Katy Bowman interviews Jason Lewis, author of The Expedition Trilogy, about his self-powered circumnavigation of the globe, and how each of us has our own expedition within us—an expedition made of a series of small steps, no matter what the scope.
02:06:00 Listener question #1 (Jump to section)
06:35:00 Meet Jason! Our first Move Your DNA podcast guest. (Jump to section)
09:07:00 Why did he do it? (Jump to section)
16:30:00 It’s about human power. (Jump to section)
25:55:00 It’s about much more than human power. (Jump to section)
28:22:00 Listener question #2 (Jump to section)
31:16:00 What was the most physically challenging part (Jump to section)
41:13:00 Nile River water or Evian? (Jump to section)
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THE SHOW:
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It’s the Move Your DNA podcast with Katy Bowman. I’m Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA and a bunch of other books about moving. This podcast is about how movement works on a cellular level, how to change your position as you move, and why you might want to, and how movement works in the world, also known as movement ecology. All bodies are welcome. Are you ready to get moving?
Dear Katy, my family is planning a multi-day backpacking trip this summer over moderately rough terrain. I have been wearing minimalist shoes for a couple of years. Mostly sneakers. I don’t want to end up with a foot injury on the trail from having too much or too little support. What kind of shoes do you backpack in? Not your daily hikes but real backpacking?
Ok. I like this question. Before I get into brands, I think that this is the more important piece. I, personally, transitioned to minimal shoes over years, so around four or five, to feel comfortable with, super minimal shoes when I was backpacking or when I am backpacking which is carrying 30-70 pounds long distance. Being a kid carrying family really helped because we were not only wearing minimal shoes, we were walking daily in them three to five miles while carrying them 20-30 pounds. So that’s a significant amount of training. So you have to remember the ecology of it all. It’s not just what you put on your feet, it’s how you move in them. All of it. What you’re walking upon. As well as, I was simultaneously doing lots of corrective exercises. So everything that I recommend in my books about transitioning to minimal shoes, I was also doing. So that’s a lot more than just putting something on my feet. Even though you’ve been wearing minimal shoes, you do need to choose wisely for this trip because you’re adding weight, adding distance, and adding new terrain that your feet are not used to. So you might actually want to step up in external support as the loads you’re going to be introducing are much different than what your feet are used to. So you can hike in something that’s moderately supportive but pack a minimal sandal for the rest of the time. It’s not all hiking. When you’re backpacking you’re also, lots of times, you know, certainly setting up camp and then you’re just walking around maybe as you’re taking breaks. So you can have two pairs of shoes to swap between. And then minimal shoes are so great because they’re so light so you can almost just hang them on the outside of your pack and you’re not really taking that much more weight. If your goal is to be in minimal shoes versus the hike itself, then just ramp up your training way ahead of time. So that means that you’re going to take your minimally shod feet onto more complex terrain. You’re going to be adding lots of weight and carrying things as well as distance, going longer distances, that are maybe more of what you are going to be doing on a backpack trip. So if you’ve worn minimal shoes say for years, but the longest walk that you’ve ever taken in them is 5 miles then you might want to plan a couple of 10 mile or 15 mile walks in them because you might find that at that load, which includes the duration and the frequency that you’re not adapted to them as much as you think that you are. Remember that frequency is maybe the most important variable. And that goes for terrain exposure, distance, or duration depending on how you think about it time wise or distance wise and then as well as the complexity of the terrain itself. So think about all of that. Like I suggested, bring a pair of backup footwear. Now as far as for what I wear, it depends on the season, the terrain, and the weather. And I post regularly on social media what I’m taking and why and where I’m going to kind of maybe help you see the formula that I use. But in general, last summer I wore I guess Unshoes and Earthrunners almost exclusively. And bare feet the rest of the time. I did one backpacking trip with Vibrams and Unshoes. So, Vibrams, a lot of times, will be my more supportive shoe. Where Unshoes would be my minimal, thinner, more flexible. But it depends on dryness. I don’t take Vibrams in the wet because they don’t work very well. My husband prefers to backpack barefoot when the complexity is not very much and it’s also dry. If we add complexity, he’ll add Vibrams. With greater complexity, though, and if there’s any wet, he wears Run Amoks from Soft Star. And he prefers the thicker sole. I think it’s 3 or 4 millimeters because he appreciates the traction. So anyway, I hope this helps and again, thank you to the Collective for sponsoring these questions. I’ll do another question here in a bit.
