Follow one man's journey of over 3,000 miles through China and see the jaw-dropping change that made him a legend.
Chistoph Rehage turned 26 on Nov. 9, 2007, took a clean-shaven "selfie," and started walking his way through the Chinese frontier.
Hiking his way through the Asian countryside wasn't the only decision he made; he also decided to take a picture of himself every day of the journey to document the achievement.
Though the original plan was to hike from Beijing all the way to his home in Bad Nenndorf, Germany (yes, that's really the name) some 5,000 miles away, he did still make it almost 3,000 of those miles.
Between the start and the finish, this resilient walker made an astounding journey -photographed and videotaped it- and made a stunning physical transformation that is the stuff of legend.
Here's the award winning video he called "The Longest Way."
"The beginning of a journey starts with but a single step."
The first step Rehage took was to take the trip-starting photo that the rest would be compared to.
Rehage said that walking makes him feel connected to the places that he visits, a massive truth felt by all hikers.
"It makes you own your way. Whenever I walk somewhere, not only do I remember the way, but I also feel like I have a legitimate reason to be there. I visit a place by train, and I'm a tourist. I walk to the same place by foot, and the place is suddenly mine. We belong together, and I don't feel like an alien anymore," he said.
Once in the mountains the change can be readily seen.
Stopping for a picture with the locals is a highlight and the smiles show it. In 2003, Rehage walked the 500 miles from Paris to Germany, taking less than a month.
This trip through China would take him a full year. By the time he took this photo, he had made it to the Great Wall opening at Shandan or 2,777 kilometers from where he started; that's about 1,666 miles, by the way.
All told, Rehage walked, hiked, and basically lived on foot until he reached Ürümq in the northern portion of China or about 2, 796 miles from where he started.
Rehage said "After one year of mountains and blazing hot deserts I realized... I had grown a mighty long beard."
You're telling us, Christoph!
Most of the questions he receives on the personal blog of his website are related to why he gave up trying to make it the rest of the way to Germany.
The answer he says is simple; "I wanted to gain back my life. I had to regain control over myself and eliminate the inner boss that was telling me what to do. A lot of people look at the video thinking, 'I want to be free like that guy!' But they don't realize that I was driven by something, and maybe I was losing control over it."
Looking at the map he would have had to possibly go through Kazakhstan, part of Russia and the Ukraine, maybe Belarus or Poland, and finally on to Germany, but there is no indication of what his plans were at the time.
There were other considerations to be sure. China is not the most open country in the world to travel, but travel it he did saying, "Sometimes you think. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes you worry about passports, dangers, pains, relatives and loved ones, and at other times your steps are light and you sing songs in the desert. Sometimes it is boring. And sometimes you feel at peace."
Besides the attention his video received, Rehage has a book in the works.
He currently resides in Munich immersed in Chinese studies and Russian literature.
All pictures via Earthporm