A nomad’s ecological odysseyDo you think it is possible to stop riding in motorized vehicles ever? John Francis has actually done this for 22 years, and written about it in “Planetwalker.”
When a large oil spill occurred in San Francisco Bay in 1971, Francis decided to stop using all forms of motorized transportation.
Francis, of course, had to pay the price for his decision. He immediately lost his job since he could not drive. He had to walk for over an hour to get some places which used to take only five minutes by car. But he never gave up.
Francis began walking the California coast in April 1972. Then he crossed the states of Montana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. All in all, he walked across the entire United States. During his long walks, he learned the crafts of typography and boat building. He paid for lodging with his improvisational banjo tunes, and nearly died of dehydration while walking through the desert.
He also stopped speaking for 17 years. Francis remained voluntarily mute between his 27th and 44th birthdays, with the exception of one instance. Despite never speaking or driving, he learned valuable lessons from working and meeting people on the road.
Francis also got his undergraduate and master’s degrees in science and environmental studies and a Ph.D. in land resources during his journey. He was later recruited to work on the Exxon Valdez oil spill by the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1991, he was appointed a goodwill ambassador by the United Nations Environment Programme.
Francis, now the founder and representative of the nonprofit environmental corporation, Planet Walk, dedicated the Korean edition of his travelogue (published by Sal-lim) to Taean, the western coastal region of Korea that recently suffered the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history.