We Tried It: Going for a Walk with a Professional People Walker
What Is It: Chuck McCarthy, aka The People Walker, charges by the mile to go on walks with people in Los Angeles
Who Tried It: Gabrielle Olya, PEOPLE writer and reporter
Level of Difficulty: 3 (on a scale of 1 to 10). My walk was around 2 miles and on relatively flat terrain so it was not super difficult, but you can hire McCarthy to take you on longer walks and more challenging hikes.
On a Monday afternoon, I met up with “The People Walker” Chuck McCarthy at his usual meeting spot at Griffith Park to go for a walk and find out exactly what a “people walker” does. McCarthy was immediately easy to spot — I knew it was him from across the street as soon as I saw his shaggy beard and long hair, but if I had any doubts it was the right person they were put to rest as soon as I saw his handmade T-shirt declaring that he is indeed “The People Walker.”
McCarthy, who like many people in L.A. is an actor, wanted to find a way to supplement his income in between jobs. Initially, he thought of dog walking but realized he didn’t want to spend his time picking up poop.
“All the dog walkers advertise on telephone poles, and personal trainers advertise the same way, so I started joking, ‘Maybe I’ll just walk people,’ ” McCarthy — who did not want to reveal his age but says he’s between 30 and 45 — told me as we headed up a hiking trail. “Every time I would make that joke, I would think about it more and I’d come up with a reason why somebody would want someone to walk them.”
McCarthy explained that his mom had recently had a stroke, and people like her and others with health concerns may not want to be alone while walking. He realized his services might also be valuable to someone who wants to get active, but doesn’t want the intensity of a personal training session.
“Really what a personal trainer does is hold you accountable,” he says. “Walking is great exercise, but you still need that push. I’m just giving the accountability the same way a personal trainer would.”
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He also thought of his female friends, who might want a walking escort for safety reasons.
“I kept building this list of reasons why someone would want to hire the service, so I decided to try it out,” says McCarthy, who officially launched his service in April of last year. “I started telling my friends and started the Facebook page and started putting up flyers, and it’s been growing ever since.”
McCarthy currently does about eight walks a week. His average walk is two to three miles, and he charges $7 per mile for the walks. While some people just use his service as a one-off, he does have four to six customers he sees regularly.
“For most of my regular clients, [they want to] get motivated to get outside and active, but also have someone to talk to and bounce things off of and complain to,” says McCarthy of why they keep coming back. “A lot of people have been interested purely for the companionship aspect. It wasn’t one of the initial things that I had come up with — I didn’t realize how important that aspect would be.”
As we continued our hike towards the iconic Griffith Observatory, McCarthy told me about his plans for the future of his company. Right now he’s his sole employee, but he is hoping to launch an app to expand people-walking services. And he doesn’t take issue with other people copying his idea.
“I’m not discouraging anyone from starting their own walking services,” he says. “If it reinforces the service in the health and fitness service industry, I see it as a good thing.”
The Verdict: As someone who always wants to walk more but can never seem to get in my 10,000 steps a day, I can see how this would be a useful service in terms of holding myself accountable. McCarthy was extremely personable so he was a fun walking companion, and at $7/mile he is much more affordable than a personal trainer!