Rocky statue on the Rocky steps

From the Rocky Steps to the world

by Michael

As the most historic city in America, Philadelphia has nurtured accomplished citizens in all walks of life. But its most famous resident is a fictional movie character: boxer Rocky Balboa.

Rocky represents the city’s hardscrabble image. In the first Rocky movie, despite the backing of the lovely Adrian, he didn’t win. (Sorry if we ruined the ending for the three people who still haven’t seen it.) But he went the distance against a much stronger foe–for him that was a victory.

He has become an inspiration to millions of people around the globe who can identify with his underdog tale. The most famous scene in Rocky occurs after he has transformed himself from an out-of-shape pug to a lean mean fighting machine. Rocky runs through the streets of Philadelphia and eventually winds up at the base of the imposing steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Earlier in the film he could barely make it to the top. But now he goes bounding up the steps with the unbridled energy of a child tearing through presents on Christmas morning.  The Rocky Steps, as they are now known, have become a worldwide symbol of triumph over adversity.

A few years ago, Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Michael Vitez and photographer Tom Gralish wrote a book titled Rocky Stories: Tales of Love, Hope, and Happiness at America’s Most Famous Steps. They spent a year atop these steps, interviewing some of the people who ran up them in a virtual round-the-clock operation. He met people from cancer survivors to wedding parties to celebrities. They all wanted to come to Philadelphia to experience a bit of the Rocky magic.

Rocky steps PhiladelphiaThe entire world comes to the Rocky Steps. We are going to reverse that trend by starting this journey at the base of the steps and from there we will travel around the world for a year. There will be many obstacles in our path from language barriers, events out of our control and the occasional gastrointestinal hijinks.

Our goal isn’t to  win over every obstacle we face. Sometimes we will just have to grit our teeth and endure it. But like Rocky, we want to go the distance. We will travel an estimated 75,000 miles during the year and return to Philadelphia to run to the top of the steps.

Appropriately enough the music that is played while Rocky makes his triumphant sprint is “Gonna Fly Now.” We can’t think of a better song to be humming in our heads as we board the plane to Beijing.

As a source of inspiration for those times when we wonder what we were thinking by going on this journey, we’ve brought a bit of Philadelphia with us (no, not Cheese Whiz). We have a miniature Rocky statue that will motivate us along the way for when the going gets a little tougher than we had planned. We’ll document Little Rocky’s trip around the world as he spurs us on to ever greater heights.

Here’s a video of where Little Rocky had been to halfway through the trip:

To view a photo album of where Little Rocky has been, including meeting actor Danny DeVito in London  and former president Jimmy Carter check out Little Rocky’s photo album on Flickr.

We said we’d run up the Rocky Steps when we returned and we did. See A Sort of Homecoming.

MissElaineous August 28, 2011 at 11:17 am

What a great symbol! (Assuming Little Rocky doesn’t set off all the sensors at Airport Security) Enjoy and safe travels!!!

John Discepoli August 29, 2011 at 9:07 am

Good Luck Riss and Mike.

Michael August 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm

So far so good.

Zena Charokopos September 20, 2011 at 9:40 am

Thanks for posting this and giving everyone the opportunity to follow your travels. I just started reading this today and I have a month to catch up on! You are accomplishing a travel feat that most of us only dream about. Keep Safe and Enjoy!

Michael September 20, 2011 at 11:44 am

Hi Zena, Thanks for checking in. Today we flew from Shanghai to Hong Kong and will report from there. Larissa and Michael

Susan Shibutani October 2, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Larissa! So I was just talking to a friend on Friday about joining a witness protection plan to get away from my life and start over/do something different like work at the Earthbound Farms in Monterey, CA. While en route to NY city on Saturday I took the Inquirer Travel section with me to read (the Times travel section was with me too). I read about your fascinating trip and then I saw your name and screamed! I’m so thrilled for you. I will be following your trip closely! Susan – CHOP hematology.

mike kunda December 7, 2011 at 7:01 am

You two are my kinda people! I’m “Adnuk68” on the Stallonezone and also Phillys number 1 Rocky impersonator, so I can relate to what you are doing! Can’t wait to hear all your stories! I wrote Cue The Rocky Music, so I know the passion it takes and the commitment you both share. Be safe and Go For It!

Us December 7, 2011 at 3:52 pm

Hi Mike, Great to hear from you. We saw the article that Mike Vitez wrote about you in the Inquirer a month or so ago. Maybe you can join us on the run up the Rocky steps when we return.

Susan T. Miller January 8, 2012 at 2:43 am

Hi Mike and Larissa,
I was just catching up on your travels and looking at all of your pics. Fantastic. I envy both of you. It was interesting to read about what to pack for a year long trip. It’s amazing of all the stuff you really don’t need to take along if you really think about it. I always pack too much, but if I travel in the future…I will definitely remember your packing ideas. I look forward to more info and pics of your trip. Have fun and stay safe. Look forward to your run up the steps with little Rocky when you return.

Us January 8, 2012 at 10:09 am

Thanks Susan. We’ll have to get some jogging in before the run up the Rocky steps.

Alex Sade February 14, 2012 at 3:26 pm

You guys are my heroes. I hope you are seeing some great things. Any favorites so far?

Us February 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Great to hear from you Alex. We like to say that wherever we happen to be is our favorite so we are always enjoying the journey.

Polacco Gaetano April 18, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Spero che state bene e la vostra avventura continua con buoni esiti.
Mi auguro che la vostra permanenza dalle nostre parti sia stata positiva anche se il tempo non e’ stato buon amico.
Voglio vedere le foto al piu’ presto ciao

Rick September 7, 2012 at 12:46 am

Great video Larissa and Michael.

When I was in Osaka, Japan, there was a man dressed up as Rocky, doing street perfomance to a boom box. The only thing is, he could not quite get the “R” sound, and kept saying “Locky.”

Other than that, he was quite good. Keep on Truckin’

Joyce January 2, 2013 at 5:07 pm

I live in Rufus Harley’s House, Philadelphia’s own international jazz bagpiper named international ambassador of Peace! He used to travel the world with miniature liberty bells and had them engraved for folks all around the world. Nice to see you carrying the Philly torch! I just found you guys I now look forward to recapping your adventures! Happy New Year!

Frank Peter July 8, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I love your Rocky theme! I have raised my fists in triumph on those very same steps. And “little Rocky” is such a fun idea!

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