Life goes on for Polly
DENVER- Though she’s been living in Denver for more than six months, former Vail resident Polly Letofsky said she can’t walk around the city without a map.”Every day for five years I walked with a map,” said Letofsky, who in July ended a 14,000-mile walk around the world to raise breast-cancer awareness. “I went through 780 maps.”Since she arrived in Vail July 30 – where she started her globalwalk in 1999 – many things have changed in Letofsky’s life.Soon after completing her walk, Letofsky, 42, sold her condo in West Vail, moved to Denver, got a bicycle, got a job, got a car, started writing a book and bought a condo in the southeast part of the city. “It’s small and cozy, and I love having a place to go to compared to being held prisoner by what food is available at the next truck stop,” Letofsky said.Now, her refrigerator is always stocked with fresh fruit, vegetables and fish.”Everything is fresh all the time. I can go to the grocery store and buy more than one bag at a time,” she said, comparing life today with how she shopped while walking around the world with her companion BOB, a baby-like stroller that carried all her clothes. “I love having a laundry basket because I can sort the clean clothes from the dirty ones,” she said. “Before, they were all squashed in a bag, all wrinkled and dirt and all.”A bed and a jobOne of the highlights of finally settling down is that she now knows where she will stay every night, said Letofsky, who only paid for a place to stay 10 times in more than 1,800 days of travel.
“I can eat when I want to. I don’t have to worry about bugs or being splashed by a truck on a rainy day,” she said. “I don’t have to worry about incoming tornadoes or extreme heat.” Letofsky walked through major flooding in Australia, lightning storms in Colorado, 110-degree heat in Singapore, hail in Arizona, a 7.2-Richter-scale earthquake in California, 60-mph winds in Kansas and snow in Scotland and Iowa. Letofsky, who periodically published her journal entries in the Vail Daily, is the first American woman to have walked around the world. On her trip, she walked across the United States, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Turkey, and throughout continental Europe – from Greece to Belgium, to the United Kingdom and Ireland.”Now I have a bed that’s mine, and I have a job,” said Letofsky, who now works as a national sales manager at a hotel chain. “I needed to get a job to create a foundation for myself. I have a telephone, a fax machine and a computer all the time. It’s easy. I don’t have to wait till I get to the next library and wait in line to get online.”Letofsky also settled into the daily work routine pretty seamlessly, she said.”I do like structure, and the 8-to-5 life is easier than when I was on the road,” she said. “People think I was wandering without structure, but I had to be in places on certain dates. Every day was structured. I always had a schedule. I planned two months in advance.”Although she has settled in her new home, her travel companion, BOB, has never been unpacked. “He sits in the living room,” Letofsky said. “I think I’m going to make him a TV stand.”Discovering a new lifeAlong with her new day job, Letofsky is writing a proposal for a book. She has an agent and she’s looking for a publisher.
“It’s about the discovery of America on the historic world stage taking place while I walked – 9/11 and during and pre the Iraqi war,” she said. “The stage will be the world.”Despite her long absence, re-assimilating to American culture again wasn’t a shock, Letofsky said.”Everyone was tense about how I would handle this,” she said. “There’s even counseling for those things.”When asked what’s been the most difficult thing to deal with since she’s returned back her walk, Letofsky didn’t hesitate: debt, she said.”I didn’t have anything when I started. I sold my condo in West Vail, but I needed plates and sheets,” she said. “And once you add it up, you realize, where did I spent all that money?”The first thing she got were hangers, file cabinets and clothes. “Things that would help me get organized,” she said. Then she bought a bicycle and now she owns a car. Still, she doesn’t have a table or a telephone land-line.Another thing Letofsky is enjoying in her new life is having friends.”I didn’t have friends for so many years,” she said. “Now, I have a social life, a handful of really good friends here. It’s fun to meet for coffee. Six good friends is all you need,” she said. Enjoying the U.S.
While she works, and writes her book, Letofsky makes time to give motivational speeches, too. She also continues to raise funds for Sense of Security, a Colorado-based nonprofit that provides non-medical financial assistance to women with cancer while they are undergoing treatment.But she’s working at a different pace now.”I’m through with the extremeness of things,” she said. “If I’m going to go for a walk, I want it to be on a sunny day with a nice path. No waking up at 4 a.m. to go hike a fourteener.””I’ve moved into a different chapter where I really love the simple things I haven’t had for five years,” she added. “Everything was so dramatic, so stressful. Now, coffee with a friend is the most fun I can have.”She’s not anxious about hitting the road again, either, Letofsky said.”After five years, I came full circle, I was done. I don’t have any urge. I’m loving my nesting stage,” she said. “That thirst of traveling has been quenched for a while.”Letofsky said she likes being back in the United States.”There really is a be-all-you-can-be-attitude in America,” she said. “I love it, and I missed it when I was overseas. Americans don’t settle. I like being in that kind of atmosphere. It’s exhausting, but it’s exhilarating. “I’m home, I’m not moving,” she added. “If the man of my dreams is in Canada, he’ll have to move to Denver.”Staff Writer Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Vail, Colorado