Courtesy Christoph Rehage
03/19/2014 at 06:00 PM EDT
Christoph Rehage came up with a crazy plan in 2007 – to walk from China to his home in Germany. Walk. On foot.
His journey began in Beijing on Nov. 9 that year, his 26th birthday, and ended in Ürümqi, 2796 miles away, a year later.
Along the way he encountered snow, sunshine, sandstorms and killer bees – all of which are chronicled in a video he compiled featuring 1,400 of the more than 30,000 pictures he snapped on his journey. He also grew a scary amount of facial hair.
"After one year of mountains and blazing hot deserts I realized… I had grown a mighty long beard," he writes at the start of the video, which is called The Longest Way
"Clean cut, beardless, lean, mean, fighting machine!" he captioned his first photo. But as his journey went on, his hair and beard grew as he walked 12 to 18 miles a day, lugging a 66-pound backpack, two cameras and a laptop.
"I was lazy at first and proud later!" Rehage says on his website
about his fuzziness.
"I liked myself wearing that beard, kind of in a Forrest Gump way, but I didn't think it was attractive," he admits. "There are beard times, and there are non-beard times."
Along the way Rehage found "love … hardcore nothingness… heartbreak," before deciding to end his trek.
Once back home in Germany, he was stripped of his beard and hair, and admits at first he "felt utterly lost."
While he's contemplating another journey ("I dream of Samarkand, and of Istanbul," he says), Rehage says one of the best things that came out of his journey was the response from fans.
"I f–––ing love it when people tell me that they are going out to chase whatever dream they have, and that they are just kind of waving at me while they are rushing out the door," he says. "Cycle through Asia. Walk through Africa. Move to China. Get enrolled in a foreign exchange program. Quit a job and get a new one. Buy a camera and start taking pictures of stuff. I like things that come from the heart. No 'let's-all-celebrate-our-happiness' type of outdoor enthusiasm, but the chasing of dreams."