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20 MILLION STEPS: The First Person to Walk Around the World

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"I walked 20 million steps, figuring 31 steps per 100 feet. I wore out 21 pairs of shoes but I proved something to myself: If a human being makes up his mind, is determined, sets goals, he can walk around the world."

Dave Kunst

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On October 20th 1970, Dave and John Kunst embarked on one of the greatest adventures ever done by man. A 14,500 mile circumnavigation of the globe on foot was to be completed. It had never been done before. Well, at least as far as we know. Tragically, John Kunst was shot and killed by bandits in Afghanistan, but his brother Dave would commemorate his death by finishing the epic journey with another of his brothers, Pete. The returned to their starting point on October 5th, 1974.

They left Waseca Minnesota with a mule called Willie Makeit and began the first leg of their journey, to New York. No great organization, no aid, just their legs and simple supplies. 21 pairs of shoes. 13 countries, 4 continents. 4 years, 3 months and 16 days. More than 20 million steps.

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Once they reached the Big Apple, the brothers flew to Portugal, leaving Willie behind as it was too expensive to take him along. In Portugal they encountered extremely friendly people who took them in and offered warm meals and smiles. They also acquired another mule, whom they named - perhaps not so originally - Willie Makeit II. Their good fortune continued in Spain and France, where they were frequently recognized by locals from their appearances in regional newspapers. In Monaco, they experienced on of the highlights of their trip, a prize meeting with Princess Grace.

They then pushed on through Bulgaria and Turkey, and after being denied access to enter Russia, continued on through Iran and Pakistan and Afghanistan until they reached India. It was during their walk across Afghanistan that John Kunst was killed by bandits in a remote part of the country. Dave was also shot, but miraculously managed to survive by playing dead during the attack and then spending four agonizing months recovering.

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Once fit to walk again, the remaining brothers pushed on to India. Here they were again given the red light; they couldn't pass through Burma and were thus forced to fly south, to Australia. This was indeed an intense twist to their epic; a 3000 mile walk across the foreboding Australian outback would not be easy. To make matters more intense, Pete decided to return home, leaving Dave to continue alone, at least with the company of a third mule.

Any walk across the world is inevitably going to be full of trials and tribulations. While crossing Australia, Dave's mule died of thirst and left to cart his supplies with a wagon. After months of struggling he was on the verge of abandoning his load when he fortuitously met Jennie Samuel, a humble schoolteacher from Perth. Jenni agreed to help Dave by hauling his supplies with her truck, with Dave trailing along. In a kind of fairy tale post-ending to the story, Dave and Jenni married in 2013 and are still together.

Kunst then flew to Los Angeles to complete the final leg of his around-the-world sojourn, trotting back to Waseca, Minnesota, after having set foot a little over four years later. A Guinness World record. Well done sir.

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Dave Kunst presenting on the first part of his around-the-world walk

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