Trekking 5,500 Miles Across the Silk Road

Three Americans Walk from Xi’an to Istanbul

Our mission: to walk from one symbolic end of the Silk Road to another, weaving together stories of people, places, and purpose. Traveling from China to Turkey by foot, we will endeavor to see first-hand the cultures that have taken root, view the landscapes that inevitably helped shape them, share stories, customs, and laughs, and bridge the gap between cultures.

Photo credit: Silk Walk Expedition Team

We are three Americans from Minnesota named Timb, Paul, and Patrick. We are all avid outdoor enthusiasts with a range of specialties who met in college. Timb embodies a real-life Indiana Jones, with bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and outdoor education. Paul is always ready to discuss any topic, remembering to critique the message and not the messenger. Patrick, a jack of all trades and master of none, has a forte in public relations and the art of storytelling. Together, we make up the members of the Silk Walk Expedition.

Photo: Silk Walk Team Expedition Team

Walking across more than 5,500 miles may seem like an outrageous idea, and sometimes it feels like one. However, with considerable planning and proper preparation, we are refining our plan. For example, after learning the critical role that pack animals played in old-world cargo caravans, we decided to use walking trailers to carry water and other supplies required to cross the vast sections of de facto wilderness we plan to traverse. This expedition represents three years of planning, from gathering gear and fundraising to multiple scouting trips and securing visas, often while communicating across six different time zones between ourselves and the support team.

This expedition strives to examine globalization and the dissemination of people, products, and ideas along the largest network of trading routes in the ancient world. Some ask, “why walk?” We chose to travel exclusively by foot because we feel a slower pace cultivates more meaningful connection. We expect the first 100 days to be primarily trekking through a mix of urban and rural environments. As the roads become smaller and less developed, we will make our way into Central Asia where paved, well-maintained roads will be the minority. Even though two of the three walkers know enough Mandarin to get around, the language barrier will grow ever more present as dialects change and conversations get deeper, particularly after we leave China as Timb is the only one with Russian language abilities.

On this expedition, we will seek connections between the past and the present by traveling the Silk Road the way it was experienced so long ago. Furthermore, we want to learn as much as we can about how people have adapted to these places, and how they are still adapting. Another way we are working towards our missions is by taking a deeper look at the infrastructure and cultural connections in these regions, which are critical factors for connecting with the landscapes and people.

To help tell this story, we have a team of friends behind us helping to make the journey more than just a walk. Together, and with the help of partners like CSIS, we will weave together everything we see and learn into videos and narratives about cross-cultural relations and globalization.

We want to keep sharing this journey with you! Follow along on our social media platforms and share with friends. You can also find out more on our website. Be sure to check out our Facebook page and Instagram (@silkwalk). As we finish preparations for this large-scale expedition, we are always accepting donations, partnerships, and sponsorships. October 2017 is when we began, and we can’t wait to share each step with you!