Alumni News

Brother Manning and Wife Walk Across the World

Brother Manning and Wife Walk Across the World

As a boy, Robert Manning believed he would never see what lay west of his home state of Maryland.

Manning hailed from a remarkably rural part of the state, but when the time came to choose to attend college, he was ready. The young man possessed an adventurous spirit, and so the decision to attend Washington College was his start on the  journey away from the comfortable life he knew.

Though physically he may not have been very far from home, Manning says he grew more as a person through his time in college than he ever thought possible, especially his membership in Lambda Chi Alpha.

“As a boy from rural Maryland, college was a revelation to me and Lambda Chi was a formative influence on my education,” stated Manning.

Another book, the Mannings emphasize the accessibility of walking some of the world’s greatest trails.

Manning’s decision to join Lambda Chi  opened many doors for him, mainly teaching him the value of learning about individuals from all walks of life. He started to realize that there was a whole world outside of Maryland, and he was eager to see it.

When Manning graduated in 1968, the United States was in the height of the Vietnam War, so Manning served his time in the Coast Guard. He spent the next three years on active duty and  was stationed in San Fransisco. As Manning describes, it was an entirely new experience and further pushed him out of his comfort zone.

The real story, though, begins while Manning and his wife, Martha, were living in San Fransisco. The couple lived in the city, but often wanted to get away, so they started visiting Yosemite National Park. From there, a love of the natural world and a quest to walk across the world was born.

“The most intimate way to see and experience national parks is to walk through them,” said Manning. “That’s what my wife and I started doing, we started as novices and probably made every mistake, I’m sure, but we had a good time.”

Over the last 20 years, Manning and Martha have developed their passion for seeing the world on foot. They have hiked over 60 long-distance trails across the world and show no signs of slowing down.

The first book by Robert and Martha Manning, the couple describes the immense benefits of walking.

One of the favorite trails the Mannings have traversed was the Long Trail, located in Vermont. Manning taught at the University of Vermont after his time in the Coast Guard for 40 years, so the trails around the area became old friends. After completing the Long Trail (about 275 miles from the Massachusetts border to Canada), Manning and Martha asked themselves what more could they do.

The Long Trail was just the beginning of their 20 years of adventures, going everywhere from the famed John Muir trail in California to the Coast to Coast Trail in England.

In between hikes, the Mannings have written two books about the thrill of hiking throughout the world. The books, Manning says, aim to demonstrate the many benefits of hiking.

“It’s [hiking] just a much more genuine way to experience the world and appreciate it,” stated Manning. “You see so much more on foot, and you can see not only the landscape, but you are walking through it, you hear it-you hear the birds and the animals calling-you smell it, you can even taste it in the local foods, so it’s just such a rich way to experience the world.”

The Long Trail in Vermont

Manning and Martha have since been endorsed by the Sierra Club, Appalachian Mountain Club, and the American Hiking Society. They were also named “hiking ambassadors” by the American Hiking Society and present around the country about hiking.

“When we go on these long-distance walks, it’s an opportunity to get away from the hectic nature of our everyday lives and get back to something much more simple; it gives us an opportunity to talk and think about things that are much more important than everyday details of life,” said Manning.

Manning has come a long way from the rural boy in Maryland who had never traveled west of the state before college. Today, he is living his dream of exploring the world on foot, enjoying every mile along the way.

To learn more about Manning and his adventures, click here.

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