The Walking Monk passes through Steamboat Springs on his journey across the U.S.
June 16, 2017
It takes about three pairs of shoes to walk across the United States.
At least that’s according to Bhaktimarga Swami, a 63-year-old Canadian born monk (formerly John Peter Vis) who has embarked on a transnational marathon walk of 3,000 miles across the United States from New York City to San Francisco on the Old Lincoln Highway.
Met with incredulous stares from passersby, this man, who follows the monastic lifestyle of the Hare Krishna order, dresses in an orange robe and he typically walks up to 20 miles or more each day on roads that range from heavy traffic to remote lands.
All the while, he walks with a purpose.
"Our ancestors did this before the automobile," said Swami, who arrived on foot in Steamboat Springs Wednesday after walking over Rabbit Ears Pass. "We don't have that as a component to our lifestyles these days. Automobiles have made us cold, calloused and distant in our individual bubbles. Doing this brings a connection to the elements, the wildlife and the people."
To inspire and encourage people, Swami hopes to promote a healthier global lifestyle and a simple, meditative life. He also walks to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the coming of the Hare Krishna Tradition to the West and also to honor his spiritual teacher who walked a similar route.
"You learn to take it all in, the heat, the wind, the rain, the traffic, the cold, the black flies, the mosquitoes, the public attention or none – with all of that you learn detachment from externals and how to go within to be happy," Swami said.
Swami is globally known for his walking marathons and walked across the entire length of Canada from the west to east coast in 1996, which was detailed in the documentary, "The Longest Road." He repeated that route three more times in 2003, 2007 and 2014. He's also walked across Ireland, Israel, Fiji Islands, Mauritius, Trinidad and Guyana.
If he's not on the road by 4:30 a.m., Swami admitted he's cranky.
"I like to start early in the morning when it's quiet and the roads are clear," he said. "It's a really meditative time where you get to see all the wildlife of various forms coming to fruition. It's just beautiful to see that."
Challenges he has overcome along the way range from weather conditions to roads not meant for people to walk on, which results in changing the route with his two support crew members who drive ahead and follow along supplying Swami's food and water.
When asked what he's enjoyed most about the walk, Swami said it's the people he's met along the way and the time he's had to think.
"It's quite an adventure to go through various forms of terrains under your feet," said Swami. "But it's fun to have a connection with it all, from the wildlife and how to be detached, practicing mindfulness and being present in the moment. Every day is a new adventure, and I never know what will be around the next bend.”
To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email @Audrey_Dwyer1