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Today is for Dilek Fidanoglu – Happy birthday!

by Matt Krause on January 2, 2013

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Today is for Dilek Fidanoglu - Happy birthday! by mattkrause1969

Today’s walk took me from Cukobirlik (a few kilometers east of Yenice) to Adana’s Seyhan river.

Now I’ve walked all the way to Ceyhan, two days (43 kilometers or 27 miles) from Osmaniye. I’m almost done with the Cukurova plain now.

Dilek was one of my guardian angels at TAC last month. In the photo below, she is fourth from the right, in the white shirt…

Group photo with the guardian angels and Birsu

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Kavya, a 4th grader in Denise Waters’ class at Norman Rockwell Elementary, asks, “What kinds of traditions have you seen Turkish people celebrate?”

Kavya, I’ve been to a couple wedding-related events, but I’ve written about those already. So I’ll describe another tradition I’ve seen celebrated here in Turkey: Seker Bayram (Candy Holiday).

Seker Bayram is a three-day holiday following the month-long Ramazan (aka Ramadan) fast. Each year it occurs a couple weeks earlier than it did the year before, so its date changes slightly year to year. This year Seker Bayram came in mid-August. In fact, it took place on the first Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday I was in Turkey.

An important part of Seker Bayram is visiting relatives, especially on the first of the holiday’s three days. Customary on these visits is to bring a box of candy, usually chocolates, to each of the houses one visits, so the whole day is spent traveling from house to house eating candy.

Especially important during these visits is to honor one’s elders by kissing the backs of their hands and touching their hands to one’s forehead.

During the Ramazan fast nothing can pass the lips from sunup to sundown, not even water or a toothbrush. So during Seker Bayram people are not only visiting relatives and kissing elders’ hands, they are reveling in the ability to eat and drink in broad daylight.

Since so many people are moving around at once, all modes of transport are clogged — roads, buses, subways, and trains.

On the first day of this year’s Seker Bayram I was in Istanbul moving from one friend’s house to another. For that move I used a combination of walking, subways, and trams.

The subway and tram cars were so packed some people couldn’t even get on and had to wait for the next train. I was wearing my backpack, which at the time weighed almost 50 pounds (23 kilos). With the heavy pack I might have moved a little slowly, but once I started moving, I had momentum and I was almost impossible to stop. Therefore, I was able to get on the trains whenever I wanted, as long as I didn’t mind, ahem, “ushering” a few people onto the trains with me.

Offensive stuff

by Matt Krause on September 14, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Some videos get made, some diplomats get killed, some people get all up in arms, etc. I’d like to weigh in on this, since I happen to be walking across a Muslim country, and then I’ll return to our regularly-scheduled programming of me demonstrating that the world isn’t something to be afraid of…

As an example, I’ll use that case from a couple years ago where some pastor in Florida burned, or at least threatened to burn, some Korans. The details of this most recent case are different, but the song remains the same…

When a minister in Florida burns a Koran, how representative of your daily activities is that?

Are you running around hating Muslims, frothing at the mouth, spouting hate speech right and left? Probably not.

And how many of your friends and family are doing those things? Probably not many.

So if the Pakistani press’s story about the Florida minister is not representative of the vast majority of human activity in the US, why do we think shots of a couple dozen Pakistanis up in arms means the whole Muslim world is angry?

Another question we often ask is, if Muslims really don’t support anti-Western violence, why are they not organizing more anti-violence demonstrations?

The answer is in the answer to the question, why, when the pastor in Florida burns a Koran, do you not organize anti-anti-Muslim demonstrations?

The answer is probably that you are busy with your day-to-day life. You are busy getting the kids off to school. You are busy going to work. You are busy thinking about dinner and calling your husband to remind him to pick up a loaf of bread on his way home.

When a pastor in Florida burns a Koran, you don’t think, oh my god, I need to organize a rally. You think, god, there are some crazies out there, and then you go back to what you were doing, because most of living is doing those things.

The same goes for those folks “over there.” If you ever find yourself wondering why there aren’t more “anti-anti-Western” demonstrations in the Muslim world, ask yourself why there aren’t more “anti-anti-Muslim” demonstrations in yours, and you will have your answer.

You don’t need to travel the world to understand it. You just need to take the same rules that govern life in the world right in front of you, and apply them elsewhere, too.

Why “heathen”?

by Matt Krause on September 6, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Some people who are very dear to me have been wondering, “Why on earth did Matt name this project Heathen Pilgrim?” This post is for them.

If my use of the word “heathen” disturbs you, please be assured that I do not use that word because I am a heathen, nor do I wish you were.

