BY: STEFANIE PHILLIPS
Photos via One Heart Design
One night while hitchhiking through the middle of Mexico, 15-year-old Walter Munoz was asked by his driver to get out and walk past the immigration officers blocking the road ahead. They would meet further down the road to continue their travels. Unsure and without any documentation, the native Guatemalan walked toward the officers and began to explain his story.
A few months ago he left his home — against his mother’s wishes — to see what the world had to offer. There was no future for him in Guatemala and from a young age all he wanted to do was travel. No, he didn’t have any papers to explain himself, no he wasn’t trying to get into the United States and no he didn’t have any money in the bank. All he had to show for himself was the contents of his backpack, which were in the driver’s truck.
His story wasn’t enough to convince them of his innocence, they were going to deport him. Far from home and all alone the young Munoz began to cry, begging them to let him go. On an impulse one of the officers told him to run. “He said ‘Run! Run before I change my mind. Run! Run!’ That’s what I did. I was just crying and running,” Munoz told me.
After an hour of running he finally got to the driver. Scared and worried from the night before, the kind driver told him that he would be dropping Munoz off in Veracruz and that it would be the last time they would see each other. To show his gratitude for taking him across the country, Munoz gave the driver a bracket he had made himself.
Now grown-up and living in Toronto with his wife, Sarah, Munoz owns a jewelry shop in Kensington Market. The store, One Heart, is full of designs like the one he gave to the driver more than 10 years ago. His creations are the means fuelling his travelling dreams, and his travels spark inspiration for new creations. It’s a circle that has brought this energetic, dread-locked, surfer hippie all over the Americas.
He’ll drop himself in a city, relying purely on his interactions with other people to find a place to stay, restaurants to eat at and destinations to visit. On his most recent trip to New York, he resisted the urge to Google the best slice in the city and instead, explored the new place with nothing but his tool pouch, debit card and phone. “Everything I need is right here,” he said holding the brown leather pouch. “When I go to a place all I need is this.” Staring up at the wires of the Brooklyn Bridge contrasting the blue, cloud-covered sky, an idea for a print came to him. He would come home to process his pictures into material for the leather boots he sells in his shop.
When Munoz first came to Toronto he stopped travelling to settle down and start a new life in Canada. Travelling had been a constant in his life from such a young age that when he stopped it felt like something was missing. He got a job and joined the rest of Toronto, mechanically moving to and from work everyday. But it felt like he had stopped fighting for his dreams to join the rest of society. Being stuck in limbo made him realize that travel “is the only pleasure a human can have.”
The nucleus accumbens, a part of the reward circuit in the middle region of your brain is responsible for creating ideals of pleasure. It operates mainly on dopamine, which promotes desire, and serotonin, whose effects include satiety and inhibition. It’s also the same part of your brain that is affected by drugs and alcohol. Although pleasure is subjective to the individual it is commonly associated with drinking and sex.
But it was Munoz’s love of travelling and desire to hit the road again that prompted him to start making jewelry year round. Eventually a stand with his jewelry evolved into a storefront, but unlike other businessmen, he doesn’t have plans to expand his shop. He wants it to stay local and personal. “Success makes you a slave to what you do,” he says. And all Munoz wants to do is see the world.