Saturday, March 22, 2008 how is Mark Boyle doing?

Jelly has been keeping better tabs on the progress of Mark Boyle (see here as well) than I have, and the latest news appears to be that young Master Boyle has called it quits. What started as a very ambitious pilgrimage to India from Ireland has become an "inner pilgrimage" now. Jelly writes in an email:

Hey Kevibou!

I was just reading Mark the Walking Dude's blog. When he turned back from France he didn't consider it "quitting" - and has still, in fact, been walking around the UK since. But now, he's officially stopped.

"So halfway between London and Cambridge we decided to call it a day and to go and put our energies into bringing the freeconomy community to the next stage in its progress from a base in which our needs for food and shelter are met everyday. In Calais the decision we made was partially influenced by the fact that we were very hungry, very tired and very cold, though also by our talks with the Afghan and Iraqi Refugees.

This decision was made though without any of those factors. We had enough food for the journey, though it was mainly dried fruit, and the weather was a bit less wet and cold. The question we asked ourselves was “is this my best use in the world at this moment in time?” Once I decided the answer was no, we packed up our stuff, and decided to hightail it back to Bristol, where we both lived previously, and got welcomed by all our amazing friends."

Ghandi (himself!!) already commented on this latest development:

"First walking to India - which ended in Calais when you realised they didn’t speak "the language".
Then walking around Britain, which ended before you even reached Cambridge.
Why stop now?
Rather than quitting maybe you can just scale the pilgrimage down a little bit further?
How about [an] epic trek around your kitchen in Bristol?
But knowing your record though I guess you’d quit before you made it past the fridge."

But I suppose Saoirse (Mark) is trying to end off on a positive note:

"So for me the inner pilgrimage goes on in a way. There is no end to anything, just a continuous journey, often not in the way you first expect. My focus is now on making this the most amazing community in the world to be part of, to get people together all over the planet sharing and coming up with solutions to this crazy world of ours and to hopefully spread peace in the process of all that"

I thought the journey was pretty interesting anyhow.

A few thoughts of my own:

I'm not really in a position to judge Boyle's decisions. I thought the concept behind his trip was both fantastic and a bit foolhardy, primarily because he'd have to be passing through some rather dangerous countries on his way to Gandhi's birthplace. I admit, however, that I was extremely disappointed to discover that mere passage through France proved daunting to him. Quite a few college-aged American and Korean backpackers can attest that you can survive France without knowledge of French; it might be a pain in the ass, but ultimately it's not that hard. I can't speak for other countries, but I'm sure I'm right about France.

Mark's background is in business, which makes me think he is, ultimately, more of a pragmatist than even he would care to admit. Going on a 9000-mile quest with little to no preparation is a gutsy move, but in order to carry it through, you need more than ideals: you need conviction and, dare I say it, planning. How, then, could a former businessman allow himself to be seduced into trying such a walk? My only conjecture is that it's because he's only 20-something, and like many 20-somethings, he found himself in thrall to his ideals, with all the rest being "mere detail." But trite as it sounds, the devil is in those details, and Mark's inner pragmatist probably reawakened and put a stop to the madness of this dangerous trek.

The above is pure speculation, of course. I have no doubt that Mark, having now felt what it means to walk long distances and encounter concrete problems along the way, can and perhaps will remake the original attempt a few years from now. I still think it's a worthy cause; he simply needs to listen more closely to the voice of reality next time. The pragmatic instincts of a businessman aren't something to throw away in a fit of idealism; to the contrary, those very instincts could help hone his purpose and focus the trek into something more worthy and less fuzzy. East Asians combine the concepts of "heart" and "head" in a single Chinese character: you don't follow one at the expense of the other, because you need both to get through this life. Heart and head, passion and rationality, feeling and thinking-- these are not-two.

I hope Mark finds what he's looking for.

EPILOGUE: It's many hours later, and I've just visited Boyle's blog. Here's a quote from one of Mark's recent posts that supports my analysis of his character: "For the first time on the journey my heart was saying I should stop walking and only my head was saying to continue. And I am a heart person, often to my own demise."

See the problem?



Anonymous said...

Mark here, the subject of your piece.

You write very well, though I wouldn't agree to everything in it. But to be honest, you seem to have grasped a lot of it quite well so thank you.

Just one thing occured to me - do you know that I was traveling without being able to touch money? And that the whole point of the walk was not to plan it, to live day by day? It is just when you said that even college-aged American and Korean backpackers can manage it, I am not sure many (or any) have done it without being able to touch cash!

Just a thought!

But anyway keep up the good work and thank you for following the story, i hope you find the freeconomy community of some use.

Lots of love

ps and yes I am a heart man, and will continue to be!

Kevin Kim said...


I think you'll eventually discover that "freeconomy" is a contradiction in terms. As with your other idealistic pursuits, it too will fall prey to the ravages of reality.

I did understand that you weren't touching any money, which again makes me wonder whether you had really thought this through. Of course, if your point was to live this experience without any planning at all—"day by day," as you say—then the enterprise was doomed to failure from the start. Big endeavors require thought, and not merely heart. But maybe that's something that an idealist must discover the hard way. Reality can't be ignored or denied, something you ought to know well, given you're a businessman.

By all means, do continue to be a heart person, but never at the exclusion of your head. Most people don't function very well without heads.

This is a years-tardy reply. Sorry about that. I came across this post today while searching for something else, and I realized I owed you a reply. For what it's worth, I do hope you'll do that long walk to India, but I also hope that, this time, you'll plan a bit and take the practical realities of such a walk seriously.

Or, how about this: fly to India, then do one of the long pilgrimages to a local mountain shrine or temple. You'll have no need of money at all, and depending on the pilgrimage, you may end up going hundreds of miles!