Yale Grad Finishes Trek Across U.S. in Silence

By Ari Mason
|  Tuesday, Jul 15, 2014  |  Updated 11:46 AM PDT
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He did it! On Wednesday, Yale graduate Greg Hindy completed a 9,000-mile cross country walking trip – in silence – as part of an independent art project.

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One year and 9,000 miles after embarking on the cross-country walking trip that changed his life – and the lives of those he encountered – Greg Hindy arrived in California and uttered his first words in 12 months.

The Yale grad kicked off his yearlong project on July 9, 2013 – his birthday – with a YouTube video explaining what he was about to do. Hindy has spent the past year on his feet, in silence, walking from coast to coast and taking photographs.

He abstained from technology – no phone, no computer, no GPS to get him through the mountains of Utah and the deserts of New Mexico. Just a map and a large-format film camera.

Greg Hindy took his vow of silence on camera the afternoon he began to walk. Again, the camera was rolling when he spoke for the first time in a year.

He spliced together the "before" and "after" videos in a powerful composite that shows a young man markedly changed by his contemplative year on the road.

In the "before" segment, Greg Hindy struggles to identify the inspiration behind his walking trip, explaining that he needs to walk in order to better understand why he feels compelled to do so.

From the "after" video, it's evident he found the answers he sought. His voice, at first choked and uncertain, gains energy and strength.

"It's about patience through thirst; it's about solitude through desert; it's about endurance through stillness; it's about being pardoned by pavement," Greg Hindy explains, his voice cracking and charged with emotion. "It's about being humbled by rain; it's about being sheltered by meditation; it's about moving through space – the human body – and time to think. It's about seeking by wandering and it's about speaking through silence, unspoken thoughts like vapor."

Greg Hindy sought to live his art, to become it, and although the project was very personal, he gained a loyal following on social media.

His father, Carl Hindy, tracked Greg’s progress by monitoring his debit card activity and building a map to show his son’s route. Carl Hindy set up a Facebook page so friends and family could follow along.

At the time of publication, Greg’s page had nearly 4,500 members, a number far beyond everyone’s expectations.

The list grew and continued to grow as word spread about the Ivy League grad who gave up dreams of medical school for a year on the road, propelled by his art.

Carl Hindy said his son had "a bit of an incredulous look about him" when he learned of the digital footprint he has left.

It wasn’t all fun and games. Toward the beginning, he endured shin splints, and at times he was low on water.

He also thought might die at one point, according to his father. Snow, hail and 50-mph winds pummeled him at Zion National Park in Utah. The cart he pulled to carry his belongings was not meant for such rugged terrain.

But he made it. Greg Hindy arrived on his friend's doorstep in Murietta, California, at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Family and friends from Yale flew in to see him. But before they could celebrate, Greg Hindy retreated to a private room. The camera was rolling when he spoke for the first time, in the style of a home video he created before he left.

Carl Hindy said at first, his son's words were halted and felt almost "violent" after a year without speech.

“When we first spoke to him you know it struck me that his speech was so soft and labored, it was such work to get sounds out, it was halting soft like he was struggling a little to retrieve the words, it was actually a little kind of scary at first," Carl Hindy explained.

But as he and Greg Hindy's friends sat together, gently asking questions and "giving [Greg] space to talk, over the course of two hours, it just seemed to me that he was sort of revivified," Carl Hindy said.

He spent Thursday with friends at the Getty Museum in San Jose, and his younger brother George was arrived in California Friday for a weeklong visit.

"He's really in great shape with lots of ideas about his photography," Carl Hindy said, adding that his son has "lots of observations of every sort about even things like the social order of the homeless. He very much fit in with the homeless."

He plans to walk home to New Hampshire. And he's keeping his long hair and beard to "better fit in with the people of the road," Carl Hindy said.

Only this time, he'll take a more direct route and employ the help of modern technology.

He's due to arrive by Thanksgiving.

Although Greg Hindy himself will steer clear of Facebook, his father hopes to mediate an online question-and-answer session so Greg can share his experiences with those who followed him every step of the way.

"He really is back to life," Carl Hindy said.

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