Choosing any job in the world: A “heathen pilgrim” walks across Turkey


Anatolian shepherd, Tiltshifted - Original pho...

Anatolian shepherd, Tiltshifted – Original photo by Matt Krause, of Heathen Pilgrim fame (Photo credit: moonstar909)

Waking up today, I see that the writing prompt of the day is “If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” Well, Blogher, you’ve got my number today – this is indeed the question of the hour – or should I say – the question of the mid-life crisis? I jest, I jest, ok, well maybe just a little bit of a crisis. It’s no wonder that the theme of “work” for Blogher’s December NaBloPoMo has captured my attention so.

And so sitting here, wrapped up in blankets in my writing chair, warm dog on my toes, I am thinking about what that job would be…and as the minutes fly by in daydream fashion – all of the thoughts of what could have been work-wise flew through my head – children’s librarian, medical anthropologist, hospital social worker, chef, children’s book illustrator, creative writer, newspaper fact-checker – all options left behind for an academic career I am now questioning.  And then it dawned on me, I knew exactly what I wanted to write about today – the kind of work that is temporary but can make a world of mental difference. You know, once in a lifetime kinds of differences – differences that can only be learned about and gathered whilst on a journey.  After all, it’s the journey, not the destination, that counts, right?

So, today, if I could have any job in the world – it would be something along the lines of the job that a certain Mr. Matt Krause has these days, which he refers to, somewhat in jest as I see it, as an alternative mid-life crisis – and let me tell you folks, he is doing this mid-life crisis just right.  Mr. Krause has undertaken a walk across Turkey with the goal of “Walk(ing) through the world and throw(ing) (him)self on its mercy.”

Mr. Krause writes about the questions he gets about his walk – such as “Why walk, why not take a bus?”  And in the answer to that particular question lies the job that he has undertaken in the form of this journey.  His answer is especially inspiring to me in my time of difficulty, and I draw both comfort and courage from it:

“The reason I want to walk is I want to challenge myself to be less afraid of the world. To be less afraid to admit I misunderstand something. To be less afraid to admit something is out of my control. It is difficult to admit those things, but much comes from doing so. After all, if I am busy insisting I understand something I don’t, or trying to control something I can’t, it is awfully hard to be open to creativity and inspiration.”

A wise man.  And although I have followed Mr. Krause’s journey in Internet fits and starts, it is only the magic of today that led me to his explanation…just the day I needed some inspiration myself.

Overall, Mr. Krause’s own words provide the best description of his journey:

“I am walking solo 1305 miles (2100 kilometers) across Turkey, from the Aegean coast to Iran, and describing what I run into along the way. At one point the plan was to walk partway across Turkey and then head south to Jerusalem, but Syria’s been a little choppy lately. Why am I doing this? For many reasons, but mainly because I love to walk and I love to see new country. There are other, supporting factors behind my decision to do this. For example, I lived in Istanbul for 6 years and did some traveling around that part of the world, so I know the territory a bit. I’ve wanted to do something like this for 20 years. I decided this would be a more constructive mid-life crisis than getting a red Porsche and chasing after college coeds.  But mainly, I am doing it simply because I love to walk, and I love to see new country.  This is the route. I am walking about 60 miles per week (hopefully!), so the walk will take about 6 months or so…By the way, this is not a vacation. For 20 years, I have had something bigger in mind, and I would like to see this become merely the first leg of that bigger thing.”

Please consider following Mr. Krause on his journey at his website, which is entitled: Heathen Pilgrim: Walk through the world and throw yourself on its mercy and you can track his progress by clicking here.  Some of you may take offense to the title of his project – Heathen Pilgrim, but he explains his wording choice carefully and thoughtfully, right here:

“I picked that name for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that a heathen is a person who does not share one’s religion. Christians see non-believers as pagan; Muslims see them as infidels; and as far as Jews are concerned, gentiles can never be members of God’s chosen people.  One thing we all have in common is that someone, somewhere considers us heathen. And if you want to travel outside of your own circle, you must be willing to be considered a heathen by someone else. If the people around you are not considering you heathen yet, you have not traveled far enough from home. I also have a tongue-in-cheek reason. A secondary definition of “heathen” is “a rude or uncivilized person.” I’m a fairly polite and well-mannered person. So calling myself a heathen pilgrim is a bit of an attempt at self-deprecating humor.”

Finally, if it is in the cards, you might even want to take him up on his open invitation to walk with him.  Would that I could, but here I am, on a journey of my own that is unfolding as I write.

Best of luck on the road, Mr. Krause, and as they say in Ireland and beyond:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

–Traditional Gaelic blessing
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This entry was posted in Cross-cultural learning moments, On Islam and Muslims, Turkish-American Matters and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Choosing any job in the world: A “heathen pilgrim” walks across Turkey

  1. Matt Krause says:

    Hi Liz, thank you for the writeup, glad I could provide some inspiration. I am visiting the American College in Tarsus this week, and doing some Q&A with the students, and just today someone asked me why I chose to put the word “heathen” in the project name, and I used the “someone somewhere considers you a heathen, and if people around you aren’t considering you a heathen yet, you have not traveled far enough from home” thing in the answer.

  2. E. says:

    Hi there, I think that is a fabulous answer to their question. It’s a wonderful explanation and I so enjoyed reading it. Wishing you well in your time there. Best, Liz

  3. Nancy says:

    Wow! I love this post, and especially Matt K’s definition of being a heathen. While I might quibble about whether all Christians, Moslems, Jews, whatever, see others as heathens, he is exactly right that we all need to understand that someone somewhere thinks we are heathens. And sometimes it is someone at home, even Mom, who thinks we have left our senses, cherished truth, our family values, her beliefs, to chase around after some false god.
    And I envy Karuse his journey, which my heart would love to undertake, but my body would be plagued by issues, the bugs, the sun, aches and pains, and I’d be riddled with anxieties and fears at every stop, all of which would pull me into myself rather than out. So the armchair version is best for me . . . thanks for suggesting it. Pats to the warm dog . . .

  4. I’ve been a huge fan of Matt’s since I first read his book In a Tight Wide-Open Space. I especially like your words on searching for ‘the kind of work that is temporary but can make a world of mental difference’ and Matt’s for creativity and inspiration. Well done, Liz!

  5. Pingback: Kolay gelsin: On the hard work of deciding what’s the hardest work | Slowly-by-Slowly

  6. E. says:

    Thank you so much for your comments, I agree Matt’s words are so helpful. I think I’m on the right journey although it may not be across Turkey by foot!

    Since reading your comments, I’ve had to go and look at Matt’s book and I realize that I must read it right away I can’t believe I’ve missed it until now as the topic matter is so similar to mine in some ways. Thanks for the tip!

  7. E. says:

    Dear Nancy, thank you for visiting my blog again and for the comment. I had some of the same reaction to the use of the term heathen but when I sat with it for a little bit I basically came to the same conclusion as you. I think Matt is doing some deep and important thinking and of course an amazing trip. And I agree if I undertook a trip like that I would go very much inside myself and freak out with all the things you mentioned. But here’s to our armchair journeys. Love, Liz

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