Yalie’s year of silence ends in California

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Greg Hindy with his camera at Victoria Beach, California.

Greg Hindy’s wordless wanderings are all behind him now.

On July 9, the 2013 Yale graduate completed a year-long, 8,894-mile silent trek around America. His only means of communication was a notebook and pencil, as he meandered the nation with a wheeled cart full of camera equipment and personal gear.

The year of no-talk travel began on Hindy’s 22nd birthday, in Nashua, New Hampshire; it ended on his 23rd birthday, in Los Angeles. A bunch of his Yale friends were there to greet him.

Watch Greg Hindy’s video about his year-long journey.

“It’s about patience,” said Hindy in an emotional, 12-minute video he posted after the completion of his walk. “It’s about endurance through stillness; it’s about being hardened by pavement; it’s about being humbled by rain. It’s about being sheltered by meditation. It’s about … it’s about moving through space with a human body, with time to think. It’s about seeking by wandering, and it’s about speaking through silence.”

Hindy was inspired by the Vietnamese performance artist Tehching Hsieh, known for his series of One Year Performances, and planned his silent quest during his senior year at Yale. It will be the basis for a performance art and photography project that Hindy will shape in the months to come. He said he kept the parameters of the project intentionally vague, so that events along the walk would unfold naturally.

To be sure, there were many events. Hindy experienced early injury in Connecticut, exhaustion in the Western desert, and random acts of kindness from Ohio to Oregon. He walked in snow, heat, rain, mud, wind, and swarms of insects. At one point, in the desert, he didn’t shower for 50 days, and he had fungus growing in his navel. Hindy’s curly, brown beard grew to be as unfettered as his time on the road.

Lisa Kereszi, director of undergraduate studies in art at the Yale School of Art, said she got to know Hindy as he was developing his artistic identity. “Greg was working with some pretty deep, psychological stuff as a cognitive science major,” Kereszi said. “I look forward to see how he has grown and what pictures he brings back from this undoubtedly amazing year.”

Hindy attracted a national following. His father, New Hampshire psychologist Carl Hindy, created a Facebook group for friends and people who encountered Greg in the past year. It has more than 5,400 members.

Carl Hindy was able to track his son’s movements via debit card transactions at grocery stores and sandwich shops.

There were newspaper stories, TV news pieces, and a radio spot devoted to the trip. A documentary film crew tagged along for part of the journey, too.

His itinerary might make even an unflappable GPS lady sigh in exasperation. He sauntered south from New Hampshire to Connecticut, where painful shin splints delayed him for a week. Then it was on to Ohio. From there, he walked to Florida, hugged part of the Gulf Coast, and popped back north to Tennessee.

Before long, he’d hoofed it southwest to Texas. Hindy then proceeded to Arizona, up to Utah (where he came down with food poisoning) and continued north to Montana. He took Lewis and Clark’s route over the Rocky Mountains into Washington.

Finally, he made his way south to California.

 “My body is just a tumbleweed that cannot move without the wind, and spends a great deal of time stuck under bridges,” Hindy wrote in a post that accompanied his video.

Now it’s time for Hindy to return home – on foot. But this time, there will be no vow of silence. He’ll not only walk the walk, he’ll talk the talk.

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Jim Shelton: james.shelton@yale.edu, 203-361-8332