JASON: Oh, very happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
KATY: Ok, before we get started, I have this funny story. I do a lot of interviews. You probably do too. But when I was initially setting off to do some publicity for Move Your DNA, again for which you wrote the forward, I got this question. And the question was: Katy Bowman, how old were you when you set off to circumnavigate the globe and conducted this interview. Like it was me that had done this physical feat. And I was like, “Yeah, that wasn’t me. That was Jason Lewis who wrote the forward for Move Your DNA.” So again, I think that is one of the most hilarious interview questions I’ve ever received. And I just wanted to share that with you because I’m sure you can relate to something like that.
JASON: Oh no. There is a big difference between journalists who do their research and unfortunately the vast majority these days, because they don’t have the time or whatever, everyone’s so busy, they very often just read off a cheat sheet like a press release and they’re like, “So, what have you done?” And I’m like, “Ok.” So I totally understand how that happened. Someone didn’t do their research properly.
JASON: So, um, that’s a really great question because some of your listeners might be relieved to know that I was not an expert at all. Because it wasn’t my idea, either, to do this circumnavigation by human power. It was actually a friend of mine from college. And he came up with the idea and he pitched me and he say “Hey, would you fancy going along.” And one of my first questions was neither of us have done anything like this before. And he said, “Well, if you can walk in a straight line and if you can pedal a bicycle, then you, then anybody could do a journey like this.” And I think it was that innate simplicity that appealed to me. That you didn’t have to be an expert to do a journey like this. Or even a portion of a journey like this. And there were lots of adventurous things that people do these days that are extreme. And even I, I mean my nephews, for example, they’re into these endurance running and they do iron man and one of them’s just run a hundred miles. And I can’t even get my head around doing something like that. But what Steve and I did was very doable by just anybody, you know, riding a bicycle. Like you said, our first day out from London, when we had been so busy preparing for this journey that we hadn’t even had time to get fit, the first day, I think we made like 50 miles and that seemed like an enormous day. And then we had the boat that we pedaled across the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Indian oceans. And the first day out from Portugal, I remember it was, “Oh my. How are we gonna do this.” And we just did some 30 or 40 miles and that gradually, of course, became 40-50-60 miles as we built up our fitness. But the point I’m making and the point that I think you’re trying to tease out is actually if you can just start, if you can just begin, the idea of, for example, pedaling across an ocean or even riding your bike from one side of the continent, or even your state to the other, the idea of it can be very intimidating. And almost too much. But if you say, “You know what, I’m just gonna begin. And I’ll just do a little bit.” And if you just take little chunks then before you know it you’re doing it and before you know it, you’ve done it. So that, I suppose, if there’s anything that I can share it’s that you don’t have to be, you know, if you want to get more movement in your life and you want to do something a little bit bigger other than what you can squeeze into your average work day, then the key thing is just to begin. It’s to start something. And then you’ll find you’re actually doing it and you become really good at it after a while.
KATY: I like that answer because I think that there is a belief that big movement feats are done by those that are already fit or capable rather than remembering or paying attention to the idea that movement is the conduit to more movement. That if you want to do a big feat, you just, you have to do it and that the big feat, the borders around a big feat can also include the training for that feat. But before I go any further, how many miles made up your journey.
JASON: The total mileage around the planet was 46,505 miles.
KATY: I probably should have lead with that. Because that number is just… it’s staggering. I thought my 20-mile monthly walk was big but that number is staggering. And one interesting thing in your books, at least to me, was how you choose how you were going to get yourself around the planet. So I think I would have, my assumption would have been that you walked over the earth or cycled and then you rode or paddled in the water. But as someone explained to you the problem with rowing or paddling, using your arms essentially to get across the watery portions of the planet would have landed you on land with really strong arms but legs that couldn’t, that wouldn’t be really physically adapted to all of that movement. That you essentially would have weaker legs by the time you landed on land and so you retrofitted your boat to have pedals so that you could basically create that pedaling strength – you could capitalize on the pedaling strength whether you were on the land or in the water. Is that right?
JASON: That is correct and that is the reason why the original designer of the boat said, “you know what, you’re gonna be riding the bikes on land, when you get to the edge of a land mass, let’s use your legs to then power the boat across the oceans rather than your arms. So correct. That’s exactly right.
