We've always said that the best way to appreciate the environment is to get out into nature.

Christoph Rehage's birthday present to himself in November 2007 was to go for a long walk. The plan was to walk from Beijing, China — where Rehage was a student — to his home in Bad Nenndorf, Germany. An amazing proposition, when you consider the vastness of China.

Along the way, he photographed himself. We've all seen those "picture a day" time-lapse videos. But the five-minute version of Rehage's epic walkabout, eventually covering over 4,000 kilometers, is in a league of its own.

We see a young, clean shaven man being changed by his adventure. There's obvious physical hardship: snow and the blazing sands of the Gobi desert, long, empty highways, and the pain of endless plodding. His hair and beard grow wild. People come and go; places spin behind him. Rehage finds love — and maybe heartbreak, too. With such a whirl of images and Rehage's website currently mute, the narrative is a little mysterious. It's also quite moving.

After a year, Rehage decided to stop walking and return to school. There are additional images of his journey on Trendhunter, and we've located some video outtakes for you at YouTube:

This article originally appeared in Lighter Footstep in August 2009 and has been moved over to MNN.com. Copyright Lighter Footstep 2009
A 3,000-mile walk and an incredible time-lapse video
Beijing student Christoph Rehage documents his year-long trek across China.