19-year-old Stefan Lee Goodwin is walking a mind-blowing 5,000 km (3,100 miles) from John O’Groats to the shores of Bulgaria’s Black Sea, and he’s raising money for charities, including Friends of the Earth Scotland, along the way!
We caught up with Stefan just as he was passing through Carlisle and he kindly took the time to answer some of our questions. Read our exchange below.
Who are you?
I am Stefan Lee Goodwin, a 19-year-old, super-curious Scottish human with a passion to explore, create and share as much of our universe’s brilliance as I can possibly muster. I grew up with a drive for discovery and adventure – stemming from kid-escapades of playing village-wide manhunt in the darkness and finding out how not to fall out of trees, to jumping into mini-solo kayaking and mountaineering expeditions, to eventually taking the plunge and walking west to east across Northern Spain!
What are you planning to do?/What are you doing?
Despite being called a mad man, I am walking 5,000 kilometres (or about 3,100 miles) across the entirety of Europe! Beginning on 11 November 2016, I took my first steps from Scotland’s bloomin’ blustery John O’Groats and will swing my feet continually for over 7 months, until I dive head-first into the sweeping shores of Bulgaria’s Black Sea!
What inspired you to go on this trip?
This walk has various levels of inspiration. When I was a 16-year-old filled with wanderlust in 2013, I became immersed in the Discovery Channel documentary of British explorer, Ed Stafford, who walked the entire length of the Amazon River. This inspired me to find more long-distance walkers. I discovered Christoph Rehage, a German in his late twenties currently in Kazakhstan, who is walking from Beijing to his home town of Bad Nenndorf and then I also stumbled across the National Geographic fellow and World Journalist, Paul Salopek, who is retracing the path of the historic human migration, all on foot, from the Ethiopian Rift Valley to the very bottom-tip of South America, Tierra Del Fuego. By the wonders of the Internet and social media, I was able to live through these adventurers vicariously, but I found it wasn’t enough. I had to take my own steps!
I researched various long-distance walks and decided that, for my first walk, a well-known route would be best, and so I chose the Camino de Santiago (Or St. James Way), an ancient pilgrimage route to the Northern-Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, which dates back to the Middle Ages. However, upon closer research I realised that a large percentage of it was walking through industrialisation and, preferring mountains, forest and water, I created my own Camino that sprawled east through the rich northern wilds, 950 km (or 600 miles) to the coastal city of Bilbao! Upon returning home, my lust of wandering was still knocking on the door and so many months of potential ideas in the making later, I conjured up this plan to cross the entire European continent!
What has happened so far?
So far, I have walked through Scotland and have completed around a quarter of England, which is nearly 900 km (560 miles) altogether of continuous foot swinging! What has surprised me most about my walk has been the overall consistent kindness that has been given to me by the people I have met. Walking is a very social pace of travel. You are a functioning, vibrant part of your environment and are much more inclined to begin conversations, or even just to greet people, than when cocooned in metal and glass and four wheels. It’ll be intriguing to compare these moments at the end of my trip, but so far, I have learned that every stranger I pass is waiting to become my friend. And that does wonders to restore your faith in humanity!
How can people help?
I have been incredibly fortunate to have friends and friends of friends who gave me roofs to sleep under and energy bars to power me on, right through Scotland and Northern England. However, within the next month, as I come into mainland Europe, I’ll be in brand new territory! If you’d be willing to host me between England and Bulgaria, please have a look at the rough guide of my projected route through Europe on my website at www.justgoneawander.com. I also share my exact route in advance on Facebook as much as possible as I go.
If you are unable to offer me accommodation but would still like to support the project, I have a Patreon account – where you can pledge a small monthly donation to ensure I stay fed!
Although I am walking across Europe in the spirit of exploration and learning and to share the awesome beauty of our continent, I am also walking for the warmth of raising funds for charity. Altogether, I have chosen three incredibly effective, honest charities that connect strongly with how I want to help change the world. They are Friends of the Earth Scotland, Operation Smile and Save the Children.
So, in honour and celebration of preserving and exploring our environment, smiles and happiness, and practicing human solidarity please consider donating to these brilliant charities by popping over to my Virgin Money Giving page. Proceeds will be split evenly between the three charities. But overall the greatest reward that I can be given is to know I’ve somewhat helped bring Europe together by sharing the wonderful variety of beauty and awesomeness this incredible continent has to share.
Thanks for your support and please get in touch if you’d like to be part of my wander!