KATY: I like how the law of specificity is kind of called out over and over in your book, whether or not you use those words. When I read your adventures I’m really seeing that, I’m seeing you embody a lot of the laws that we read about in exercise science theoretically. We read the theory and here you are, you know, you’ve been pedaling across the ocean for weeks and then there’s a great circumstance in the book where you have to get on a larger vessel in the sea only to find that your legs have kind of lost their capability for walking. You still have strong legs …
JASON: So it was primarily, I think, choosing human power. Human movement was a very conscious decision on both our parts, as a way for us to really go out and connect with the world. With different environments and also different people that we wouldn’t have otherwise got to meet at a grassroots organic level if we had been riding in a car or in a train or even on a motorcycle. I mean the more mechanized the transport that we use, the less connection that we have with the landscapes that we travel through and the people that we might meet in those landscapes. And I think we left in the mid-90s and now human power, there’s been quite a resurgence, I guess, in human-powered feats. People doing human-powered activities, which is great. But at that time there really wasn’t many people doing these … in fact, I remember, there was a big contention because we called it initially man-powered. The first man-powered trip around the world, because human powered, the term human-powered didn’t really exist. And people said man-powered that’s really politically incorrect so that’s why we ended up calling it human powered. But it was a way, the journey, the choice of human power in addition to being a cheap form of transport, that’s always good, also was a way for us to be able to connect at a very organic level with people and landscapes. And in our minds, that was a way to really see the world. And to really understand the world. And understand these different environments, be it the ocean or the middle of the desert in Australia, or the mountains of Tibet. You know you got to get out of the motorized vehicle. Get out from that pane of glass to really understand how the world works. And that’s what we were aiming for.
KATY: That really resonates with me because I’ve walked and driven the same 20-mile stretch and I would say that the knowledge that I am gathering from both of those experiences differs radically. And most of us are moving so quickly through where we actually live -our landscape. The area, the city, the town surrounding where we spend the bulk of our time. And the knowledge that we have of it relates to how we interact with it in our cars and homes. So definitely, I have personally experienced the value of recognizing all of the things that I can learn and thus kind of embody about my own habitat when I move through it on my own power. You can think about it as kind of removing walls if you will.
KATY: One of the main reasons I wanted to have you on this podcast is because I really, I think that some people set out for physical feats for the sheer physical challenge of it. That’s their sole motivation or their primary motivation. And then there’s other reasons that we set out, as you were talking about, connecting with people, connecting with landscapes, getting the rate of the flow of land by your face to some natural level. But I’m really intrigued with this other idea that large physical feats, human-powered physical feats, might, in fact, be a biological imperative for some of us, if not all of us, on some scaleable level. Obviously, humans got to where they are now because of this regular setting off to move long distances. And so I think of so many people feeding back to say “Oh when I finally went barefoot, I felt like this was what my feet were supposed to do.” But you didn’t know it until you transitioned and experienced it. That maybe these longer journeys within us are actually kind of like, it’s a genetic impulse to do it. So one of the data points that I have is this information that I just got from you which is you and your wife are about to set off again. So I want to talk about that.
JASON: Yeah, so I basically want to go back to points on my circumnavigation journey, revisit communities that live in very remote parts of the world either because these people are isolated by water or by desert or by ice, by mountain ranges. And because these people are so isolated they, by nature, live sustainably. They live within finite means. And I want to go back with Tammie to understand how it is that these people live without sort of the surrounding influence of globalization. Because I think that this knowledge of self-sufficiency is something that we’ve lost in the west: Living better with less. But it will involve pedaling my boat – the same boat that I used during the circumnavigation – it will involve pedaling Moksha (the boat) from the Solomon Islands to this little remote island in the South Pacific. It’s about 460 miles. So using human power to reach this location is a very important part of that expedition.
KATY: How long does it take to pedal 460 miles?
JASON: So we do about, I mean we could probably do it in about 2 weeks. That would be my guess. About 2, 2 and a half, 3 weeks.
KATY: So is it non-stop?
JASON: Pretty much, yeah.
KATY: What are the logistics involved in a trip like this?
JASON: There’s no land in between so, and the boat is so small and utilitarian, there’s only one position for someone to sleep at any one time. So there’s really an incentive for someone to be awake pedaling even at night. So we typically do 3-hour pedal shifts in the day, 4-hour pedal shifts at night. And the added advantage of that is someone is always awake and looking out for ships that might otherwise run us down.
