Christoph Rehage set off from Beijing On November 9th, 2007, on his 26th Birthday with nothing but himself and the open road. The video he put together went viral with over 5 million views on YouTube alone. He has stopped walking for now but has kindly taken some time to answer some of my questions.
First though, he let me know that Mimi actually means ‘boob’ in Chinese, which made me laugh as my name to the Chinese readers must be ‘Global Boob’.
What Inspired you to start walking?
I had previously walked from Paris to my home in Germany in 2003. That time, it had been a spontaneous decision inspired by a magazine article I had read about Roman armies. The article said that the Romans had to walk all over Europe (obviously), so I thought: yes, I can do that too! When I was in Beijing a few years later, I wanted that walking feeling back. The sunsets and the sunrises, the feeling of freedom. I wanted that back.
What was the hardest part of the walk for you?
Starting was hard. People didn’t really think much of me doing this kind of thing. And I wasn’t exactly proud of myself either. There was a lot of insecurity. So it was hard to make the first step. Stopping was hard too.
Do you have any tips for staying sane on a long journey?
Not really. I guess everyone has different needs. I enjoyed listening to music sometimes. And I enjoyed talking to people on the road.
Did you meet any amazing people or great acts of kindness along the way?
A bunch. I met Teacher Xie for example, a man who has been walking around China since 1983 – super interesting guy! And people were generally very hospitable and friendly along the way. Someone just gave me his house key once. He was going to sleep in his shop anyway, so he gave his house to me.
Anything else that makes walking particularly good?
I like walking because it makes you own your way. Whenever I walk somewhere, not only do I remember the way, but I also feel like I have a legitimation to be there. I visit a place by train, and I am a tourist, I walk to the same place on foot, and the place is suddenly mine, we belong together, I don’t feel like an alien anymore. I like that feeling. I think buses are the worst. I hate them, because I am too tall to feel comfortable, and you can’t even read a book on a bus without getting sick.
How did the walk change your life?
I learned how to walk, and how to stop walking. What more could I want?
Why did you stop?
I wanted to gain back my life. I had to regain control over myself, eliminate the inner boss that was telling me what to do. A lot of people look at the video thinking “I want to be free like that guy!” – but they don’t realize that I was driven by something, and maybe I was losing control over it.
When will you set off again?
Not sure yet 🙂