Walker Talks About Journey
LIANE HANSEN, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen. "The Ninth Inning" is a series we've been running all month to celebrate the remarkable lives of older generations. We began with 85-year-old garlic farmer and writer Chester Aaron, then we tapped our way into the life of 91-year-old dancer Dorothy Toy Fong and last week, we spoke with 84-year-old Eldora Wood, who's fondly known as the queen mother of Pinehurst, North Carolina. This week, we tracked down 81-year-old Harry McGinnis, who likes to be known as Hawk. In 1992, Hawk began walking around the world.
Mr. HARRY MCGINNIS: Hello?
HANSEN: And this past week, he phoned us from Leon, Nicaragua.
Mr. MCGINNIS: This is a very economic way to travel, and not only that, you see more. Now, you don't see anything flying over in an airplane, and you certainly don't see it in fast cars as the scenery whizzes by you, but when you walk, you become part of everything, and it becomes part of you.
HANSEN: Hawk carries a large, steel-tipped staff, and his belongings are in a backpack.
Mr. MCGINNIS: Yeah, I've been in 80 countries. Traveled about 80,000 miles. This is a very educating experience. It's an experience of a lifetime. How many people get to walk around the world for almost 28-plus years and see different cultures and ethnicities, experience the different food? This is a living encyclopedia.
HANSEN: When Hawk was growing up on a farm in Indiana, he would often dream about visiting far-off countries. He would spend much of his time flipping through the pages of National Geographic and its pictures of exotic locations.
Mr. MCGINNIS: All those faraway places, strange sounding names, I said, one day, maybe if I hold the dream long enough, I'll be able to see them in real life.
HANSEN: His dream came true in 1944, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in the Philippines and Okinawa. After Hawk returned home in 1947, he began a series of careers - from big-band singer to magazine editor to Methodist minister. And he's not ready to retire.
Mr. MCGINNIS: I have so many things to still do. I've always wanted to play the piano, and I also want to tap dance. And so I said, when I get through this trip, I'm going back and take up tap dancing and maybe ballroom dancing, and I'm going to also do some other things that I haven't done in my life.
HANSEN: It may seem as though Hawk will meet any challenge. But he admits to being very scared when, at the age of 69, he jumped off a bridge in Victoria Falls, Zambia. And when he made his way through Egypt, he met some men who turned out not to be friendly.
Mr. MCGINNIS: Two of them jumped out and said, what's yours is going to be mine. They didn't say that in English, but that was the general concern. And I was doing pretty well until another person came up and whacked me in the back of the head. And when I woke up, a circle of people were around me, and the soldiers were them asking questions. They took me to a hospital and x-rayed my head to make sure I didn't have a brain concussion. And the next day, I was released.
HANSEN: Hawk has good advice for those who want to get out and see the world.
Mr. MCGINNIS: Just get out there and do it. You'll be surprised, all the doubts and fears will fade away. I mean, the secret in life is to experience life. Life is about living life. This trip has, I'm sure, allowed me to be younger than my age.
HANSEN: Eighty-one-year-old Harry "Hawk" McGinnis, who is walking his way around the world. To share your stories about remarkable people of older generations, and to find out where in the world Hawk is, go to npr.org/soapbox.