In 2010, Matt Green quit his job as a civil engineer to walk across the United States, from New York to Oregon. Af ter completing his 5,000-kilometre trek in 152 days, he returned to the Big Apple weary but exhilarated.
By 2013, Green was at it again. For the last three years, the 36-year-old has been attempting to walk every street in New York City — a distance he figures to be in the 13,000-kilometre range. Thanks to people who donate money through his website (www.imjustwalkin. com) Green, who crashes in dif ferent friends’ apartments depending upon what part of the city he’s passing through, is “about two years” from completing his goal.
We reached him in Harlem earlier this summer, and chatted about what drives him to put one foot in front of the other, day af ter day af ter day. FREE PRESS: MATT GREEN: I moved to New York City in 2005 from Virginia and almost right away became really interested in exploring the city. I started a walking group and I found that I really enjoyed the feeling of walking every day. That got me thinking about stringing a bunch of long walks back to back to back, which led to my cross-country walk. A year and a half af ter that, I started my New York walk. FP: MG: Not as many as you might think, probably no more than five pairs. I do tend to wear out the heels first but I’ve found a pretty good cobbler and as soon as that starts to happen, I bring them in and get a new heel put on. FP: Is this a solitary pursuit or do you ever have company? And if you’re walking alone, do you wear an iPod to pass the time? MG: Sometimes friends want to come along, sometimes random people... every once in a while a tourist from another country — somebody who read about me on my blog — will contact me and ask if they can tag along. And to answer your second question, no, never. To me, wearing an iPod would take away from the whole experience of seeing and hearing the city. It would be the same as walking around with a blindfold on. FP: Besides the Winnipegger I talked to, are you aware of anybody else who does what you do? MG: It’s kind of in the air now, I think, because a year-and-a-half af ter I started, I heard about a people in Calgary, Paris and San Francisco, as well as lots of people in much smaller cities than Winnipeg. Which I’ve been to by the way; a friend and I were driving to Alaska and on our way there, we visited your (Royal Canadian) Mint. I’m also familiar with (the band) the Weakerthans. FP: Last question: now that you’ve seen close to 70 per cent of New York City, do you have a favourite part of town? MG: I don’t, primarily because the way I’ve approached this project prevents me from having a favourite. It’s a very forward way of doing things. It’s not about going back to places you like — it’s about going to places you haven’t been to yet. And so it kind of makes it not matter if I like a place or not cause I’m only going there once. I’m always happy to be anywhere new because it means another step towards achieving my goal.
Bill Fugler, who aims to walk every street in Winnipeg, keeps track of his progress on a city street atlas.
I’m sure you get this question 365 days of the year, but what got you started in the first place? Is it safe to assume you’ve gone through a fair number of shoes during the last three years?