Since I moved to Mexico, I’ve learned the value of a good pair of walking shoes. Unlike in L.A. where the only action your UGG boots will ever get is pushing the gas pedal or traipsing through the sand at Zuma Beach, if you want your tootsies to survive the barrage of crusty metro floors, open sewage grates, and busted up sidewalks in this city you better learn how to make friends with the Flexi salesman and your neighborhood zapatero.
Anyway, I thought that I was a true ambulatory master after I walked all the way from Condesa to Roma Norte one night to find a decent cantina. Then, I met Rolene Walker. I know, right? Game over with that last name.
Señora Walker – a Quaker who prefers to rock New Balance tennies – is currently on a personal pilgrimage from San Diego, California to Santiago, Chile, the birthplace of her father. Her mission is to visit as many schools as possible along the way and give lessons about protecting the environment. With the exception of a few necessary bus trips, she’s walking the entire way.
I got a chance to meet up with Rolene in September when she was staying Quaker-run Casa de los Amigos in la Colonia Tabacalera. We took the metro all the way to Tasqueña on the way to one of her walks in the south of the city. I asked her if she has gotten any negative reactions from people along her journey.
“One thing that’s really nice about Mexico is they understand about pilgrimage more than in the United States,” she said “In Mexico, they think you should follow your dreams – even if you’re nuts.”
Rolene is currently following her dream in Oaxaca, where she is learning about sustainability and environmental education from the local indigenous community. She’ll be in Southern Mexico until February when she is putting together an environmental education conference.
So far, she’s accomplished some pretty amazing things:
- 2,586 miles traveled
- 150 class rooms and organizations visited
- 140 companion walkers
- 300 sustainable environment school kits donated
- 45 model solar ovens distributed and installed
- 1 five-day conference for grassroots environmentalists
If you want more information about Rolene and her walk check out her site, http://www.walkwithearth.org