Walking makes us inherently vulnerable; to the elements, our own weaknesses, and the whims of the road. But it also forces us to be open to everything. There’s no escaping every sight, sound and smell. It also encourages strangers to welcome you—for some reason, seeing someone on foot and carrying their life (in that moment, at least) on their back, seems to generate the most amazing acts of kindness.
Over a Mongolian winter, I was brought into a nomadic tent, a ger, in the Gobi Desert and handed a bowl of warm camel’s milk to warm me up. Dinner was prepared and vodka was shared. The unspoken message from my host was, “You’re clearly insane, but I’ll happily help you out.”
In the Middle East, often perceived as the most dangerous part of our planet, I’ve conversely found the people to be among the friendliest anywhere. On a hike from Jerusalem to Mount Sinai, I moved north through the West Bank, each day punctuated by offers of tea, or food, or with places to stay each night.