Clarification: The original version of this article was misleading. Chris Walker will begin his bike ride in a couple of weeks. The original headline was also misleading. Walker will document the lives of leaders for his project.
A year and a half on a bicycle through 16 foreign countries is only a couple weeks away for Chris Walker.
In March, the recent UCLA alumnus will embark on a 500-day biking trip from Paris to Hong Kong ““ searching for and documenting the lives of entrepreneurs and influential leaders in communities along the way.
He and his friend Morgan Hartley, a recent University of Chicago alumnus, plan to create a documentary of their experiences.
“We wanted it to be more than just two (graduates) who are vagabonding around Eurasia on their bikes,” Walker said. “What we’d like to do is document the rise of expanding economies in Eurasia on a “˜micro-human’ level.”
The project is called the “Postulate One,” after a geometric term. Plans for the trip evolved from both men’s involvement in the entrepreneurial scene in college. Walker won third place in a Startup Weekend challenge where teams competed to launch a company in 54 hours, and Hartley co-founded Moneythink, an organization that teaches inner city kids the importance of saving money.
During his last quarter this fall, Walker often thought about what he would do with the free time he would have after graduating. He originally pondered the idea of a biking trip from Los Angeles to New York, just as something to do in the spring.
It was around that time that Walker received a call from Hartley. He wanted Walker to fly to Chicago to hear his plans for a longer journey ““ biking from Paris to Hong Kong.
After staying with Hartley for a week and talking it over, Walker was on board with the plan. The two also decided they wanted it to be more than just a long bike trip.
In the course of the ride, they will be looking for individuals who are influential in their communities ““ regardless of wealth or power, Walker said.
The bike route changed many times, but Walker and Hartley ultimately decided to travel by plane over Pakistan and Iran because of safety concerns. In general, personal safety, in addition to nourishment and health, will be their greatest concerns on the road, Walker said.
They plan to make frequent stops along the way. People have offered to house them in certain places throughout the route, Walker said.
The project will be sponsored by apparel companies and global entrepreneurship fellowship programs. Chris Husa, the owner of an athletic wear company that donated money and a variety of cycling jerseys for the trip, said sponsoring the trip made sense because it’s similar to the company in its focus on entrepreneurship.
“(The trip itself is) like starting a company ““ you’ve got to assess the risks, you’ve got to figure out how to manage those risks, you’ve got to attract capital, and you’ve got to build relationships,” Husa said.
After putting up a website for the project in November, Walker revealed his plan for the trip to his friends and family. He said his mom burst into tears and his dad was speechless.
“In a lot of ways, this trip can be seen as selfish,” he said. “It’s me physically going on this trip, but it’s bringing a lot of other people along emotionally,”
In Hartley’s case, his mom, Loren Nielsen, is a film producer. Nielsen was the one who came up with the idea of documenting the trip, Walker said.
“I realized there’s so much great opportunity for really interesting video and putting together a story about it,” Nielsen said.
Walker and Hartley would be producing a lot of content themselves, and at seven major locations, a one-person film crew would fly out to meet them to produce an in-depth story.
With a little over a month to go, Walker embarked on a weeklong bicycle trip from Malibu to San Francisco on Sunday. It’s part of his physical training for the thousands of miles he’ll be biking over the next year and a half.
His friend and former roommate, fourth-year chemical engineering student Chi Shing Tsui, said he wasn’t surprised to learn about the trip.
“This is something that everyone wants to do, but never does it,” Tsui said. “But if you know Chris at all, you wouldn’t be surprised that he’s actually doing this.”