I use the word “heathen” because it is a reminder to me that sometimes in order to experience the world in front of me, I need to relax my grip on things I hold dear. It is a reminder to me that sometimes the best way to solve a particular challenge is not to overpower it with conviction and prove I am right, but to submit to it, to stop resisting, and just to listen. It is a reminder to me that I’ve got to put down my sword before I can shake someone’s hand.

Offensive images

by Matt Krause on August 28, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Walking Turkey on KickstarterRecently I have been hearing from people new to me as this project is covered by the media. I hear from these people by email, text, phone, and even in person.

A certain subset of the people who contact me is offended by the images I use in the opening sequence of the Kickstarter project video. Often, they are offended by the images of women in headscarves.

I lived in Istanbul for six years, I married into a very secular Turkish family, and I am well aware some Turks, including very good friends of mine, are offended by those images. I am also aware that there is no set of images which will not offend anyone, except maybe cute pictures of cats. I do not think it is possible to do a project like this and not offend anyone. The most you can hope to do is see as much as you can and then show it to people.

By the way, I love to make new friends and hear their opinions, whatever those opinions may be. So if you are offended by some aspect of this project, please do not hesitate to contact me and tell me. When we finish talking you might still be offended, but you can rest assured I have listened to you and I am thinking about what you said. Your objections do not fall on deaf ears.

Congratulations Denise Waters

by Matt Krause on August 21, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

The Waters family

The Waters family

Denise Waters teaches a 4th grade class at Norman Rockwell Elementary school in Redmond, a city on the east side of Seattle, Washington. For years it’s been my pleasure to count Denise and her husband Tim as good friends of mine.

Denise and I have been planning some sort of collaboration in which my walk, and the things I see and learn along the way, will be integrated into a unit she’ll be teaching this upcoming school year. We haven’t nailed down the details of that collaboration yet — we are waiting for my walk to start and her new school year to begin.

Anyway, the collaboration possibilities took on a new dimension the other day when Denise’s new class was accepted into the Global Children’s Challenge program. GCC aims to cut back on childhood obesity by getting kids to walk — the GCC’s tagline is “Get the world moving.” In addition to encouraging the kids to walk, the GCC adds an international exchange element in which the kids explore the history, geography, and cultures of 50 locations around the world.

This just came up the other day, so we don’t know yet how we’ll make the most of it, but it’s adding an exciting dimension to our project.

Congratulations Denise on getting accepted into the GCC program. If I had a kid, I would want him or her in a class with a teacher who cares about the kids as much as you do.

Article in Reedley Exponent

by Matt Krause on August 16, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Reedley Exponent photoA newspaper in Reedley, California (one of my hometowns), did an article on the walk recently…

Article in Reedley Exponent

(Photo by Doug Hoagland / The Exponent)

“It’s a liberating thing knowing that we don’t need to be afraid of our own world.”

Turkish Travel Blog on the walk

by Matt Krause on August 16, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Turkish Travel Blog logoI love the line, “…my first reaction to his plan was WTF!”

http://turkishtravelblog.com/walk-turkey/

Thank you so much Natalie, I love the article! I especially loved hearing you describe your reaction to the trip.

Why were you so dismissive?

by Matt Krause on August 9, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

After yesterday’s post a couple people asked me why I was so dismissive of the commenter’s concern for my safety. Why, they asked, was I brushing off someone with perfectly legitimate safety concerns?

I apologize if I came across as dismissive, and I apologize if I gave the impression I thought his concerns were not legitimate. Being dismissive about safety concerns is not at all what I intended.

Actually, I understand his concerns quite well. I have them myself. I wrestle with them every day. After all, the walk I am about to undertake does not involve someone else’s safety. It involves my own. Many days, especially now as the walk draws close, I am beside myself with fear and anxiety.

Why then am I going to do the walk if I am afraid of it?

Because more often than not, fear is a poor indicator of danger.

Let me diverge for a moment to define my terms here: danger and fear are not the same thing. Danger is external. It doesn’t care what we think. It can be measured with statistics (X% of skydivers are killed in accidents each year). Fear is internal. It is an emotion. It reminds us what the worst-case scenarios look like, and how we feel about them (skydiving accidents are gruesome, I don’t want to be in one).

Here’s an example of fear versus danger lifted from my trip preparations:

When I started researching this trip I actually began by asking what it would take to walk across Iran.

At that time in the US, Iran was in the news for detaining 3 American hikers who strayed across the border. So when I would mention I was looking into walking across Iran, 4 out of 5 people would bring up that hiker issue and start fearing for my life.

