After trekking 30 miles from sun up until sun down in the pouring rain, Chris Andrews arrived in Oxford.
His feet ached, his clothes and cart were sopping, and he was only a third of the way through his journey.
“Oxford was like a haven for me,” he said.
Andrews, 22, made a weekend pitstop in Oxford during his 3,000-mile, 200-day journey. It’s all on foot and it’s all for a cause. He began his trip just south of Washington D.C. in Fairview Beach on the Potomac River.
Andrews wants people to be on their phones a little less but talk to people a lot more.
Born in Argentina, Andrews has lived all over the world from Chile to Mexico to the east coast and Michigan. He also studied in Scotland, but claims Suttons Bay, Michigan as home.
“It’s the pinky of the state,” Andrews laughed. “Down here I always use that metaphor and everyone’s like, ‘What they heck are you talking about?’ But when you’re in Michigan or on the east coast, they’re like, ‘Oh yeah.’ They get it.”
He left the pinky to study business management and Spanish at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. When he graduated in July, his degree came with a “What’s next?” decision.
“About a year and a half ago, I was becoming so connected to what was on my phone and what was on my tablet,” Andrews said. “The digital world was starting to sort-of overshadow my face-to-face interactions with the people around me. I started become disconnected in that sense.”
He said he noticed it most at the dinner table or hanging out with friends, when everyone was looking at their phones instead of each other.
This observation is what started his campaign, Let’s Talk.
“I thought a journey was a good way to capture people’s attention in a positive way because not only was I traveling and getting the chance to speak to people about the issue, but I was getting a bunch of different perspectives,” Andrews said.
Let’s Talk. is all about improving people’s quality of life and finding balance.
“It’s all about that other side, the positive side of the coin of what you learn, how you grow, and how communities get stronger when you invest in taking the time, face the fear, and have those face-to-face conversations,” Andrews said.
He is promoting his journey through social media, like a website, Instagram and Tumblr, all of which his girlfriend Emma, is helping manage.
Andrews said a lot of people say the idea of promoting his campaign through social media is a paradox, but he said whenever he talks about his message he emphasizes the point of balance.
He even claims to be a proud user of social media.
“I am grateful for my ability to be able to talk to my parents or to my friends who are across the globe or across the country. It’s a beautiful thing,” he said. “I also love my ability to inspire people to live a healthier life in terms of how they balance their means of communication. In that way, I don’t think it’s a paradox.”
Originally, Andrews wanted to go straight across the country. He thought it’d be super easy and he’d get to go through places like Colorado, where it’d be beautiful this time of year.
“But then one day, I realized it was going to be freezing cold and I would freeze to death,” he laughed. “So, somewhere along the line, I made the decision that I needed to come down South.”
Andrews had never been to the Southern region of the United States but he heard Southern people were hospitable, nice, and easy to talk to. All of those have proven true during his stay in Oxford, he said.
“Every inch of the Square is beautiful,” Andrews said. “Not only that, but the town is historically rich, and it’s real easy to talk to people here.”
Andrews had traveled a long 120-mile stretch on the Natchez Trace from Nashville to get to Oxford, spending two-and-a-half weeks surrounded by rural farms. Being back in a town with a university-feel and so much energy was exciting for him.
During his stay, Andrews warmed his belly with Big Bad Breakfast, and met some Ole Miss students there. He spoke to three sixth grade classes at Oxford Middle School about the Let’s Talk. message. He also made a pitstop at Square Books. He bought the book “Songwriters on Songwriting” by Paul Zollo, because he also likes to write music.
“I went to the bookstore and bought this massive book in the bookshop,” Andrew said, pulling the orange hardback book out of his cart. “I needed to invest a little more energy in not getting sucked into my phone when I was in my tent. I thought I could buy this big book even though it’s the bulkiest thing ever.”
He wants to read a couple of pages every night to help keep him centered mentally.
“The person in the bookshop was like, ‘As you go, you can rip out all the pages as you read that way the book gets lighter and it incentivizes you to read it.’”
Along with his new book, his three-wheeled pet carrier holds a small guitar, sleeping bag, tent, food, water, medical supplies, and other gear. Some of the more special objects in his carrier are a stone and some knick knacks.
His celebration at the end of his journey will be throwing the knick knacks in the ocean, jumping in with them, and maybe enjoying an ice cold beer. Then, it will be time for him to head home.
Andrews said the plane ride home at the end of his journey will be the best plane ride ever.
“It might feel demoralizing,” he said. “I might be like, ‘Wow, I just traveled what I traveled in eight months in a couple of hours,’ but it will be amazing.”
As of today, he’s traveled 1,000 miles and more than two million steps and is heading toward the western deserts and plateaus of Texas and New Mexico.
“It’s a dream of mine to finish the trip, so I’m taking it one step at a time,” Andrews said smiling with a twinkle in his light blue eyes.