Interview with Polly back in 2005

1. How many miles do you walk each day?

I walk between 15 and 20 miles a day depending on my mood, the weather, or the destination, (e.g. if I know there's an ice-cream place another three miles down the road I'll keep walking!). Generally speaking though I have a plan and people are expecting me in a certain town, so I walk with a destination almost every day.

2. Why do you want to walk around the world?

I've always liked to challenge myself mentally and physically, and taking the human spirit to the limits. For some people that means climbing Mt. Everest, biking across the country, or backpacking through Europe. My challenge is the walk. Every day I face cultural complications like foreign foods, the languages, government restrictions, adverse weather.

3. Where do you sleep?

The picture in my head before I left was that I would be camping nearly every single night. Although once I got on the road I was pleasantly surprised to find people coming out of the woodwork to offer me accommodation. Whether it's a motel along the road or a family that lives near by, even breast cancer organizations along the route have been very accommodating.

But the greatest stroke of luck is when Lions Clubs started adopting me off the street and putting me up in their homes. Each country is different though, when I entered Europe I did indeed act on that original picture in my head of camping nearly every single night.

4. Where does the money go?

In each country the funds raised stay in that country. Usually there is a national breast cancer organization that I work with and spread the word that they want spread. I also meet with them prior to starting to be educated as to any cultural sensitivities I need to be aware of.  
In those countries that don’t have national breast cancer organizations I worked with the Lions to start education campaigns, sometimes with the help of local government.

And it should be noted that I don’t do fundraising everywhere. There are many places I have simply stuck to the awareness work and not fundraising. Sometimes it’s not viable, i.e., India, and sometimes I don’t have the capabilities, i.e. when Lions aren’t involved. 

5. How do you carry everything?

B.O.B. (Beast of Burden) bike trailers, along with John Cutter designer of bikes and NorthFace tents and backpacks, custom made me a stroller to carry my gear in. Both Phil, the owner of B.O.B., and John enthusiastically accepted this challenge and developed a hi-tech, one-of-a-kind stroller that will carry up to 70 pounds of gear. It's got nifty pockets, water bottle holders, compression straps, a transparent map pocket so I can always see where I'm supposed to be, it's even got a parking brake! I call it Bob.

6. Can we walk with you?

Sure! Anyone (well, almost anyone…) can join me along the route and I certainly enjoy seeing breast cancer survivors along the way. I've had people join me for fifteen minutes, an hour, four days, even a month. What I have to be very careful of is groups of people joining me on anything but a paved sidewalk or trail. Groups walking on roads is too dangerous.

7. Have you ever taken time off?

During those first couple of years I rarely took time off. Naturally I became quite frazzled. About every two months I would take a week off and stay in one place. I’ve taken break in the middle of my last Winter (which can be pretty tough in Minnesota) to spend extra time there with all my friends and family including fulfilling my Auntie duties with Rose (3) and Eamon (1) both born since I began my walk.

8. Don't you get bored just walking?

Surprisingly, boredom has yet to become an issue. The terrain, the people, and the cultures are continuously changing before my very eyes. I stop and chat with farmers, road workers, commuters, store owners, gas station attendants, etc. and find out about their lifestyles in these remote and diverse areas. The education never ends. Walking as a mode of travel is the world's best university.

9. What does your mother think of this?

Polly's Mom: When Polly first mentioned the walk I thought, "Well, that will never happen." But her enthusiasm, commitment and organizational skills have brought us all along behind her, cheering. I still go through some "oh my god" moments if I think too much, but very few people are blessed with such a bold and generous vision. How could I not support that?

10. What sort of diet do you have?

The first two weeks, as my body was getting used to the daily grind, I was eating anything and everything that got in my path. Once I hit New Zealand a couple months later my body had acclimated, but I didn’t realize it. The families I stayed with fed me a nightly dose of potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes. By the time I hit the southern tip of NZ I had gained #$@&! Pounds!! (I'll never tell…)

Now that my body knows the daily routine I’m careful of what I eat. I’m also fully aware that it’s me and only me that says what goes in my body.  I follow sort of a Zone diet where I stay away from the starchy stuff - potatoes, pasta, bread, chips - and try to get my intake of veggies, fruits, fish and proteins.

Having said that, one of the toughest parts of walking is the eating. You’re sort of held prisoner by simply what’s available.  In India I wasn’t going to eat fish or veggies, and in Italy I was hardly going to stay away from the pizza.