But at the same time I was reading a book written by a Scotsman who in the early 2000s walked across Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I was also learning about an Australian who walked across Iran at the very same time those American hikers were in prison. I also watched a Rick Steves special on traveling in Iran. For those of you not familiar with Rick Steves, he is one of the most popular travel writers around. His specialty is traveling in Europe — for decades he has been writing about it, speaking about it, and leading tours around the Continent. For him to diverge from his well-worn path of teaching Americans how to travel through one of the most familiar parts of the world to teaching Americans how to travel through Iran is to send a pretty loud signal that “hey, this place isn’t all that bad.”

So I looked into it further. I learned that about 1,000 American tourists travel to Iran each year. They have nice vacations. They don’t get arrested.

If 1,000 American tourists travel to Iran every year and don’t get arrested, why do we give the experience of 3 of them so much influence over our opinions? In the year those three hikers were arrested, they represented three-tenths of one percent of American tourists in Iran. The experience of the other 99.7% of American tourists in Iran suggests our opinion should actually be, “Iran is a safe country to travel to.”

Giving more weight to the experiences of 3 people than to the experiences of 1,000 people is kind of a screwed-up way to evaluate our surroundings.

So why do we evaluate them that way?

My take on it is that fear is a powerful emotion. It easily overwhelms rational analysis of danger. There are plenty of things we know about the world around us, knowledge that if we didn’t let our fears override it, would guide us to quite different decisions.

Here’s an example of how we use knowledge to overcome our fears every day:

We all walk down the street. There are cars that can hit us in the intersections, and there are bad people who can beat us up hiding in the alleys. We could be maimed or killed just walking down the street. And yet we walk down the street all the time. I know this from personal experience — I have been hit by a car, and I have been beaten up. But I still walk down the street pretty much every day, because I know that on any given day, the chances of being hit by a car, or beaten up, are actually quite small.

I suspect it is rarely a lack of information that causes us to let fear take over and drive important life decisions. We let fear drive important life decisions because it is so powerful. When its siren starts wailing in our heads, the noise is so deafening that it easily overwhelms rational thought.

Fear’s ability to overwhelm rational thought is built into our human nature. I doubt that anyone ever has, or ever will, find a way to make his fear operate according to rational rules. “Rational fear” is an oxymoron.

But just because fear is so powerful an emotion doesn’t mean we need to be held captive by it. The more we train ourselves to disconnect our fears from our decision-making, the more of the world we are free to experience.

I am not advocating that we ignore considerations of danger. I am advocating that we be very suspicious of fear.

Back to the walk: I am not dismissive or cavalier about my own safety. I have, however, spent over a decade learning to let my analysis of danger, not my fear, drive my decisions about how I move around the world. Ten years ago I would never have considered doing something like this walk. Now it seems like the most natural thing in the world.

Yes, it is entirely possible that someone will kill me on the side of the road during the walk. It is also highly unlikely that someone will do so. It is up to me to decide which of those two ways of thinking I am going to let drive my decision-making.

Fear the world less

by Matt Krause on August 8, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

I generally try pretty hard to be respectful and patient when someone says something that sets me off. But sometimes that’s too tall an order and I say exactly what I think.

Below is one of those cases. It was an email I received this week:

Dear Matt,

I’m from Turkey (and I am a Turk). Just how safe do you think you will be doing this “walk” across the southern half of the country? To remind you of a few dangers that come to mind: terror in that region of the country; potential people who dislike Americans; potential people who are very suspicious of westerners for being religious missionaries (many foreigners are murdered in this country on that suspicion, especially in that region), and simply criminals. You might be confusing that region of Turkey with Istanbul.

Again, you claim you will walk only 4 hours a day and then spend the rest of your day with locals you will run into in rural Anatolia. Again you might confuse rural Anatolia with Istanbul where there’s population everywhere. You will walk across areas where towns will be far away from each other and you will run into nothing after walking 4 hours a day.

Signed, XYZ

…and my response:

Dear XYZ,

Your fear reminds me why I am doing this walk. Thanks for voicing your concerns, I will take them under advisement.

Best regards,

Matt

Sometimes I run into people who think foreign countries are something to be afraid of. I understand that sentiment, even if I usually disagree with it. However, when someone represents his own country as something to be afraid of, I start to run out of patience.

Why I want to walk

by Matt Krause on March 4, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Yesterday some people asked me why I want to walk. Why not take some other form of transport, they asked me, like a bus? It was an excellent question. Taking a bus would in fact allow me to see more of the country. Walking will limit my range. If something is a mere 60 miles out of my way, it is not a quick day trip. Sixty miles is an hour or two by car, but it is a week on foot.