JASON: So yeah, it’s very much centered around the pedals. And just to sort of touch upon the last point you made one of the, I suppose one of the selling points for me of using pedal power, in this case, a pedal-powered boat to reach this location, is that the repetition of pedaling becomes like a meditation. And it always allows, on my previous journeys, it’s allowed me to prepare… or rather it’s allowed me to really … It’s like walking sometimes when you need to think about something or when I need to be able to really think through something that might be troubling me, like a problem, very often just walking will allow sort of my body to be engaged in this activity and allow my mind to really creatively free think. And pedaling the boat is like that. It becomes meditative. It will allow us, I think, to really prepare for arriving at this remote location and to really get ourselves into a mindset that I think will be conducive to getting the most out of our visit to this little island.
KATY: And here’s what I just can’t get over; Your partner doesn’t swim, right?
JASON: She’s laughing. You can hear her in the background. Have you ever swum before Tammie?
TAMMIE: I’m frightened to death of water. I can’t even tell you. I have dreams about drowning.
JASON: So that’s a really good start. But I’m always a great believer. And I love the idea of people who are non experts trying something that they have not done before. And on my circumnavigation, I think I had about 25 people who joined me for different legs and many of them had never been to sea. They had never ridden a bicycle more than a few miles. And these people, I mean, without exception, all were terrified to … or not terrified but they were, they had reservations about joining the particular part of the expedition that they were joining. But at the end of the month or three months or however long their normal lives could allow, they came away with just this amazing experience and this amazing kind of faith in their ability to something which previously they didn’t think they could do. And I think that’s a really big part of doing these expeditions, is trying something that you’ve never done before.
JASON: Tammie, what do you think? You’re the one who is gonna have to… I mean I think, is it all right if Tammie answers this question only because…
JASON: …she’s about to do something which maybe your listeners might consider themselves. You’re basically in the same boat – excuse the pun.
TAMMIE: Well I think sadly that it should be a natural phenomenon but it’s not. You know? I think many many many years ago it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for me to have to get into a lake to get something or to be around water. But I have consciously chosen to be away from water even when I lived on the beach, you know, a hundred feet, I could have walked into the ocean, but I was busy. I had work to do. I had things to do. And I think society has become so dependent on things that are supposed to simplify our lives. Drive-thrus, microwavable meals, texting, all of these things that are supposed to make our lives more simple, have made it more complicated and given us less time. And so as terrified as I am, I know that as a human being we’re born in water. We are made up of water. What could be more natural? And so, I’m going to do it because I know that it’s good for me as a human and it brings awareness to a good cause. But I won’t lie … I am truly frightened. I’m very frightened of it. But, I don’t want to be and I know it’s not human nature to be frightened of water.
KATY: Flexible or not flexible.
DAUGHTER: Not flexible
KATY: A little flexible?
KATY: Ok, now let me see yours. Flexible or not flexible.
KATY: So what is a flexible shoe good for? What’s the point?
DAUGHTER: So, um, one part of your foot…
DAUGHTER: …is flexible. If you don’t have a flexible shoe, um, you can’t move the flexible parts on your foot.
KATY: Oh. All right. Thanks.
KATY: Ok friends I hope that helps! That was circulated pretty wide on social media because I think a lot of people were like, “Yes, that was exactly the explanation I was looking for. It definitely sounds cuter when you’re four years old.” Thank you, again, to our Collective and Venn Design for bringing that simple explanation out in the world. I hope you find it helpful. Let’s get back to the show.
JASON: Oh, um, probably, ok, so the most physically demanding section was rollerblading, inline skating, across the U.S. Because the biking and the pedal boat, those all involved, you know, mechanics, where of course it’s a lot easier, for example, if you’re scaling the Rocky Mountains, here in Colorado, you have gears to help you get over them on a bicycle. And even kayaking, for example, part of the journey was kayaking, through the Indonesian chain of Islands from Australia to Singapore. Even then that was hard work but it still wasn’t as hard as rollerblading. And I think that was because the rollerblading involved, you basically … it’s just you and the wheels. And if you hit, if I hit an uneven patch of road which would sometimes last for many miles on the B and C rolls, rollerblading through the American south, that would just be an absolute killer on my legs. When I ended up being hit by a drunk driver here in Colorado and put into a hospital with two broken legs, and I remember the surgeon saying when I was first admitted that he thought my thigh bones were broken because I had such massive thighs. So this is the only downside, I guess, of these sort of mono forms of exercise, be it rollerblading or biking or kayaking is you end up with sort of accentuated muscle masses in those particular areas. And rollerblading had huge legs, but my upper body wasn’t getting as much exercise. So, it was interesting. Compared to normal life now where I feel like I have a more well-rounded exercise regime, on the expedition it was sort of, it was very specific to a particular body area which I don’t think was always that healthy.
