A series of illustrations in shades of blue and golden oranges, depicting scenes of animals, people and skies.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet

May 16, 2024
A montage of illustrations by Jeffrey Flores.

Finding the Story in Every Step

May 16, 2024

It started off as an aimless wandering hike in the Rocky Mountains. Crystal Chan was having problems getting motivated. So, donning the only pair of hiking boots she could find—her grandmother’s—she set off to climb a hill. As she walked in her grandmother’s shoes, memories and ideas started coming to her. This is how Eighty Thousand Steps was born.

“My grandma has a rule: if you want to understand someone, take a walk in their shoes,” Crystal explains. Inspired by this and her grandmother’s experience as a child refugee, Crystal set about to create an embodied storytelling experience. The result was a first-of-its-kind app allowing podcast listeners to enjoy the audio as they walk, one step at a time.

A pair of worn burgundy boots worn by someone standing on grass and surrounded by plants.
Crystal Chan’s grandmother’s hiking boots. They’re a women’s size 6, but don’t worry: with a dash of magic, they’ll fit just fine.
Photo: Courtesy of Crystal Chan

Eighty Thousand Steps was produced as part of the Creation Accelerator, a catalyst tool created by the Canada Council for the Arts and CBC/Radio-Canada to amplify digital creation in Canada and help artists from Canada tell their stories in new ways.

The groundbreaking style of this project was recently recognized by The Webby Awards, earning the Eighty Thousand Steps podcast a nomination under the Experimental & Innovation Podcasts category.

“Initially we knew the story was unique but didn’t imagine the storytelling method would be, too,” Crystal says. “There must be an app for that, right? We hoped to duplicate a system, but we learned instead that something quite like this had never been done before.

A person standing among the trees while holding a cellphone. An illustrated figure of a bearded and robed man floats above the phone.
Eighty Thousand Steps is a first-of-its-kind app allowing podcast listeners to enjoy the audio as they walk, one step at a time.
Photo: Courtesy of Crystal Chan

“So, from a simple heartfelt memory of my grandmother’s lesson, we ended up becoming digital pioneers, lovingly creating truly unique artwork.”

— Crystal Chan

The podcast features captivating sounds as well as stunning visuals created by illustrator Jeffrey Flores of Toronto studio Stitch Media, who collaborated on the production. “As both a writer and a digital designer, my specialty is making stories that invite your participation,” says Crystal. “I prioritize collaborative, interactive and interdisciplinary works.”

Based on a true story, the Eighty Thousand Steps interactive podcast follows host Crystal Chan as she uncovers a decades-old family mystery. “My grandma’s story was one of survival. But the message was less about perseverance than it was about something more important—connection—a lesson I learned when I made Eighty Thousand Steps during the pandemic, separated from my grandmother, who was on the other side of the country,” says Crystal.

As she created the genre-bending podcast about family and migration, Crystal also learned about resilience and motivation. “One step at a time, find someone else to find yourself,” says Crystal. “Eighty Thousand Steps brings the story to wherever you are.”