Walking with a purpose

Published 1:46 pm Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Javier Janik made a stop in Demopolis during his walk across America.

There comes a time in many people’s lives when they wake up and realize they aren’t happy with the direction their life is going.

For Javier Janik, that moment came around July 2012 after two years of working in banking. He wanted to find a new direction in life and following what he was passionate about.

“I wasn’t passionate about what I was doing,” Janik said. “I was trying to think of things I could do, and many different things came to mind. I wanted to promote my message somehow, which is ‘loving each other as one, unconditionally.’ I thought about joining the Peace Corps, considered going to graduate school to study economies of the world, and walking was one idea that came to mind.”

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Janik decided to take the walking idea and go with it. On Nov. 17, 2012, he began his campaign, “Walking Across America from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.” His goal in the campaign is to walk for 196 days to represent each of the 196 countries in the world. By Jan. 22, he reached Demopolis, where he stayed in the fire station.

“I researched other people that have done walks across America, and I liked the idea of it,” he said. “I’m just wanting to follow my passion of world peace and world equality.”

He said that, at first, his family and friends told him that he was crazy for wanting to go on this journey, but after he got started, they warmed up to it and are now 100 percent behind him. He packed everything he could into a bicycle trailer that he pushes around with him and set off.

“I have my tent and sleeping bag in the trailer, along with clothes, food, water, some book and some electronics,” he said. “The only time I’ve had to stop was when it snowed earlier this month. The visibility was too low and it was tough to push the cart.”

He has a T-shirt for each country with the country’s flag printed on it, and he wears one each day of his journey.

The Pittsburgh, Pa., native began his journey in Virginia Beach, Va., and started making his way down the Atlantic coast. He did not have a plan of where he would stay each night, so the first 11 days were the most difficult, according to Janik.

“The toughest part was early on,” he said. “I didn’t have plans of where to stay, so I stayed in a lot of random places and spent some cold nights in my tent. I slept behind churches, on a baseball field and in some towns with high crime rates, but since day 12, I have been safe. Hopefully the worst is over. As tough as it got, I never wanted to give up, though.”

On the tenth day, he stayed at a friend’s house outside of Raleigh, N.C., and starting with day 12, he began staying at fire stations along the way. Since that day, he has stayed in 28 firehouses.

“It makes a world of difference knowing I’ll have a place to stay at the end of the day,” he said. “At first, I never knew where I’d be at night, but now I can go to a fire station and ask them, and they can call other stations that I’ve stayed at.”

Janik said the idea for the walk is to give people the chance to focus on the good in the world.

“I subscribe to the belief that the majority of people in the world are good, and I believe people will open their doors for others,” he said. “I expected to receive help along the way, but I didn’t expect the magnitude of the support and generosity I’ve received. The fire stations are a perfect example.”

He said he appreciated the hospitality in Demopolis during his short stay.

“I want to thank Fire Chief Tommy Tate, Battalion Chief Vernon Waters, firefighter Maurice James, Lt. Alex Morris and administrative assistant Vanessa Watson at the fire station,” he said. “They have been more than generous to let me stay here.”

He added that he doesn’t know how far he will make it in 196 days, but he feels confident that he will reach southern California around day 150, and at that point, he said he would begin working his way up the California coast until he reaches day 196.

Before Demopolis, Janik stayed in Greensboro, and he will be staying in Livingston on Wednesday.

People can keep up with his progress on his Facebook page, Walking Across America from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and on his website, www.196days196countries.wordpress.com.