KATY: Definitely the diversity and distribution of movement is … one of the nice benefits is that it can keep you from getting really really strong developed parts kind of hanging on not as developed parts which are a precursor to their own type of injury. But over all did you feel that you were physically improved head to toe or were there some trade offs, I guess, as far as how your body works now that you can relate back to that period of time or that experience?
JASON: Yeah. I definitely. I’m 50 years old now. And I started this journey in my late 20s. So I definitely have some tweaks. I have to, every day now, when I’m not doing, for example, I’m not on an expedition, I have to do my core exercises every day, twice a day, just for 5-10 minutes and every other day I do a yoga routine. I do a stretching routine. If I don’t do, if I don’t keep to that regime, the I will find some of these historic aches and pains, these tweaks, starting to creep, starting to come back and haunt me. But as far as the overall fitness I felt at the end of the journey, I felt, I mean I was amazingly fit by the time I finished. I think my heart is a pretty, I think my chiropractor said I have one of the largest hearts he’d ever encountered. I don’t think he was referring to my human…
KATY: Your capacity for loving?
JASON: Yeah, my capacity for loving. I think he meant the physiology. So I think and that has definitely that fitness has definitely kind of passed through. Even 10 years since completing this journey I still consider myself a pretty fit person. I have pretty good muscle mass and I try and keep that. But I have to keep it up now because of the age I am and I don’t want to get up in the morning and be sort of crippled by a hip pain or something. But as long as I keep my little exercises going then I’m fine.
KATY: Are you going to train at all before heading off to the island?
TAMMIE: No is the answer to that.
JASON: I used to have…we used to have this joke. We called it weight training which was basically waiting until it was time to go before we started training. But yeah, I think this time I might have to do a little bit of training just because, just with age, one has to be a little bit more sensible about these things. Tammie? I don’t know. Tammie, you’re getting fit already?
TAMMIE: Oh yes. I’m starting. I’m doing my little routine. Because unfortunately I’m like a lot of people and I spend a good portion of my life on the computer. And sitting. And I’m older than Jason so I can definitely feel it. That’s why I’m so grateful for people like you, Katy, that talk about the importance of movement. I need you to just come and live with me for a couple of weeks and hit me with a two by four.
KATY: Yeah. You and everyone else except for everyone in my own family. Is there a place to follow this upcoming journey? Is there internet out in the middle of the ocean?
JASON: Well, yeah there is. We’ll have a satellite phone and you can send data. I mean these days, unfortunately… see this is the thing. Traveling, moving has changed quite a lot from the days when we started when there was no internet in the wide open spaces. So you could really be out there in the middle of the ocean or out in the desert and just be. Be present. Which is one of the beauties of doing human power or propelling one’s self by natural movement. I think one of the nice things is to not be connected to that device in your hand. But the reality of expeditions these days is you typically, for sponsorship reasons primarily, you have to update a blog occasionally or social media. So yeah, we will have the ability to send updates from the field and take photographs and that kind of thing. But it’s like I said, it’s a trade-off. I hate taking these gizmos into the field because it does detract from the experience of just being out there.
KATY: Yeah, the lack of technology makes me think of this part in your book where you’re essentially bobbing around in the ocean with no light and just the noise of the ocean itself and none of the other inputs that we’ve got kind of that we’re exposed to on a regular basis. And it just makes me think of sensory deprivation tanks and this idea that we have to go to a place in a room to get a lack of exposure which is, which just becomes a heightened state of awareness once you decrease some of the overload and that is, again, something that can be found by stepping out and away. It’s, again, another element of a journey which makes me again think that a lot of us are always trying to take journeys. Or again getting elements of journeys and even maybe the desire to get in your car and drive across a state or a country is another way of meeting that need to just … to just travel isn’t the right word. It’s to be of a different place maybe.
JASON: Mm-hmm. Right.
