ExWeb interview: The Real Long Walk, Karl Bushby´s back

Posted: Dec 12, 2010 09:34 pm EST

(By Mikael Strandberg) "Like a dog that has lost its master, I sleep on her grave, howl and grieve. Through the days and nights, the hail and winds never leaving for a moment. The woman who had loved me more than any could, and gave so much, today lives with another man as she tries to rebuild, I have not been able to move on. I would not wish this on any man."

These words belong to Karl Bushby, the 41 year old Brit who has walked the world the last 13 years. It makes The Long Walk to Freedom, done by either Slavomir Rawicz or Witold Glinski (or maybe nobody) look like a walk in the park in comparison. When ExWeb reaches Karl for a rare interview in a hotel in New York he isn´t together with a new love, but Hollywood screen writer Beau Willmon.

ExWeb: "What are you doing in New York, Karl?"

Karl: "Well, having recently moved from a rural Mexican town on the delightfully warm pacific coast, to the, not so warm bustling streets of New York, as I prepare for a return to Russia this winter, I feel oddly uncomfortable. I shouldn't. For two long years, since the financial crash, my journey had ground to a halt without support after nine years. I have finally found someone willing, not just to back the journey, but fund it all the way home over the next five years. But I can hardly muster a single whoop of joy. It´s been too long."

ExWeb: "You started your journey the 1st of November 1998 in Punta Arenas and walked on for another 58 000 kilometres (36 000 miles), crossed the Bering Strait before running into problems in Chukotka 2008. And now you are ready to return to face the vicious cold of the Kolyma region. Any worries?"

Karl: "Fear, yes, I feel it. I have done a number of winters now in the north, and I can honestly say I know what awaits me. Some days I wish I was a little more naïve. With trepidation I plan for a return trip to Bilibino Chukotka for this January with either Srednekolymsk or Zyryanka in my sights, ultimately, I need to get to the Kolyma Highway, but the Russians will only allow me a three month visa. Come late winter I am hoping to utilise the ice roads and move as fast as I can in the given time. I had hoped it would never come to a race against the clock, but this part of the world is putting a huge strain on the journey, I need to get beyond this section. I need to get to the roads, and year round travel, to be able to keep moving."

ExWeb: "Karl, I bet you over the years have heard praise from an awful lot of people how brave you have been, how much determination you have shown, to set off on such a long journey, But there´s always a high price to pay, choosing a different life, am I right?"

Karl: "I dont need to go into the details of how I once use to be a father and a married man, complete with house car career etc. But the decision to leave home, a number of years after been divorced, at the time made sense. But the accumulation over time of this journey is wearing on me, but not only me. A week or so ago I met up with my son and mother. I last saw them six years ago, just the once in the 12 years I have now been away from home. This has provided the most questionable ethical dilemma that has been creeping up on me over the last few years."

ExWeb: "So you lost contact with your son?"

Karl: "For over 2 years my son had vanished off the radar screen. We had no contact. Not that before this it was much better. Ultimately my son would gain greater access to this world and for sure would end up joining me at some pointright?"

ExWeb: "Did it happen?"

Karl: "Of cause it never quite ended up working to plan. Instead my son paid a terrible price at the hands of an unstable family without his father. Things where so bad communications wise, I was just plain ignorant of what was going on back home, too consumed by my own daily struggles. Out of everyone I knew in this world, I knew my son least of all. He was a young child when I left, he is a 20 year old man now, however, for so long I did not have any means of contacting him, an old phone number, no email address, and apparently out of date postal address. Not so long ago I managed to find one of his friends on Facebook. Through his friend I was able to get a back channel message to him, and sure enoughhe logged on."

ExWeb: "I have personally thought about this a lot, since I have lived like you most of my grown-up life and now have a daughter, and I am afraid what will happen if I continue this life. Can I ask what happened to your son during all these years without a dad?"

Karl: "When I met my mother and son recently, an awful lot had come to light about my sons struggles. Depression and what was been called self abuse, had lead to therapy and medication, even suicide attempts had been on the cards. It was an emotionally difficult few days, the stuff us chaps are really not very good at, but we made sound solid progress. Before the visit was over, there was already talk of my son joining me on this trip, and not just for portions of the trip, but talk of the remaining journey. Our lives were been reshaped as we watched and wheels were been set in motion. So much so, that I thought we were all getting a little ahead of ourselves. My son never confronted me directly with the deeper issues, but instead, I believed he talked to me through the cameras of my producer and camera man. We had only 5 days, by no means enough to cover the more than 12 years apart. And before I knew it, they were gone, and Im sitting on my own again, replaying scenes over and over in my head. There was little time to ponder too much, it was time to pack my bagsI was leaving for New York very soon after."

