to get you. And that’s part of the reasons I wanted to do this adventure. To show my dad that world is actually a lot better than he thinks.
The first few days I was too afraid to ask for food, so I went from supermarket to supermarket and I lived off food samples. I would walk circles through the supermarket and keep taking snacks until either the food was gone, or they started looking at me sideways. And then I’d move on to the next supermarket.
But eventually hunger pushed me to ring door bells. When I rung these doorbells, I would first explain my journey, making sure they knew I had no money, and then I’d only ask for some water. In the majority of cases. In the time it took people to fill my water bottle, they usually got the idea that they could offer me some food.
That’s when I learnt; You don’t actually have to ask for food, you just have to give people enough time to realise that they can help.
However, since 1/3 of the world’s food is thrown away, I had no problem with actually asking for food in restaurants, and I quickly discovered the best way to do it. I would take my lunchbox into restaurants, explain my journey, and say: “Listen, at the end of the day you throw away lots of food. Instead of throwing it in the trash, do you mind throwing it in my lunchbox? I’ll come pick it up at the end of the night.” Mostly, they’d give me a meal then and there. Rarely.. Rarely was I turned away.
Then I figured out if I go into hotels around 9 AM— when most guests have had their breakfast— and I explain my journey, ask for some hot water.. There’s a really big chance they spontaneously get the idea to offer you breakfast.
Life without money was pretty good. I wasn’t just surviving, I was thriving, and I actually gained a little bit of weight.
One day in France I wanted to pitch my tent on a grassy field. However, there was already a couple there that had claimed the field and they were sitting in front of their camper van sipping wine. I was worried they might call the police because wild camping is illegal in France, and I chose to preemptively introduce myself. And moments later we were drinking wine, and then whiskey, and then they ordered GPS delivered pizza. I discovered it’s always a good idea to introduce yourself, because strangers are friends waiting to happen.
For the first 8 weeks I carried a black bag with me. It was my food stash, and I always made sure I had at least 1-2 days of food in there in case no one would feed me. But over time this bag became smaller and smaller until I no longer needed it. Over time my beliefs changed and I truly believed that the kindness of strangers is something you can reliably depend upon. Now I was truly living from moment to moment, day to day.
In the weeks that followed I walked across Switzerland, then across the Alps, and down into Italy. And in Italy I one day found myself in between towns without water. A big problem.
Luckily soon after I passed a farm and saw a man working outside. This was perfect because when people are outside they are much more likely to start a conversation. When you ring the door bell sometimes their salesman alarm might go off, but when their working in the garden they know the neighbour might come by and start a conversation.
So that’s exactly what I did. And moments later I had water, a filled belly, and even a lunch pack for on the way.
This wasn’t just a great experience for me, it was also a special moment for them. By helping me they were now a part of the adventure. They made this journey possible. And I always made sure I took a selfie. Because everyone that helped me in small on big ways went onto my wall of kindness, a giant collage of pictures that I had on my website.
Eventually I made it to Croatia. And World cup fever had swept the country. Of course I wanted to see the finals against France and so I went into a restaurant early in the afternoon and got to know the staff. Before I knew It I was invited to stay and watch the game as their guest of honour. Unfortunately.. spoiler alert.. Croatia lost, and as a result I didn’t eat for two days. Just kidding. Losing the world cup had absolutely no effect on Croatian generosity.
Sometimes I showered in lakes. Sometimes I showered at beaches between the tourists. And sometimes I snuck into hospitals, walked around until I found a shower, locked myself in, and simply took a shower there. Nobody ever said anything.
Often I would meet people and be invited into their homes, and sometimes I would sleep in churches. But most night I slept on benches, or in my tent; wildcamping.
Then I got to Turkey, and in Turkey I met many muslims. I also met quite a few christians, and even the occasional atheist. And no matter if they believed in God, Allah, or Science, they all fed me with the same heart warming kindness. Which means the kindness of strangers goes beyond religions, it is human nature.
One day in Turkey I saw a Donkey standing in the middle of the highway. I considered taking it with me, because it would be great to just ring someone’s door bell and offer that my donkey would mow their lawn in return for a sandwich. Then I’d be fed. The donkey would be fed, and the grass would be mowed. A win, win, win situation! However, I didn’t want to scare the donkey, and get a car to hit it. And I also figured it would be hard to get the donkey across borders. Luckily it later returned to the side of the road, safely.
Things weren’t always easy. Sometimes I ate nothing. Sometimes I ate only dry bread. There were blisters, and ants infestations in my tent. In these moments the only thing that kept me going was trying to the gift hidden in the adversity. I believe what really matters in life is not what happens to you, but how you react to it. If you can redirect your focus to find the gift in your setbacks, problems, or pain. You become unstoppable.
I’m now a couple of days away from reaching Jerusalem. These last kilometres feel like a victory lap as I have been invited to stay at people’s houses all along the rest of the way to Jerusalem.