JASON: The two riders were Hugh McGregor, he’s a Scottish actor, originally, but is quite well known. People might remember him from the Star Wars movies and his friend Charlie Borman. But they were making a TV show. So that was the sort of primary impetus for them riding their motorcycles from the north of Scotland down to Cape Town. And like I said, it was a little bit comical because they, their whole setup was definitely with making a TV show in mind. So they had three support vehicles that, of course, you didn’t see on the show. They had all the gear. And I remember one of the produces jumping out of his truck and looking at the bottles of water that I had stacked behind my bike seat that was all murky and disgusting because it was from the river Nile. And that was the only water that I was able to access at that point in the Sahara Desert and I would just put a few drops of iodine in to make it drinkable and he was like, “Oh you’re not drinking that stuff are you?” And I said, “Well it’s the only choice I have.” So he ran around the back of one of the vehicles where they had a fridge and pulled out a nice cold bottle of Evian water and I have to say it was pretty good tasting water. But it just summed up the whole, like you said, the juxtaposition of our two journeys. And they were having a good time. And they were producing entertainment first and foremost but they were also having an adventure. You know, two guys that are otherwise very busy in the entertainment business. The one thing I would sort of add to what you just mentioned about the merits of human power, and this is something I actually talk about quite a lot to schools, especially high schoolers and 10th, 11th, 12th grade, who are looking to go out into the world and choose a career and that kind of thing. Is that, when you take a journey out into the world, and especially if it’s a journey that is using natural power as in your own power, you become an ambassador for your own culture. And there were lots of occasions where, for example, I was about to enter a predominantly Muslim country. Indonesia has the highest proportion of Muslims in the world. Or it might have been Syria (this was before the war, mind you.) Other countries where I was a little bit, where people were saying, “Yeah, is it a really good idea to go through there?” And when I rode my bike through there or walked through there or whatever it might have been, I found, without exception, that the people responded to the way that I was traveling. Which, if you think about it, even kayaking through the Solomon islands, kayaking through Indonesia, it’s natural movement. Human power is the way that most of the local people still get around these parts of the world – in dug out canoes in the Solomon Islands. And there was this instant connection with us in our kayaks rather than turning up in a great big cruise ship like tourists normally do. And you’re just basically a walking dollar. So, the beauty of human power is it really allowed me to connect with people on a level that the local people could relate to. Even if we could barely speak each other’s language. Like in rural China for example. It just allowed them also to see that, wow, you know, someone from the U.K. or from America … I traveled with a lot of Americans as well on my journey … they’re not the same as what we read about in the newspapers or see about on the news. They’re not a representation of what we think America or Europe is about. And it really allows you to reset some of the misconceptions and prejudgements that people might have about our own culture because you get to meet them and they just say, “you know what? you’re just a normal person too. And you’re just trying to do your thing.” And so I think you become a very powerful ambassador. Especially in this world, right now, where we are so…seem to be so divided. Everyone seems to be pulling into their own corner. Isolationism seems to be the rule of the day. I think it’s more important than ever now for people to set off on these journeys. And they don’t have to be long journeys. They can just be a few weeks or a few days. It’s important to go out into the world and to connect with people at a base human powered level.
KATY: Oh this makes me think of gap years. What if a movement journey was a way many people utilized their gap year? What if the travel that so many people set out to do, I’ve never taken a gap year – I think I started writing a book the minute I graduated high school. But for those that did take a gap year, what if travel was the by-product of a human-powered gap year?
KATY: So that you are setting off to not only gather the experience and knowledge of other places and cultures but to be introduced to the experiment, like the experience of moving yourself. Which would be hugely eye-opening for someone coming from a sedentary culture which is most people listening.
JASON: I think that’s a great idea. I think we should definitely get funding somehow for that. To give scholarships maybe for some young people to, or older people, to go on a journey like that. And to share their stories. There’s actually an interesting project going on right now by a journalist called Paul Salopek. And he’s called “Out of Eden” and he’s walking from the cradle of civilization in Ethiopia. The cradle of civilization – he’s retracing the human migratory route through central and far Asia. I think his intention is to actually walk all the way up to the Bering Straits, down through North and South America to where humans eventually settled of course down in the far south of South America. Anyway, really interesting project that I would really highly recommend people checking out. And he’s doing it all by foot. And it’s taking a long time. But he again is sort of, through his storytelling, and he’s a very good writer, and I think it’s all going through National Geographic as well. But through his storytelling, we’re really able to as you know sitting in our living rooms able to experience at a grassroots level these cultures that our very very early ancestors would have walked through. So it’s a really fascinating journey.
