Yale Grad Takes Vow of Silence, Makes Cross-Country Trek

A former Ivy League student who was once so dedicated to academics he’d fall asleep on the floor with his homework is now funneling that commitment into something else — walking. In silence.

After a full year of walking, he made it coast to coast. This week marked the final stretch of a journey that started July 9, 2013.

Greg Hindy grew up in Nashua, New Hampshire, where he was high school valedictorian and went on to enter the pre-med program at Yale.

In his last year of college, Hindy enrolled in a photography class, unaware that it would change his life. Now he's on a cross-country journey with a large-format film camera, and he hasn't breathed a word since before he left after graduation last July.

“It’s his reaction against all of the 24-hour news cycle and reign of fear, and all the things that we live with,” said his father, Carl Hindy, explaining that Greg Hindy’s mission is one of mindfulness and meditation.

It all started with a class project. The assignment was to capture a community in pictures, and Greg Hindy planned to photograph a church in New Haven. He stopped at a flea market to pick up some camera equipment – and never made it to the church.

He instead became immersed in the market culture and returned week after week. There, he completed his project and went on to display the photos at the New Haven Free Public Library.

Carl Hindy said his son’s pictures capture the pride and passion of ordinary people.

Before long, Greg Hindy traded his dreams of medical school for the life of an artist.

"Most of us are identity adopters, but Greg is an identity former," said Carl Hindy, a psychologist.

Funded by a Kick Starter project and grant from the Chase Coggins Memorial Fund at Yale, Greg Hindy set out to create his artistic identity on a walking trip from New Hampshire to Los Angeles.

"I am abstaining from just about all forms of entertainment other than the thoughts inside my head," Greg Hindy wrote on his Web site. "I hope to better understand the endurance-performance works of artists who came before me."

He's completely unplugged – no technology, no media, just Greg Hindy and his camera.

And a debit card. It's how Carl Hindy tracks his son’s progress across the nation – by monitoring debit card transactions and tracing his route on an interactive map.

Friends, family and everyone else can follow along on Facebook. Greg Hindy’s group is growing daily as the people he encounters log on to learn more about the silent young man on a cross-country quest.

Carl Hindy said his son travels about 25 miles per day and survives on convenience store snacks and the kindness of strangers.

That kindness came into play when Greg Hindy lost a notebook in Florida and a resident of St. Augustine found Carl Hindy's number and called to return it.

It was also evident as Greg Hindy made his way through Utah. Dehydration or food poisoning made him weak, and he collapsed at a gas station. Concerned bystanders found Carl Hindy on Facebook and sent a message to let him know.

A week later, Greg Hindy had Easter dinner near Salt Lake City with a family he'd just met.

"Everybody has gotten involved in different ways," Carl Hindy explained. He said it wasn't intended to be a "hands-across-America" project but no one could have predicted its unifying effect.

"It's sort of the wishes and dreams of America, I think, projected onto him," Carl Hindy added.

Greg Hindy set off on July 9, just before his 22nd birthday, and should arrive in LA around the same time this year. He'll break his year of silence by finishing the video essay he began before he left. Right now he’s in Idaho, trekking the same trail as Lewis and Clark.

It's not clear what the future holds, but Carl Hindy said his son plans to attend graduate school and will make his way back to Yale to share what he learned on the road.

In the meantime, Greg Hindy remains "totally committed to something that most people would think of as not an accomplishment – walking."

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