Walking into the wild

Brittany Schenk

At 10:00 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2007, Peter Egger began walking around the world. A year-and-a-half and six pairs of shoes later, his feet are still taking him new places.

This week, he is passing through Ohio on his way to New York City where he will end his journey and return home to Switzerland.

His sandy, shoulder-length hair, tall frame and piercing blue eyes make him difficult to ignore. Coupled with his natural features, the white lettering down his pant leg and across the back of his sweatshirt proclaiming “Jesus Saves” also draws attention.

Egger only carries the clothes on his back and a fanny pack filled with a Bible, passport, camera and an envelope of money. He sleeps on the ground and writes his thoughts on a small pad of paper kept in his shirt pocket.

He used to have a journal, but it became heavy. So, he sent it home from Nebraska along with extra clothing and equipment he used during the winter months.

Now, he tells stories of his adventures to family and friends via e-mail whenever he finds a local library. If he can’t get online, he recounts his adventures to anyone he meets along the way who is interested in why he is traveling so far by foot.

The story of how Egger began this journey is “special” he said. “God spoke to me and said I have to walk.” In response, Egger began saving money and living in a tent on his father’s property so he wouldn’t have to pay rent.

“I told everyone that I will walk around the earth and nobody believed me,” Egger said.

A year after hearing from God, Egger stepped off his father’s property. He left behind his family and fiancé and did what no one thought he would.

He marked the beginning of his trip with a wooden pillar by carving the words “start wood” in Swedish along with signs pointing toward the direction he began walking.

He said he sees this trip as an opportunity to build character, search for truth and wrestle with his beliefs in God at the pace of a steady gait.

WHERE EGGER WALKED Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Mongolia, Poland, China, United States (he walked I-80 from San Fransico to New York City.

“Walking is very special,” Egger said. “Walking is not fast so you learn a lot if you walk. People talk to me. Walking is moving and moving makes thinking. If you drive with the car you’re too fast. When I walk on the way then I hear the bird and I look to the bird and see what he is doing and I learn from the bird.”

Nearing the end of his trip, Egger looks back and remembers the learning and all the places his feet have taken him. He has walked through Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Russia, Mongolia and China. After receiving his United States visa, he traveled to San Francisco and followed I-80 across the U.S.

“The travel is not like a tourist,” Egger said. “I walk and see the life from the ground.”

He said he did not know any English before coming to the U.S., but after having conversations with people he has met on the road, he now speaks fluently.

In a few weeks, Egger said he will finish his journey with a great understanding of the differences existing across the world, a new sense of faith in God and a taste of what it is like to escape society.

In his travels, he has experienced the poor giving more than the rich, the way Mongols prefer to eat licking out of a bowl rather than with a fork and how currencies and measurements differ around the world.

When Egger returns home, he will find a job and get married, but said he will always think of ways to get away.

“I want more,” Egger said.

Contact news correspondent Brittany Schenk at [email protected].