Header image for The Dreaded Membership Issue


Your trusted pedestrian, Craig Mod here. I write bleary-eyed and with a battered brain. And come bearing the worst of news, the scariest of news: This issue of Ridgeline is but a supplication for your membership. (If you stick around to the bottom you get a poem about a walk.)

Put simply: This newsletter runs on the support of memberships to the Explorers Club. I’ve been running this paid membership program for a year now. It has enabled the vast trove of what Ridgeline has become, and much more. It works. It’s good. I’m proud of it. Members get a bunch of extra goodies like fancy walking-in-Japan wallpapers for their phones (see: header image) and free digital books and big discounts on physical books. You get access to the full 2-hour Pop-Up Walk 001 video. And access to the archive of members only Inside Explorers newsletters. Oh, and access to my quarterly “virtual office hours” where, in theory, you could wrangle me for 20 minutes about how to best plan your next trip to Japan.

So — if you’ve gotten value out of these essays and meditations on walking in Japan (and a little Kazakhstan), consider joining the Explorers Club.

If you’re curious about what I’ve learned running this thing, my just-published 5,000 word essay: ”Running a Paid Membership Program” might be of interest.

The goal is to sneak in 100 new members in February. Can you help make that happen? Thank you in advance for your support.

That’s it. January was my meta-month, my month of working on the membership program, and now I’m ready to get back to the other work, the real work, the work of the long walk.

I’m reading Meredith McKinney’s superb translation of Journey along the Sea Road — an early 13th century account of a walk from Kyoto to Kamakura. In it, there is a line that perfectly sums up my current state of mind. The walker, an anonymous man, deeply cultured and with a rich appreciation of Chinese classics, reflects on how long it took him to finally get moving, to go on his great walk, instead of merely hearing about the walk, thinking about the walk. He writes:

Fool that I am. I had long heard of all this with indifference. And how many more days did I then spend merely talking of it? The boat in my heart had gone rowing out in fancy, while I had yet to dip a real oar in the waves of those many miles of sea road.

I feel foolish now, hungry to get back on the road. Tomorrow I’m off to San Francisco for a talk, but then at the end of the month the walking season starts, and I finally shift from this previous month of “merely talking of it” to doing. And the sea road he speaks of? That’s on the docket for spring. Once the walking begins I’ll still be a fool, but at least I’ll be a fool in steps.

Thanks for your support.
And until next week,

This newsletter is made possible by members of SPECIAL PROJECTS. If you enjoy Ridgeline, consider joining. Thanks.

Fellow Walkers

“Walking to me has become critical as life continues to get busier from both real world and digital distractions. Even solo walks start out with a noisy head full of lists and conversations and unmade decisions, but get progressively quieter and eventually become therapeutic for mind-clearing. We plan holidays around how walkable destinations are, but until this series I never tagged myself as a “walker”, so thank you for the additional meta tag.”

“ I walked out of a small town in burnt-gold northern California to a smaller town in New Hampshire for college. Four years later, I wandered to a small island nation about as far from continental landmass as possible. The atoll provided excellent walking grounds: three square miles, a single road, thirty miles end to end. After a nasty bout of trichinosis, I wound up back in my hometown for a few years, before driving north through quarter-mile visibility in a surreal bloom of late-summer wildfire smoke. I’ve wandered the Pacific Northwest for the past few years. Despite a lack of sunshine, the excellent trails, breweries, and strange, delightful folks that abound in Washington make for an excellent new home.”

(“Fellow Walkers” are short bios of the other folks subscribed to this newsletter. In Ridgeline 001 I asked: “What shell were you torn from?” and got hundreds of responses. We’re working our way through them over the year. You’re an amazing, diverse crew. Grateful to be walking with you all. Feel free to send one in if you haven’t already.)


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(A weekly letter on walking in Japan)