KATY: I’ve been following it and I will go ahead and I will link to some of the writing in the show notes so if any of you are interested you can also read it. Beautiful writing. When he’s writing it’s beautiful. When he is being interviewed, the way he writes walking… it’s just gorgeous. Like I am moved by the way that he’s explaining the journey. Ok, so we’ve talked about these mind-boggling expeditions, ways of moving, that most listening won’t get a chance to do. So I want to scale it a little bit to talk about ways that we can all find a little bit of this expedition within us. So one of the things that I’ve been doing, I’ve talked about it on my health recap podcast is doing a monthly 20-miler. And the reason I walk a monthly 20-miler … it’s for so many of the reasons that we’ve covered so far. It’s meditative. It connects me to the people and the plants and the animals, like all the living things. The earth itself. For me, it is a way of seeing what’s going on around me at human speed versus the speed of my car. I also walk because I speak a lot about that things are becoming unwalkable. Our ability to move on this planet is being reduced to areas that are ok to walk on. So I walk 30-40 miles on my birthdays that are in the 30s and 40 years. And last year I was hanging off the side of a highway with my arms because there wasn’t any space for my feet because the cars had full priority of this space. So for four miles, I was walking on a trail, hanging off the side of it. So I walk to stay aware of the fact that things that decisions that I’m a part of by the way that I prioritize my time and my money, that the tax, the biological tax, is less walkability. Or that I am able to walk but in a way that doesn’t allow me to get anywhere else. I can walk in a loop at some space. And so if, indeed, there is this need to move over the planet, to actually go somewhere versus simply move my legs forward and backward and it’s an important element of human experience to preserve. So, let’s think about, as everyone listening, what can we do to take steps towards using our landscape differently. Keeping in mind that the scale could be whatever we need it to be.
JASON: Yeah. I think it’s an excellent point that you bring, which is, I mean for example, in our local community here in Colorado, where I’m aware of that… I see people, for example, they’ve got their bikes on the back of their SUV and they’re going out to where the bike trails are outside of town. And I always think why don’t you just get your bike out of the garage and just ride your bike out to where the trails are or you don’t, so you don’t, ok, so the trail’s probably more interesting than riding on the highway, fair enough. But it’s also walking, like you said, every time… Tammie and I, we try and be mindful about getting in our cars automatically because you do, it is very easy just to sort of slip in to auto mode where you just think ok I’ll just go down to the store and grab a couple of things. And our store is about a mile and a half away? Two miles maybe? Very quick in a car but it’s totally walkable. On a bike it takes about six or seven minutes on a bicycle. And so we do and sort of, before we get in the car, “Ok, do we really need to get in the car this time? Maybe we could bike. Maybe we could walk. Maybe we could make a little – you know – we could walk together. Maybe we could ride bikes together.” Because as you eluded to, it’s a win-win situation. I mean, physically it’s good exercise. You’re saving money. You’re not belching out carbon from your car. But also, it’s a way for you to explore your community. And one thing I notice here in the U.S. is people can live next door to each other and they rarely have anything to do with each other. On the same street. In fact, our street is a good example. We know the people to the right of us. But we don’t really know the people to the left of us that well. And the only time I’ve ever really interacted with them was when I was walking down the road and they just happened to be out there working on their yard. Versus communities where there’s not a lot of mechanized transport where people because they’re walking because they’re using human power to navigate their way around their community, they have to deal with people. They have to interact with people. And I think that that helps to build a healthier community. And so, that’s something… and we’re not very good at it here in the U.S. because we’re busy, everyone’s busy and it’s like, “Oh my goodness, I don’t have time. I’ll just jump in the car instead.” But I think it is important to try just before you automatically step in that automobile think, “Hmmm do I have to do this or maybe if I left a little bit earlier I could actually walk or ride my bike.” I think that’s a really important discipline to try to get in to.
