Halfway through a walk around the world, ultimate traveler makes a big American detour
By Grant Stoddard
|Photo Courtesy of Karl Bushby|
When Karl Bushby started walking north from Punta Arenas, Chile, pulling a handcart nicknamed the Beast and packed with 100 pounds of supplies, he was a 29-year-old British ex-paratrooper aiming to do something no one had done before: circle the globe on foot. His intended route would take him through the Darién Gap, across the Mojave Desert, over the Bering Strait, through Mongolia and the Middle East and finally back home to England, where he would be reunited with his parents and the son he left behind when the boy was just 5.
Within hours, the Beast fell apart. Within a week, Bushby's toenails started popping off. He's survived near-starvation in Patagonia, a dust storm in Peru, brushes with crocodiles and narcoterrorists in Colombia, and a total of 71 days in jail in two different countries. Over 15 years, Bushby, now 44, has covered half the planet.
Now he’s in an unlikely spot for a budget-conscious world traveler: the United States. When Moscow completely banned Bushby from entering Russia for five years in 2012, the indefatigable Yorkshireman decided to go on a 3,000-mile jaunt from Los Angeles to the Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. In September 2013 — with the support of “House of Cards” creator Beau Willimon and record label owner Jordan Tappis — he set out on the 3,000-mile hike to the U.S. capital, where he hopes to convince the Russian government to grant him a visa.
By mid-October, Karl was in Las Vegas, where he’d accepted a free stay from Ceasar’s Palace and was busy raising awareness about his quest. Within a few days, he’d moved on and is currently crossing desert in northern Arizona.
Anyone interested in watching the longest walk in human history live can tune in to Bushby3000.com, which Karl uses to broadcast his whereabouts. He's also gotten aggressive about maintaining his Instagram feed, which is currently full of images of the desert Southwest.
While posh grub and ritzy accommodations in Vegas were somewhat novel for him, the real change on this leg of his journey is his ability to get more people engaged with his mission via social media. "When I started out, it was before an age of smart phones, GPS and the Internet,"He told celebrity reporter Robin Leach in Las Vegas "I began with just a cassette player and a disposable camera. I've progressed as technology has progressed, and now, with GPS and the Web, everybody knows where I am any time of the day or night."
The son of a decorated Special Air Services officer, Bushby grew up feeling he had something to prove. In school, teachers humiliated him when he couldn't master his lessons, and a diagnosis of dyslexia at 15 didn't remove the sting. The next year, he decided to try out for the army's elite Parachute Regiment. On his fifth attempt, he was given a "commanding officer's pass," meaning he was waved through more on effort and persistence than fitness for the job. The favor haunted him.
"Every time I stood in the mirror and donned my red beret, I was reminded of my shortcomings," Bushby says. "As a soldier, you're responsible for your brothers. If they're thinking there's a chance you don't deserve to be there, that's a burden almost impossible to bear."
Over the 12 years Bushby served in the military, his marriage fell apart, and he grappled with self-doubt. He soon realized that the only way to relieve it would be to accomplish something almost preposterous in scope, something only the hardiest, grittiest of men could pull off. So he started walking.
"It's quite a long walk," he says. "But I've made it my mission, and frankly, failure isn't an option."