Walking is both a human necessity and a wonderful, therapeutic experience. Many people report incredible weight loss and improved health markers from simply adding a leisurely stroll into their daily routine.
So as a bit of trivia, what is the absolute farthest a human could walk on Earth without hitting a body of water? And if you could theoretically walk it, how long would it take?
The United States is a fairly large country, and the walk from coast to coast would take months. Remember Forrest Gump and his laps across America? One trip from Georgia to California would have taken him somewhere between three and five months to cover the 2,300 miles. Had he run from California to Maine, instead, the trip would take over six months and clock in at around 3,500 miles.
The world’s longest walk is much larger than the U.S.
An impressive feat of the feet, no doubt, but neither route even begins to compare to other straight-line possibilities across the globe. The Pan-American highway, for example, runs from Argentina to Alaska and covers more than 19,000 miles. What about the Panama Canal you might ask? Well this hypothetical trip takes into account a bridge or lock that a human being could traverse.
To travel the entire Pan-American highway, which is really just a massive collection of different roads, you’d eventually have to get out and walk. Columbian and Panamanian jungles without roads would block your car’s access for about 60 miles. The stretch is known as the Darién Gap; and yes, it has been walked before by a few brave adventurers.
British sailor George Meegan began the walk from Argentina to Alaska in 1977. The 19,000 mile journey took him upwards of six years to complete as part of a multi-part trek. U.S. Army Ranger Holly Harrison also made the walk quite recently in 2018. Harrison took a more direct, 14,481-mile route, finishing in just 530 days.
Another legitimate contender for the ‘world’s longest walk’ is the journey from Cape Town, South Africa to Magadan, Russia. That walk covers close to 14,000 miles and can theoretically be traversed by humans all the way. This journey, however, would require a turn northeast.
So what’s the longest straight-line journey possible?
In 2018, researchers determined that the longest straight-line walk on Earth was between China and Portugal. But a caveat exists; because of the curved nature of the globe, the path actually looks curved when laid flat on a traditional map. To traverse the near-7,000 miles, a human would have to cross many absurdly unreasonable mountains of Central Asia. So don’t get any delusions of grandeur. This answer is nothing more than fun trivia.
“The authors [of the project] admit that it was a recreational exercise, and they have a paragraph of caveats, using a great circle route is widely perceived as the shortest land distance between two points on our ellipsoidal planet,” Dan Cole, who is chief cartographer and GIS coordinator at the Smithsonian Institution.