Its members have participated in more than 25,000 walks covering more than 2 million miles – the equivalent of walking around the equator 80 times.
“Forty years is actually two generations,” said 2nd vice president Dan Haslam.
“Our walkers in 1977 when we started were working people, who had free time in the evenings and weekends after their working hours. Now, most of our walkers are retired and can go on day trips on week days. Our oldest walk leader is 97 years old,” Haslam said.
Ahead of its time, Walkabout International started a walking fitness craze. All that walking and talking together also forged friendships lasting decades. They explored neighborhoods new to them and discovered things they hadn’t even known existed in their own neighborhoods.
The organization also offers trips to United States destinations, from California to Maine. Walkers go international on customized, behind-the-scenes walking tours to Switzerland, France, and Japan as well as Mexico and Canada.
Long-time member Stan Follis, former president and vice president of Walkabout International, began walking in 1980. That is how he met his late second wife.
Follis has also put together some adventurous walks throughout the years. He led a walk a few years ago starting at Sunset Cliffs and Point Loma Avenue.
“We walked along the cliffs to Osprey Street and then back on the sidewalks. It did not last very long, so I picked up Pat Peterson’s walk in Mission Hills when she realized that she would not be able to continue. I believe that is one of the longest-running walks in Walkabout.
“I would still like to do the Sunset Cliffs walk again sometime,” he said.
Another longtime member, Teri Egenberger, who moved to San Diego in 1987, went on her first jaunt with Walkabout in 1988.
“Although at that time of my life, other entertainment took preference, that original experience prodded me to join Walkabout whole heartedly just a couple of years later. And I've been walking with them ever since,” Egenberger said.
“It is a fantastic way to learn one's way around San Diego, leading you into interesting areas off the beaten track. It's also a fun way to add a little healthy exercise to your life,” she said.
Since those early days, Egenberger has lead a few of her own walks. Presently, she co-leads a Tuesday evening walk. During the cooler winter months, they hike the hills of Bay Park, often rewarded with gorgeous views of the bay below. In the summer, they take the walk down to Mission Bay to enjoy the cooler air by the water.
Some special walks and events are planned in the next couple of months to celebrate Walkabout International’s 40th anniversary, including a lunch and tour of some Walkabout members’ favorite stops on Feb. 25.
Starting at the Dance Place building in Liberty Station, which houses the Walkabout office, walkers will be taken on a bus tour all over San Diego with stops at former Walkabout offices, favorite walking sites and important places in Walkabout’s history. On that day, long-time walk leaders will be celebrated, such as the beloved late “Downtown Sam,” who could outpace many of his younger walking companions.
Other 40th-anniversary events include an open house at the Walkabout office on March 4, a tea on March 13, and a home and garden tour on April 1.
“I think we're habit-forming, and it's a good habit, since it's healthy. Once you pull up the rocking chair, you're done for. I'd rather die on my feet,” he said.
For more information, go to www.walkabout-int.org or call 619-231-7463.