Naropa student walks from Illinois to attend fall classes

Students around the country are packing up all their belongings into minivans or trucks and moving to where they will start fall classes in just a few weeks. Nigel Knutzen, 30, is not one of those students.

When the St. Louis native found out he had been accepted into Boulder’s Naropa University, he had a dilemma of how to get there. With no car and $30 in his pocket he realized “walking is free.”

Knutzen decided to walk from campus to campus — from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to Naropa — over 900 miles.

“I admit, it was a bad idea,” Knutzen said. “I thought I would just take the chance and the opportunity that was right in front of me and go for it.”

Knutzen left the comfort of his home on July 26 and set off toward his goal of reaching Boulder by Aug. 20, just in time for the start of his Masters in Fine Arts program.

“I packed my bag, grabbed my last 30 bucks and didn’t tell anyone except my mom that I was leaving,” he said. “I got up early and I just started going.”

His pack, weighing about 50 pounds to start, was filled with only the essentials: tent, clothing, first aid kit, solar charger, duct tape, hammock, laptop, five water bottles, dry foods, a water purifier, Gold Bond, sunscreen, a towel and, of course, a hacky sack.

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Nigel Knutzen poses for a portrait wearing his backpack on Arapahoe Avenue next to the Naropa University campus on August 13, 2018, in Boulder, Colorado. Knutzen traveled approximately 925 miles in 13 days and arrived in Boulder to attend Naropa University where he will be working towards his MFA in Contemporary Theatre Performance.

At first, he was walking up to 40 miles a day.

“Going into it, I felt great,” he said. “The first day was fine. Then, the blisters started setting in. My feet were basically a hodge podge of bandages every day.”

Despite the sore muscles, Knutzen was perfectly fine with walking the entire distance. He never hitchhiked, but he was offered many unsolicited rides, one of which shortened his trip by hundreds of miles.

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