KATY: One of the reasons I think people load their bike to their SUV and drive out of the areas that they live in is because deep down there is a recognition that this type of experience, you know, being out and away from everyone else, moving through, you know, maybe not completely unaltered but less altered landscapes is something akin to what you found bobbing in the ocean. That it’s not simply the motions it’s where and how you’re doing the motions that the landscape itself, the nature of it, is a nutrient. It’s a separate nutrient. And as more people tune in to this recognition that they don’t only need to move, that they need to move uninterruptedly. That they need to move continuously for, consecutive hours sometimes in spaces that are feeding them in some way that we don’t yet understand. The more that they can recognize that that’s a need, then they can see that their own personal health, if it’s a nutrient, you know, that they’re health is dependent on maybe activism in the environmental sectors, how that ultimately does relate back to them maybe not because they even were thinking about the environment. Like they could still be thinking about themselves. “Oh this is actually, I recognize that this is something that I need to do.” And once you dip your toe in you’re gonna need to do it usually a lot more often. To me the role that I play and what I’m doing with my books and my work and even this podcast – and especially this podcast series – is to really flesh out movement ecology. To see that once you recognize that the movement is a necessity, then you begin to look at all of your non-movement or non-exercise time and recognize the relationship between those two things. How does what I choose to do when I’m not moving impact the rest of the time when I do want to go move? And for many of us, again, that journey within us – there’s a metaphorical journey in that it takes a long time, I think, to discover the things that we each need. And then there is a larger, there’s a scientific journey of discovering all of the elements at play. And then there is simply putting one foot in front of the other or using your arms in a way that helps you move. Some sort of way of starting to ramp up your human power that no matter the scale, you are going to change your experience.
JASON: Absolutely and it doesn’t have to be, you know, you don’t have to take 13 years to go around the planet to have an adventure. You can, it might sound a little bit cliche, but I guarantee you just walk out your door and you go for a walk and you know, just somewhere where you normally drive, I guarantee you could have an adventure. It’ll be different to driving. I think you touched on a really good point, Katy, about these common spaces that, the commons as they used to be known, of public, nobody owns these green, these wild spaces. They are essential in ways that we have difficulty articulating. Certainly in financial terms. So right now we’re looking at a politician that’s looking to shrink some of these public lands and the reason why is because perhaps some financial profit from exploiting them for oil and gas, whatever it may be. But I think that until we put a financial price, or rather until we put a tangible price tag on what these public spaces are worth in terms of our own personal health and well being, then they’re always going to be under threat from other interests looking to encroach upon them. And I think it’s really important for people to realize that you know these, because more and more people are living on this planet, and more and more people want houses built out in the middle of nowhere. These spaces are under threat. And it’s very very difficult to get them back. It’s almost impossible to get them back. So we really have to get away from the whole tree hugger mentality of like, “Oh well the only people who want to save these spaces are hippies and tree huggers.” It’s really, they’re a resource for all of us who work normal lives, who work normal jobs, who have the need to go out there for our lunch break or in the evenings or the weekends, to keep ourselves sane and to keep ourselves physically healthy. I think they’re almost, it’s like, they’re one of the most valuable assets that we have still remaining on our planet that we really have to safeguard.
KATY: Oh. That was beautifully said and is really a perfect place to end. Just let that hang in the air a little bit. Jason, thank you so much for being my guest – my first guest – here on Move Your DNA. Jason Lewis is the author of three award-winning books for adults. They’re fabulous. I’ve read them all. They are called the Expedition Trilogy. And one of the nice things about books like this, if you’re trying to ramp up your psyche into being out in nature more, moving more, it really does help to make that what you take in as far as what you’re reading. So I find them hugely inspiring and again, as I mentioned before, Jason’s journey is the – he is explaining what it is like to do all of this movement. So for so many people who study movement whose lives are movement, it is mostly in a theoretical sense. Meaning, I study movement way more hours than I ever move. And it’s definitely a ratio that I am working on changing. Because I realize that what I want to get to is actually knowing the movement, not knowing the explanations about movement. So the series is great. And it’s also just been translated isn’t the right word but adapted into a young adult version.
JASON: Yeah. Sort of 13 through 18-year-old range. Tammie edited them. Basically, the bad language and the bad behavior has been taken out so young people can read them.
KATY: For those of you asking me, “Like I’m into this whole moving a ton natural movement walking 10 or 20 miles but my family isn’t”, these books might be a tool used to get other people in your family excited about moving. Again you can find the Expedition Trilogy and the young adult version on Amazon.com. You can find Jason online at JasonExplorer.com and on twitter at @explorerjason. Ok, that is a wrap. For more information check out NutritiousMovement.com and sign up for my information packed newsletters. You can learn something more about movement most days be checking in on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages. Just search Nutritious Movement. If you have a question for a future episode, email email@example.com. On behalf of everyone at Move Your DNA and Nutritious Movement, thank you for listening. We appreciate your support. Many thanks to Jason for coming on the show. I greatly appreciate it.
VOICEOVER: This has been Move Your DNA with Katy Bowman, a podcast about movement. Hopefully you find the information in this podcast informative and helpful but it is not intended to replace medical advice and should not be used as such.