The reason I want to walk is I want to challenge myself to be less afraid of the world. To be less afraid to admit I misunderstand something. To be less afraid to admit something is out of my control. It is difficult to admit those things, but much comes from doing so. After all, if I am busy insisting I understand something I don’t, or trying to control something I can’t, it is awfully hard to be open to creativity and inspiration.

I like to talk about these things, and I figure that if I am going to talk about them, I better practice them. Walking is me practicing them. It is me putting my life where my mouth is. It is me submitting to the world. When I walk, my speed is slow, and my range is limited. I have little choice but to accept the world as it exists in front of me. Because I am less mobile than the people around me, I have little choice but to submit to their way of life, to learn how to exist in the world they have created. There is no hopping in the car and escaping a problem. If I ruffle someone’s feathers, I have little choice but to remain present and participate in whatever unfolds.

Walking is a great way to see the country and meet its people, but I could see the country and meet its people by bus. Walking turns this trip into a personal pilgrimage, a way for me to practice submission to the world mile after mile, day after day, week after week, month after month.

Solo but not alone

by Matt Krause on February 14, 2012

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

Until recently I found myself waking up in the middle of the night wondering where will I sleep on that first night outside Kusadasi, 12 miles into a 1300-mile journey. Is someone going to take me in and let me sleep on their living room floor? If I sleep on the side of the road, will the cops haul me in on a vagrancy charge?

I know that people in that part of the world pride themselves on their hospitality and openness to strangers, and I know from experience living in Turkey that they are proud of their hospitality for good reason. But I’ve never pushed that trait as far as I will push it on Heathen Pilgrim, where I will depend on it every single day for six months.

A few weeks ago I asked Cat Jaffee about this. Cat is an exceedingly bright young woman who has traveled extensively throughout the region. In a few sentences describing her personal travel experiences, she made me comfortable with this particular unknown, and now I sleep without that worry.

People regularly offer other help too, some of them introducing me to others who have done something similar, some of them offering technical help designing a Heathen Pilgrim iPhone app.

Other times people give me inspiration and spiritual support, even if they don’t realize it at the time. One of my best friends in Seattle is nearly blind and has multiple sclerosis, but he asked if he could walk part of the journey with me. Another friend encouraged me to walk through Iran when I thought it was too much to ask. Another friend, before I left Seattle, said to me, “Matt, you HAVE to do this.”

These days I wake up at 5:00 am every weekday to walk 12 miles. I won’t start the real journey for another six months, but when I start it I want to know my body can walk 12 miles a day, day after day, week after week. As I walk, these people, and others like them, walk with me in spirit. The journey hasn’t begun yet, but already I know there are people watching over me.

I may be solo, but I am most definitely not alone. Thank you.

Why I am walking to Jerusalem

by Matt Krause on October 24, 2011

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

[EDIT: I wrote this before things got hairy in Syria and I decided to avoid walking through it, instead just continuing east all the way across Turkey. The reasons I write about below still hold, the route has just been adjusted.]

2011 has been a year of big change for me. I left my job as a supply chain manager for a kitchenware import company. I like that kind of work, getting stuff made in China, but it’s not for me anymore. In another big change, my wife and I split up. We were together for 8 years, five of them married. I like being married, but things just didn’t work out between us.

So I’m at a bit of a crossroads in life. I could turn this crossroads into a stereotypical midlife crisis. I could go out and buy a red Porsche. I could get hairplugs. I could start chasing after college coeds. But a couple years down the road, none of that would make me proud of myself. I would not be able to point to any of those activities and say, “That was a good use of my time here on this earth.”

So what I decided to do instead is take a walk. Not just any walk, a really long walk. A walk across Turkey, then turning south and crossing Syria into Jordan, and then heading west towards Jerusalem. It’s about 1500 miles. It’s going to take about a year. And I’m going to write about it. I figure, if you’re going to do something that big, you better share it with people. Actually, sharing it with people is a big part of why I’m doing it.

You see, I look around at my friends and family. I see them raising children, and building careers, and paying down their mortgages. They are doing the kind of steady, predictable work that builds a steady, predictable society. That’s a good thing, we need that.

But because they are busy doing those things, they don’t have time to address another kind of need I also hear them expressing. That is the need to connect with other people, specifically to connect with other people on the other side of the planet, not as the cartoonish caricatures they see in the newspapers, but as normal people, people like them, people who just want to raise good kids and make the world a better place.

