Woodwalk Reflection


The Woodwalk is complete, over and finished. The walk was a success, people were impacted and changed, and awareness of what women go through just to cook was delivered on a national scale. The dust has settled now and I sit at my desk wondering what I should be doing with myself. 10 days of walking with 50-70 pounds of wood on my back all day is a life-changing experience to say the least. Watch the Woodwalk Feature film here. Check out these images from the last day.

As I reflect back on the most difficult challenge physically, mentally and emotionally of my life there are several moments that stand out and will forever be etched in my memory.

The first moment is when my dad and I honestly wanted to quit on only the third day of the walk. We were exhausted, our feet were wrecked, we were drained and somewhat on our own as the rest of the crew was dealing with car troubles. We wanted to drop our wood bundles, kick them, spit on them and just throw in the towel and had we not told all of our friends and family that we were going all the way to LA we probably would have. But there was a moment where we stopped by a beach just south of Carlsbad and sat staring at the ocean. Its incredible how much perspective you get when gazing at something so vast and so much bigger than yourself. As I looked at the waves crashing on the sand, I felt overwhelming thankfulness for what I've been blessed with and how fortunate I am. All I had to endure was 10 days of pain and then I could go back to my nice house in San Diego, my nice office chair with lumbar support and going out to eat at little Italian places around San Diego with delicious pasta and risotto. And yet in stark contrast, billions of people would not know where their next meal would come from and would have to repeat the grueling, harsh realities of every day life again and again. At that moment I feel I had a lot of clarity break through the self-pity and pain I was feeling. I knew we had to finish the walk for the needy in this world and specifically for the nearly 3 billion people that cook every meal over an open fire. There wasn't really an option of quitting.

The second moment that really stands out in my mind is the day after we wanted to quit and my best friend, Caleb (who you can see do a little complaining in the Woodwalk Video), flew out just to walk with me and support me. It tangibly showed me the incredible value of relationships, coming alongside a friend in their challenges, whether that be in life or walking with wood on your back, and then not just encouraging them but walking with them through those challenges. Its one thing to  send a text and encourage you or post on your facebook wall, which no doubt is much appreciated, but to pick up a 70 pound bundle of wood and walk takes the meaning of friendship to new heights.

The final and perhaps best moment of the whole walk is what you might imagine: finishing it. The feeling of relief when I took that bundle off my back slammed it on the ground and then gave my dad a bear hug is unmatched. I really don't think I can begin to describe it to you and do it justice. My father and I felt like we had been through hell to get to LA and in all honesty, the only reason we made it was because of my sister, my mom, friends, family and people like Edith (Massai Kenyan woman you see in the video).

Many people have asked me "So what's next? When's the next woodwalk?" I nearly fall over and pass out at the thought of another woodwalk like that, but I can tell you this: The Paradigm Project is determined, committed and willing to do whatever it takes to get 5 million stoves to 25 million people by 2020. We also know that we can't do that alone and we need your help. We need you to share the story of what women go through just to cook, we need you to mobilize your friends and networks to fund stoves and together we can shift the paradigm and stop open fire cooking.

I'd also like to thank some amazing groups and people for what they did for us during the walk: Jedidiah, Invisible Children, Nika Water, People of the Second ChanceThe Modern Gypsies, Fifty and Fifty, Elle CommunicationsUCSD, Space 15 Twenty, Little Hurricane and the host of families and friends that fed us and took us in along the way. THANK YOU.

Thank you everyone for the tweets, the honks along the PCH while we walked, for funding stoves and for the overwhelming support and encouragement that reignites our passion and keeps us going.

--Greg Spencer, Director of Marketing and Social Media, The Paradigm Project

Photos and video by Austin Mann and

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