Techie maps his ‘freedom’ trail: Beijing to London … on foot

Web designer looking to undertake a monumental cross-continental hike


At age 28, British Web designer Michael Lee Johnson longs to be free - free from small-town life and 9-to-5 work -- so he's planning to set out on the road ... the road in this case being a cross-continental walk from Beijing to London, which he estimates will take three years.

His intended journey may be crazy and it definitely includes commercial components - sponsors are being sought, he hopes to produce a documentary, and he writes of building "a brand, a business, myself" - but the audacity of the idea (Iran is on the itinerary) is self-evident and all but guaranteed to garner him attention.


Whether he actually pulls it off - or even takes step one in Beijing -- only time will tell, of course (call me skeptical, but hoping to be wrong). It's 5,000 miles as the crow flies, and Johnson isn't flying or planning any such a direct route, as he explains on his website. I sent him a few questions via email, and he was quick to respond.

Are you crazy? (I'm sorry, but that just has to be the first question.)

What is crazy these days? I think anything in life that is worth doing takes a little bit of 'craziness' to pull off. So in answer to your question. Yes. But definitely the good sort of the crazy, not the crazy sort of crazy. I am strategically crazy. I have been sat behind a desk for most of my life. I haven't really lived.

What are some of the technologies and gadgets you'll be using on your walk?

Lightweight tech items as much as possible. From an ultra compact HP laptop to an Android phone. I will be using GoPro Cameras - they're the best for this sort of thing. And Memoto, (a) life-logging camera. I custom developed an app that plots my GPS location onto Google Maps every 30 seconds so people can see where I am whenever they choose.

What part of the tech line-up concerns you most in terms of reliability and effectiveness?

I am not concerned. There are always going to be problems. China is one of the most connected places in the world. 80% of my journey I shouldn't have a problem connectivity-wise, however, MY MAIN CONCERN is the Great Firewall of China.

What makes you think you'll be able to just waltz into some of these countries that are not exactly known for their warmth toward westerners? Iran?

I won't be able to waltz into these countries if nobody knows who I am and what I am doing. ... Those sorts of things will only fall into place with the right awareness/connections in place. Once I get to Kashgar on the opposite side of China, I will realign my plan.

How do you respond to the skeptics who'll say you won't be able to do this; it's too difficult; too dangerous; you're bound to give up?

In regards to the skeptics, trolls, naysayers and arrogant disbelievers ... I get these on a daily basis. I just block it out. If I listened to them I would believe them. I have my own voice and my own mind. Everyone is different. Dedication is an easy word to understand, but it takes years to TRULY UNDERSTAND the meaning. I know what I am capable of. ... I am training my arse-off.

Best of luck to you, Michael.

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