Can you imagine not talking for an entire year? How about not talking while hiking across the entire country? It may seem an impossible feat for some. But for Nashua, N.H. native Greg Hindy, the challenge was a year-long art project. And it’s almost complete. He will end his journey on July 9, a journey that began on July 9, 2013.
The Yale graduate has been walking from coast to coast — from New Hampshire to Los Angeles — in silence for what he calls an artistic endurance performance. He has titled his trip “Walking, Silence.’’ The project, according to the website, is a mission of mindfulness and meditation, meant to showcase endurance, teach self-control, and foster his appreciation for the world as it is.
During the trek, Greg has photographed the United States and the people he has encountered. Traveling around 25 miles per day, Greg relied on convenience store snacks and the kindness of strangers to get by. Carrying one backpack with only one pair of clothes, he often resorted to sleeping outside and was virtually homeless for most of the trip. He’s been completely unplugged, meaning no electronics and no entertainment. He only has a camera. Oh, and a debit card, too — it’s the only way his father, Carl Hindy, can track his son’s progress since the two can’t talk due to the vow of silence. His dad has monitored Greg’s transactions and traced his route on an interactive map. Carl is also in charge of updating his son’s website and Facebook group page.
How did Greg get this idea? It started as an elective photography class and has turned into a complete career change. The former pre-med scholar was asked to capture a community in pictures for an assignment. He then stopped at a flea market to pick up some camera equipment — and never left. He returned week after week, developing a passion for what his father describes as, “capturing the pride and passion of ordinary people.’’
Shortly after graduation, Greg traded his dreams of medical school for the life of an artist, packing up a large-format film camera, and hitting the road just before his 22nd birthday. Before he left, he filmed the first installment of a two-part video that he will complete upon his arrival in Los Angeles July 9.
During his year of silence, Greg has had limited means of communication. He carried multiple spiral notebooks, which he used to write messages, record his everyday experiences and even place orders at restaurants. He also hand-wrote letters to his father regularly and sent him film to develop.
The project received a tremendous amount of support: it was funded by a Kick Starter project and a grant from the Chase Coggins Memorial Fund at Yale. There is also a PayPal account on the website where users could donate in exchange for print images from the trip.
Greg has had a few close-calls since his departure, many of which are detailed in the Facebook groupand in letters written to his dad. In Utah, he collapsed at a gas station from dehydration and food poisoning. Concerned bystanders found his father on Facebook and sent him a message.
There have been other challenges. Passersby have called the police upon finding Greg sleeping by the road. He was also asked to leave a church lawn when police found he did not have permission.
Greg has relied on strangers for showers and traveled with just one pair of clothes. In one early letter to his father, he wrote, “I shower whenever I get an offer from a stranger. I’ve gone three weeks without a shower.’’ He tries to do laundry every week or two.
But the overall response by the public has been positive, according to Carl. Families have opened up their homes to him, invited him to holiday dinners and given him a place to sleep. People have sent Carl Facebook messages, e-mails, and letters wishing Greg well and praising him. A stranger in Florida even contacted Carl to return a notebook Greg had lost in St. Augustine. The project has had what Carl calls a “unifying effect.’’
The challenges, Carl wrote on Facebook, are all part of the journey.
Greg will break his year of silence in Los Angeles on Wednesday by finishing the video essay he started before he left. As for future plans, Carl says they aren’t clear, though his son does plan to attend graduate school and make his way back to Yale to share his stories. For now, Greg will walk on.