Sunday, 27 January 2013

Michael Lee Johnson's on foot to freedom: Walking from Beijing to London

Michael Lee Johnson On Foot to Freedom
Imagine clambering aboard an aeroplane in London bound for Beijing. In just ten-and-a-half hours, your jet-propelled metal cocoon will have carried you more than 5,000 miles en route to the Chinese capital. Now imagine bedding down for the night, awakening bright and early the next morning, lacing up the walking boots and strolling back home to the UK, alone and unaided, through some of the most volatile countries on the planet (Belgium in January; a nasty, nasty business, let me tell you), and minus the crow's advantage of travelling the most direct route. So, add another 4,000 miles onto the 5,000, slow down the average speed from 450 mph to four, and you're looking at a journey that will take three to five years to complete. Yes, the margin for error is as great as a hamster's life, a simile that achieves precisely the opposite effect I intended.

One man soon won't have to imagine the above, for this summer he will attempt to do it for real. His name is Michael Lee Johnson. He is 28 years-old and works as a web designer/online marketer in Widnes, a Cheshire town that deserves greater recognition owing to its schooling of girl power joint founder, Mel C. From an old Spice Girl to the old spice route - but Widnes' next celebrity in waiting is no rambler, and adventure travel has hitherto left his fancy distinctly untickled. By his own admission, Michael isn't much of an outdoors person - the majority of the last two decades have been spent staring at pixels on a monitor. "It's not a life," he told me. "I'm not scared of dying; I'm scared of not living." So the obvious course of action, apparently, is to walk across Eurasia in the footsteps of Marco Polo in a project dubbed On Foot to Freedom.

I was speaking to Michael on behalf of Stanfords, and naturally I asked all the obvious questions. How's your Mandarin? Is your mother worried? How many pairs of socks are you taking? Rather than plagiarise my own work, let me suggest putting the kettle on, treating yourself to a camomile teabag and clicking here to read the interview in full. And in case you need a little persuasion, here's another gem of quote from the man himself: "I know it won't be a walk in the park whichever route I choose, but the premise stays the same: I just need to put one foot in front of the other for three to five years." Amen.

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