My friends and family open the newspaper, or they turn on the TV, and the only Middle Easterners they see are the ones who make up less than 1% of the population, but get all the press because they run around shooting guns and blowing things up and chanting “Death to America” and generally just making a lot of noise.

My friends and family know in their hearts that 99% of the population “over there” is not like that, but they don’t have time to think about it much, because they are busy taking their kids to soccer practice, paying their bills, and putting food on the table. To address those more immediate needs, they have to ignore the need that says, “Know your fellow man.”

I, however, for better or worse, am in a position to address that need now, not just for myself, but more importantly, for the people around me. I can go off and spend an entire year, or two, or maybe even more, getting to know that land “over there,” and sharing it with people here.

I am certainly not the first person to do this. People have been doing it for thousands of years. Some recent examples: in the early 2000s there was a Scottish Member of Parliament named Rory Stewart who walked across Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal. In 2010 an Australian named Mark Kalch walked across Iran. For the past 10 years a team out of Harvard University has been heading up the development of a trail that follows the footsteps of Abraham from southeast Turkey through Syria and Jordan and then into Jerusalem and Hebron.

I am not a religious person. I am not an academic person either. None of the writing and speaking that emerge from this project will be particularly scholarly, or learned, or profound. I do not have any illusions that I am going to solve any of the world’s problems. All I want to do is do something my friends can’t, and then bring it back and share it with them.

I don’t want to take on a big, multi-year project like this and waste it by cranking out a couple half-assed books and giving some half-assed speeches. So I’m not planning on leaving Seattle on October 31 and starting to walk across Turkey the very next day.

In fact, I don’t plan to start walking across Turkey for another year. Over the next year I will be practicing my writing and speaking skills. I finished my first book a couple months ago, and I’ve started writing books #2 and #3. I will also start writing a weekly newspaper column for a national newspaper. I am practicing my interviewing and speaking skills by speaking about the project to Toastmasters clubs and church groups, and interviewing with reporters and bloggers.

By the time I start the walk, I will have written 3 books and over 50 newspaper articles, and I will have spent a year practicing speaking about that part of the world.

This is what I’ve chosen to do with my midlife crisis. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to play out over the next couple years, but my gut tells me this will be a more constructive use of my time on this earth than buying a red Porsche, getting hairplugs, and chasing after college coeds.

Work the kinks out

by Matt Krause on October 20, 2011

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

In the days that followed that initial conversation with Gayle, I floated my trial balloon of an idea past a handful of people. The reactions ranged from fear for my life to the same patronizing disbelief you’d extend to a 5-year-old who tells you he’s going to jump over the moon.

After all, at the time Iran was most famous in the American media for imprisoning three young American men who had strayed across the border while hiking in Iraq.

But I was midway through a book written by a Scottish Member of Parliament who had walked across Afghanistan after having walked across Iran and Pakistan.

And I knew of an Australian who had walked across Iran in 2010. And for years I had had friends in Istanbul who did business in Iran and flew there regularly.

The needle could be threaded, maybe it would just have to be threaded carefully.

Walking across Iran, especially for an American, is not something you want to screw up. It is not something you want to abort halfway through because of technical difficulties, and it’s not something you want to get arrested doing. Starting, but not completing, the journey would completely defeat the purpose. If you’re going to stick your hand in a cookie jar, you’d better come out of it with a cookie.

So I figured I should work out the kinks first. That’s how I came around to the idea of walking across Turkey. Why not practice on a country you’re familiar with and already know your way around?

It all started with Gayle

by Matt Krause on October 20, 2011

This was a temporary blog, specifically for the walk across Turkey. Visit Matt's permanent website, www.mattkrause.com.

It all started with Gayle.

Actually, it didn’t “all” start with Gayle, but this particular part of the story did.

In early September of 2011, my friend Gayle and I were having coffee at a coffee shop in Seattle. She had just been laid off from the company I had left a few months before. She and her husband were about to take a vacation to Yellowstone, and I had just finished my first book. It was a time of change for both of us.

She asked me what was next. I shrugged and said, “I don’t know, I guess I’ll find out.”

Then a naughty thought came to my mind, naughty in the “watch me stick my hand in the cookie jar” sort of way.

“I’d like to walk,” I said. “In fact, I’d like to walk across Iran.”

It wasn’t the first time that thought had crossed my mind, but it was the first time I had voiced it to anyone.

I expected Gayle to balk at the thought, to rein me in, to tell me I was crazy. But she didn’t blink an eye. She looked at me with a matter-of-factness I would expect to see if I had just told someone I was going to walk down to the corner grocery store.

“I think that’s a great idea,” she said.

The horse was out of the barn, and at least one person was okay with it not going back in.