Woman who walked around world inspires
September 9, 2010
At first glance, “3 mph” doesn’t seem like a riveting book. After all, it’s about, well, a woman walking around the world, going 3 mph. But as soon as you begin reading, it’s clear that Polly Letofsky’s story is not only engaging, but also well told and full of bizarre characters.
“3 mph: The Adventures of One Woman’s Walk Around the World” chronicles Letofsky’s five-year, four-continent and 14,000-mile expedition, which became larger than life when she intertwined her childhood dream with her drive to increase breast cancer awareness. In fact, she raised more than $250,000 for various breast cancer programs throughout the world.
When Letofsky was 12 (and lived in Minneapolis), a Minnesota man became the first to walk around the world. The accomplishment inspired her to do the same, so 25 years later, she left her job as sales manager at Antlers in Vail and started walking.
Her soulful story reads much like “Eat, Pray, Love,” in terms of its open-heartedness – as well as its parallel theme of following one’s whims and passions, without much of a plan. Letofsky didn’t know who her support team would be or how she would find shelter. But, her enthusiasm produced a snowball effect; she drew people who volunteered to support her cause – whether she wanted them or not.
Within the first country or two, her nonprofit manager suspiciously pushes Letofsky’s family and friends out of the inner circle and ultimately ends up keeping Letofsky’s money; another woman volunteers to be a support driver but is still battling alcoholism; another confesses that she hasn’t had sex with her husband, who’s gay, for six years; and yet another becomes Letofsky’s lesbian stalker, obsessed with proving Letofsky is gay, even though there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary.
It’s these relationships, as well as the way in which Letofsky reveals her thoughts (sometimes humorously, such as when she walks into Australia, a country teaming with creatures that apparently want to kill her), that makes the book an inspirational one that’s hard to put down.
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And then, there was Sept. 11, 2001. Two years into her journey, while she happened to be in her first Muslim country (with a Jewish name, talking about breasts), 911 changed perspectives. Still, she persevered.
“I found walking and traveling to be the best ‘university’ I could ever have attended,” she said. “I met people under the best of times and the worst of times. My new friends included people from all walks of life – poets, politicians, country singers, olive growers, pig farmers – even a female bomb maker in Australia. By going from home to home and village to village, I learned so much about each country’s culture and its people. I also learned to appreciate what it really means to have freedom of religion and freedom of speech.”