Thursday, May 11, 2006




UPDATE : Steve Vaught walked across the Manhattan Bridge earlier today, surrounded by media and fellow walkers. His journey is over.

"I'm glad I'm here, but for me it's never been about the destination," Steve said. "It's been about the journey... This is not about obsessing about numbers, or times, or dates, or miles. It's just about going on a walk and sort of having time to get things straight."


Steve Vaught was nearly 200kgs, 39 years old and depressed when he set out to walk across the United States. It took him 13 months, with time off for Christmas with the family, and he wore out 30 pairs of socks and 15 pairs of sneakers.

He lost weight, about 45kgs, but it was not as much as he planned. There were few healthy eating choices along the backroads of America, and he wound up eating too much fast food from truck stops.

He walked into Manhattan today, ending his amazing, Forrest Gump in slo-mo journey. Documentaries are being made about him, he's got a book deal and his website, containing photos and his journal, kept crashing after he recieved millions of visitors, who were fascinated, and inspired, by his story.

He is now hailed as a hero in a nation obsessed with weight loss and depression, most not even realising the garbage they drink in the form of diet sodas accounts for plenty of reasons why they are fat and depressed in the first place.

Early in his journey, Steve spent a week in a Texas hotel room, breaking himself free from his addiction to anti-depressants. When he set back out on the road, he said he felt like a new person, and the depression has only returned periodically. He wrotes in his online journals that the downers he experienced afterwards were nowhere near as bad as they were when he was on the pills.

Steve's battle with depression, and weight gain, began after he kill two elderly pedestrians in a car accident some fifteen years ago.

Steve picked up supporters along the way, a few hundred, in more than 26 states. They wrote him letters, donated money and supplies and even suggested places to visit along the route Others joined him for long stretches of the walk.

Vaught chronicled his progress on a website, You might have trouble visiting some of the pages. The traffic flow right now is beyond capacity, might be worth bookmarking for later, when he updates the last days of his trek.

A month ago, his wife filed for divorce. The walk across America was only supposed to take six months. When he began, he was so fat and unfit, he could only struggle through a few kilometres a day. But within weeks he was angling up to his average daily tally of 20km.

He developed a personal mantra, which goes like this :

"Cure the mind, and the ass will follow."

He cured his mind, but he still thinks his ass is too big.

It wasn't all a magical journey. The online journal details his sometimes savage self-questioning about what he was actually doing, how much he missed his wife, his impatient daughter, his home, he had to avoid rattlesnakes in the desert, blisters, injuries, and he suffered through some appalling weather along the way. Then then there were the stress fractures in his feet, which made the last weeks of walking incredibly painful.

But Steve's made it now. He's in New York City, and he's about to hit the talk show circuit.

Curiously, it looks like he might have even started a movement of cross-the-whole-country walkers, which could in turn inspire big city Americans to get out of their cars and hit the pavements themselves.

Go here for a brief news story on Steve's journey.

On his own website, where he kept a month-by-month journal of his incredible journey, Steve began by saying this, back in April, 2005 :

"I am a 39 year old, happily married father of two great kids and I have a pretty good life here in Southern California. You would think that I would be happy because of these things, but I am not. I am not happy because I am fat and being fat makes every day unhappy.

"Losing the weight will be the easy part. I plan to keep the weight off in the future by maintaining a proper diet and level of activity needed, as well as remembering how easy it is to gain weight and difficult to lose it.

"This effort is not going to be without sacrifice, my family and I know and accept that. I will probably see my wife and kids only once or twice during this time. I am not in the best condition financially to go six months without income and have resigned myself to the fact that I will lose my car and property. Those things however, pale in significance when reckoned with the consequences of doing nothing."

Go here for Steve's website.

Go here for the first month's journal.

Go here for the last month of his journey.

On the first anniversary of his Long Walk beginning, and with some three hundred miles to go to reach New York City, Steve wrote this excellent entry :

"Finally I find myself at peace with the world instead of trying to force it to be something other than what it really is, the sum total of all human experience to date and perfectly balanced because of it. I have learned that accepting things for what they are is the only true way to inner peace. Fighting to change things or fighting to be something that you are not is the worst battle that you will ever experience because as long as you struggle, you lose. Balance with all things and live the experience of life, this is my outlook now."

If you want to kill a few hours and read something damn inspirational, you could do worse than go and scan through the year and a bit worth of journal entries. It's an interesting take on America, Americans, weight loss, food obsession and the growth of an insatiable wanderlust.

What is uniquely strange, and fascinating, about Steve's Long Walk is that after a year and thousands of ks clocked up on his feet, he wants to keep on walking. He's thinking about doing Europe next.

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