The Walk in Europe: A study abroad experience like no other

The Walk In Europe was my first international travel experience. It was 1997, and I was only 18 when we left for Salzburg, Austria. I was the youngest student to walk that year and it changed my life forever.

“They walked for 40 days. Their aim, not to climb every mountain peak, nor study leaves, nor bird watch. Not to follow the Appalachian Trail, or make a study of New England towns. But to walk, and to learn whatever there was to be learned along the way. The idea was ages old, the basis of any real education. Not a knowledge of chemistry or literature, but a knowledge of one’s self. They learned a lot about themselves, as students, as men and women, as Americans.” – The Walk of the Conscious Ants, by Taylor Morris Sr.

Taylor Morris Sr. founded The Walk in 1969. His first group of walkers traveled 600 miles in six weeks, from Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire to Nova Scotia, Canada. Taylor Sr. led the walks until 1997, the year I walked.

How does Taylor Morris’s Walk In Europe work?

The Walk In Europe takes university students on a three-month-long trek through various countries in Europe. Groups of between 15 to 30 students, along with their faculty leaders and assistants, walk an average of 15 to 20 miles a day. They live outdoors together, sleeping under a 30′ by 30′ tent, mapping their route as they go. They stick to country roads and trails and try to stay far from major cities and busy tourist attractions.

The Walk begins a month before the group leaves for Europe with an intense summer session of classes and workshops. During the summer session, students prepare for the walk and learn basic foreign language skills. They participate in practice walks and get familiar with using the equipment that supports them on their journey abroad.

Once in Europe, they rent a cargo van that carries their equipment, tent, and luggage,which makes it possible to walk with nothing more than water and a small day pack. Five or six times during the walk, students and their leaders break into groups of two or three and take turns being on the “van team” for a day. The van team is responsible for taking care of the  group’s needs. Each team begins this process the day before their van team day by mapping out the next day’s walking route. They knock on doors to ask landowners if they can camp for one night on their land. When asked, most landowners welcome the group as their guests. Often, the campsite provided is a farmer’s field, a pasture, or someone’s backyard. The van team’s other responsibilities are shopping for food, setting up the tent, and preparing the group’s meals for that day.

Each walk is different than the next because the walk is what the group makes it. It’s based on what each walker wants and what the collective group needs. The funny thing is, when walkers return they seem to be more focused. They have an understanding of what their journey did for them individually and how it changed their lives.

Since the first walk in 1969, 27 trips have transpired. Today, alumni from four decades count The Walk among the most memorable experiences of their lives.

 Where is The Walk today?

Taylor Sr.’s son, Taylor Morris Jr. (or “T-bone” as I know him), led my walk alongside his father and was conditioned to take his father’s place as the leader for the future of The Walk. T-bone expanded the walks from an academic program done at Franklin Pierce every other year, to every year with two walks going simultaneously. That year (2000) The Walk Trust was created and the program was opened up to other schools, adding students from Keene State in New Hampshire and Rutgers University in New Jersey. The program ran smoothly for several years under T-bone’s guidance until Franklin Pierce University changed the format of the program and deviated from The Walk Trust’s mission.

The fate of Taylor Morris’s Walk In Europe is in the hands of past walkers and The Walk Trust. Many generations of walkers are out in the world now, over 1,000, most of us are travelers at heart and nearly all will say they have never stopped walking.

The Morris family is searching for a new college or university for The Walk, and could use your help preparing the 2013 Walk in Europe. The biggest challenge is to bridge the gap between now and the time a new affiliation is established.

What The Walk Trust needs now is funding.

Funding for the following:
• New equipment ($12,000 – $15,000 per walk)
• Airline, hotel and van rental deposits ($10,000 per walk)
• Walk leaders, marketing and administrative staffing costs to maintain the non-profit status, to run the walks, and to promote the walk to new students. ($80,000 – 120,000 per year)

The Walk Trust is the organization collecting the funding for this program while we search for the right schools to partner with. It is a non-profit with 501 c3 tax status and any support you give is tax-deductible. If you can not offer financial  help, please consider spreading the word to your friends and family about this amazing program by sharing it on Facebook or Twitter.

Want to help The Walk find a new home?

Email me at lb_chaos@mac.com with your ideas or thoughts. You can also donate here.

I recently found this Youtube video about The Walks. I think it was filmed several walks after mine and possibly after losing Taylor Morris Jr. as its leader, but the message remains in the vision of Taylor Sr. who speaks throughout this video.

Also, check out some of my photos from my two walks (below).

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