|Cristophe Rehage originally planned to walk from Beijing back to his home in Bad Benndorf, Germany—a trip he anticipated would take two years to complete. On November 9, 2007, Rehage set out not on the shortest path, but on the “longest way home”. After one year of traversing through mountains, deserts, and harsh climate, Rehage decided to put a halt to his journey in Urumqi, China, near the northern part of the old Silk Road. Although he has yet to finish the second segment of the trip, Rehage has already managed walk a total of 4,500 km, visiting countless cities in China and gaining an experience that has left an indelible mark on him. |
Along the way, Rehage documented each place he stopped at by photographing himself and his ever-changing hair and beard. Once back home, Rehage compiled all of the images into one timelapsed video, showing not only the physical changes he underwent, but also the toll the journey took on him.
This creative montage, set to the tune of “Olive Tree”, has captured the attention of web users across the globe, procuring almost 500,000 hits on YouTube. While the 4,500 km walk is a physical feat in itself, the journey represents much more than that.
For Rehage, who said he was “missing something”, the trip represented one of self-discovery. Even the use of “Olive Tree”, which symbolically denotes peace and victory, is fitting of Rehage’s message.
Although Rehage claims that he embarked on the trip not to prove a point to anyone, his perseverance and determination sends a universal message to all viewers—that taking the longest route home is not necessarily the easiest path, but is certainly the most fulfilling one.
This particularly resonates with immigrants all over the world, especially those trying to make the United States their permanent home. Even select lyrics in Rehage’s theme song “Olive Tree” like “why do I wander, wander far, wander?” and “my hometown is far away” are quite reminiscent of the immigrant experience.
The United States accepts the highest number of immigrants out of all other countries in the world. It has been reported that from 1991 to 2000, some 10 million foreign nationals have immigrated to the U.S, with over 1 million naturalized in the last year alone. Most come from China, Mexico, India, and the Philippines.
Many who come here or wish to come here collectively refer to this journey as the “American dream”, hoping that this new place will yield better occupational, economic, and educational opportunities.
Before setting out, Cristophe Rehage believed that traveling on foot from China to Germany was also an unimaginable dream. As evidenced by his video, that dream has materialized.
Hopeful immigrants should adapt Rehage’s mantra—that with continued patience and persistence, even in the face of obstacles, one can reach a seemingly unattainable goal.
In a way, we can compare Rehage’s journey to the Long March of 1934 when Mao Zedong led the Chinese Communist Party through mountainous terrain to avoid capture by the Kuomintang. These migrants set out on a perilous trek because they believed in a certain ideology. More importantly, they left in search of a place they could truly call home.
That said, please allow Zhang and Associates, P.C. to serve as the bridge between the immigration process and your new home, the United States of America.
However, reaching that goal may not necessarily be easy. Unlike Rehage’s trip and the Long March, the immigration process is not nearly as romantic.
Regardless, prospective residents should view the entire immigration process, from boarding a plane to obtaining a green card, as a “journey”. This includes taking the necessary steps to file correct documentation to USCIS or the Department of Labor, gatekeepers of the “American dream”.
For those who file an EB-1 (a) or NIW, it takes time to amass enough merit for each category. Both are quite stringent, with the EB-1(a) category reserved for the most well-distinguished individuals. Furthermore, before filing a petition, a petitioner must also prepare the appropriate application material as well by gathering recommendation letters and collecting evidence. For those who intend to file an EB-1(b) or PERM, not only is proper documentation required, but a petitioner must also solicit employer sponsorship. All of this takes time.
But first, in order to submit a strong application, one must start his or her journey by laying the appropriate foundation; this includes honing in on one’s skills, gaining lab/work experience, and producing noteworthy achievements in a specific field.
Even after an application is filed, a prospective resident must wait anywhere from just a few weeks to several years, depending on the applicant’s country of origin and individual case. This is especially true for Chinese and Indian nationals who are often placed in a very long queue for visa numbers.
The takeaway message from all of this is that the process may be very straightforward and short for some. However, others may have to travel “the longest way”. If Cristophe Rehage has taught us anything, it is that taking a roundabout path is okay. For whatever path you choose, whether that is an NIW, EB-1(a), EB-1(b), PERM, etc., patience and persistence will ultimately allow you to reach the end of your journey.