Pharmacist's Ultimate Health in St. Paul, Minnesota, supplies me with vitamin supplements throughout the duration of the walk. I take a women's specific Multi vitamin, that's loaded with all the vitamin B's, I take extra calcium, extra vitamin C, extra vitamin E, glucosamine to keep my joints and ligaments happy, and grape seed to help keep those free radicals under control. It's worked like a charm. Even the doctors have been amazed how well my body has kept up so far. Thank you Pharmacist's Ultimate Health!

11. Don't you get scared out on the road by yourself?

There have been a few hairy moments over the years but I’m constantly aware of my surroundings, trust my instincts, and carry pepper spray.

The traffic becomes stressful at times when I'm walking on a busy motorway, realizing that I constantly have to keep an eye out for the drivers who aren't paying very close attention. (There are a LOT of them!) Whenever I get an opportunity to get on to quieter roads - even dirt roads - I get a little hop in my step!

As far as mean people trying to harm me, it's a matter of making smart decisions, e.g. contact the police on a regular basis just to keep in touch, and don't let people see you entering the forest by yourself. Wear dark clothes when you don't want people to see you and florescent clothes when you want traffic to see you. If I see a parked car along side the road, generally I cross to the other side. And I rarely tell people (except the lions and police) the exact road I'm taking. Knock wood!

12. Do you ever accept rides?

I will accept a ride at the end of the day from my hosts for that night. But we always mark the exact spot where I stop - usually with a ribbon or a pile of rocks on the road - then they drop me at that exact spot the next morning. So I walk every step.

13. Do you get lonely?

Although I fully expected to have bouts of loneliness, it has been quite the contrary. In fact, one of the biggest struggles I've been having is trying find time alone. I stay with families at night, go to fundraising events, give speeches, go to schools, people stop on the road all the time and chat with me. There are news interviews, people walk with me for the day etc. I do enjoy being with everyone, but I do have to find more time for myself to get that better balance.

14. How do you pay for this trip?

There are many sponsors assisting with the GlobalWalk for Breast Cancer. These sponsors haven't given money, but they do provide many products and services I need. (Just take a look at the Sponsor page) But at the end of the day there’s no short cut, I worked loooong and hard, at some points FOUR jobs at a time prior to leaving in order to do this.

15. You’re nearing the end, what are you going to do when you finish?

The short answer is I don’t know. I’m keeping my ear to the grindstone and will have to hit the ground running. After being unemployed for five years I don’t have the luxury of resting before jumping into the work force again.

16. Will you write a book?

I’d love to, there are some great stories to tell. I do know the publishing industry though is going through a tough time so no promises it can be done.

17. What has been your favorite place?

Tough one. I love the scenery of New Zealand, the friendliness of Australians, the cleanliness of Singapore, and oh boy, Thailand was fabulous.  The prices in India are great, Turkey has great food, scenery and culture, and northern Europe has great bike trails.  Can’t forget England with those great pubs!

My favorite foreign land is probably Turkey, I just adored it and highly recommend it. The place I miss the most is England (No one is more surprised than me!) but, politically incorrect as it may be, I think there’s no place better than the good ol’ USA.

18. What countries did you walk through?

USA: I walked from Vail, Colorado through Arizona and California New Zealand  (Cape Reinga to Bluff) Australia (Melbourne to Port Douglas) Asia route: Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Turkey Europe: Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, smidgen of Switzerland, a smidgen of Netherlands, Belgium, UK and Ireland. USA/Canada: NYC, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, down the Mississippi, across MO and KS and home to Vail.

119. What kind of weather have you had to plod through?

I have walked through major flooding (Brisbane, Australia), lightening storms (Colorado), 110-degree heat (Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Turkey Greece),  hail (Colorado, Arizona), a 7.2 Earthquake (California), forest fires (Australia).   Oh, and let’s not forget the snow in Scotland and Iowa! The good news is that I happened to hit the sunniest, warmest winter in Ireland’s history!

20. What did you do before you started this walk?

I’ve worked in radio broadcasting, advertising, the travel industry and hotel industry.

21. What message do you talk about regarding breast cancer?

1) End misconceptions that people have of breast cancer. People seem to think if breast cancer doesn’t run in their family they don’t need to worry about it. FACT is that 80% of women diagnosed with breast cancer have NO KNOWN RISK FACTORS.

2) Woman have got to learn to be their own advocates when it comes to their health. If you have a lump or any change in your breasts please go to a doctor and assure it gets tested. Don’t just get an opinion, i.e. “You’re too young to get breast cancer so we’ll just keep an eye on it for six months,” or “It doesn’t run in your family so don’t worry about it.”  EVERY lump should be tested and if your doctor doesn’t want to test it please go see another doctor.