ExWeb: "What about finding a life partner whilst walking?"

Karl: "The recent emotional rollercoaster did not start here however, not when you have 12 years struggling on foot. One of the most overwhelming sagas, was falling in love. 10 years ago, in Colombia, while planning my Darien Gap crossing from Medellin, I fell hopelessly in love. I knew it was going to happen. Days before the journey began I wrote about how one day I will burn in the fires for this, how I knew the perfect storm will find me. I would fall in love and get so badly burnedI just knew it, and knew what had to be done. Leaving the woman you loved most in life, and losing her slowly over years, is like cutting your own beating heart out of your own chest. For 7 years we did everything we could to be together. However, been a single Colombian woman no government north of Panama would allow Catalina a visa. But I would not stop and after countless years of disappointment and set back, she could not take the pain anymore."

ExWeb: "I understand you are healing a bit?"

Karl: "Two years ago, for the first time in so long, and for only a few days, I had a chance encounter with a woman that, in some way, began a possible changed to all this. Someone who challenged Catalinas primacy for the first time. She came, she stayed a little while, she left. Then a few weeks ago she came back for a short visit. The night we met, as she walked toward me and broke into that smile, it was like the approach of a paraplastic flow, hypnotic in its power, but when this hits, you know its going to hurt like hell! She came, she stayed a little while, she left, but the aftershocks keep coming. It keeps knocking me around, prodding and demanding answers to the twisted emotional knot that is the journey. These two visits, and me leaving my friends behind, and simply moving on again, leave me bruised and unable to sit comfortably for more than a minute in my own head."

ExWeb: "So, Karl, what advice can you give to other people who are in a similar situation in life?"

Karl: "The last few months have been troublesome, as I realise how much I struggle with the personal demons. When people are just rapidly changing faces in a constantly changing landscape, with no stability, security or relationships. When your best friend is a laptop, and when it feels like it will never end, things begin to go wrong. Its been a demanding month or so. The stuff I never talk about to people, the stuff that never seems to pop up in conversations about great global journeys and the wonders of life on the road. The last thing people what to hear, is that you cannot escape life. But you cant ignore these things or try and hide, by hiding and remaining on the defensive, you will just take a shellacking while running. You have to push back. Go on attack, on the offensive, take it by the throat and, indeed, rage rage against the dying of the light! So much more gratifying."

British Karl Bushby, is an ex-paratrooper, hoping to complete an unbroken round the world walk.

He set off on 1st November 1998, and has completed over 17000 miles. He got temporarily halted in Chukotka, Russia, but is now set to continue his walk back home.













"Like a dog that has lost its master, I sleep on her grave, howl and grieve." When ExWeb reaches Karl for a rare interview in a hotel in New York he isn´t together with a new love though.
Image by Karl Bushby courtesy Karl Bushby, SOURCE
Fear, yes, I feel it. I have done a number of winters now in the north, and I can honestly say I know what awaits me. Some days I wish I was a little more naïve.
Image by Karl Bushby courtesy Karl Bushby, SOURCE
I dont need to go into the details of how I once use to be a father and a married man, complete with house car career etc. But the decision to leave home, a number of years after been divorced, at the time made sense. But the accumulation over time of this journey is wearing on me, but not only me.
Image by Karl Bushby courtesy Karl Bushby, SOURCE
With trepidation I plan for a return trip to Bilibino Chukotka for this January with either Srednekolymsk or Zyryanka in my sights, ultimately, I need to get to the Kolyma Highway, but the Russians will only allow me a three month visa. Come late winter I am hoping to utilise the ice roads and move as fast as I can in the given time.
Image by Karl Bushby courtesy Karl Bushby, SOURCE
10 years ago, in Colombia, while planning my Darien Gap crossing from Medellin, I fell hopelessly in love.
Image by Karl Bushby courtesy Karl Bushby, SOURCE
When people are just rapidly changing faces in a constantly changing landscape, with no stability, security or relationships. When your best friend is a laptop, and when it feels like it will never end, things begin to go wrong. Its been a demanding month or so. The stuff I never talk about to people, the stuff that never seems to pop up in conversations about great global journeys and the wonders of life on the road. The last thing people what to hear, is that you cannot escape life.
Image by Karl Bushby courtesy Karl Bushby, SOURCE
The last thing people what to hear, is that you cannot escape life. But you cant ignore these things or try and hide, by hiding and remaining on the defensive, you will just take a shellacking while running. You have to push back. Go on attack, on the offensive, take it by the throat and, indeed, rage rage against the dying of the light! So much more gratifying.
Image by Karl Bushby courtesy Karl Bushby, SOURCE