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How To Walk Across America:

Currently, I am walking across America.

UPDATE: I have completed my journey, where I ended in New Orleans and flew back home to return to graduate school.  The following was written during the second month of my journey.

END UPDATE

I would like to provide any future walkers with the resources and advice to set out on their own journey across the country.  Much of what I have written is culled from experience, some comes from advice given to me from other travelers on the road.

So take a look around and explore the contents.  I hope that my journey will inspire you to take on your own challenge.

For the EXTREME! Challenge:

So what makes walking across America EXTREME!?

For one, the distance of a transcontinental walk at 2,500+ miles can be physically challenging.  Whether you're pushing a cart or carrying a backpack, the strain and stress of continuous sojourns at 15 - 30 miles per day can quickly deplete your physical resources if you're not prepared.  Weather and conditions can quickly wear you down, ranging from scorching heat, to bitter snow, to high-velocity winds.

The duration of the walk itself can push your emotional and spiritual limits.  Most of the time, you'll be out by yourself in the scorching Southwestern deserts or endless fields of corn in the Midwest with little more to do than keep walking, anywhere from 4 to 12 months.  I met a man who was walking from Maine down to Florida, across to California, then north into Washington; he'd been walking for more than 7 years coast to coast.

And finally, if your finances are thin like myself, you can expect to be camping off the highway, under bridges, or in an abandoned house.  Occasionally, I've met kind-hearted people who've helped me with a place to stay and a good meal to eat.  But the majority of the experience teeters on the edge of terror during lonely nights beside the road.


Outline:

I'll break down this manual on how to walk across the country with four major sections:

1.) Preparation

In the Preparation section, we'll discuss the training, materials, and equipment that you'll need to get yourself in shape and ready to step out the door into the wide, open world of the road.

2.) Walking

The Walking section will involve the actual mechanics of day-to-day walking, from nutrition to stretching.  I'll go over some of my own challenges I've had to face from my current walk.

3.) Journey

For the Journey section, I included an in depth discussion of the emotional and spiritual elements of walking for long periods of time.  For me, these pieces are the flesh and bones of my purpose for walking.  If you're not inclined towards what I will introduce in this section, feel free to skip over them.  They are not necessary for an actual journey, but I believe they make a journey far more rich and alive.

4.) Appendix

I've placed any files and external resources here for your reference.  Also, I will be adding other resources that I wasn't able to include in other sections.  In addition, I'll have added a few personal pieces here for sharing with the world.


About Me:

My name is Bryan.  I've taken a one-year deferral from graduate school at Stanford to walk across America, soaking in the moments each step of the way.  I recently lost my father from a stroke, which spurred me to take action in my own life.  I've always wanted to see the world up-close and meet the lovely characters that make up humanity, and so I figured I'd do it the most intimate way I could.

Walking is my way of getting to know myself and others.  I grew up walking to most places in my neighborhood, and every evening, I'd take a walk with my mom beside the beach.  In college, if I had an intricate chemical problem I was trying to solve, I'd go take a walk and break apart the problem under the trees of Aldrich Park.  So I have had good memories of walking in my life.

I've walked about 500 miles east from The Shire in University of California, Irvine and currently resting in the city of Globe, AZ.  My journey will take me through Las Cruces, NM; El Paso, TX; Austin, TX; New Orleans, LA; parts of Mississippi; parts of Alabama; and finally, Florida.  My plan is to walk into Jacksonville, FL by August 2012, just before I head back to school.

The journey has taught me many lessons, and I hope I can share some of my experience to someone who would want to walk a journey for themselves.

So far, so good.

Step 1: Preparation: Purpose

Purpose:

I believe the most critical piece of any journey, regardless of transportation mode, requires some purpose or aim.  Before buying the equipment, before the training, before stepping out of the door, determining what your reason for walking at all may be far more useful for your journey than any other piece.  It may also be the most challenging, and you might discover that walking across the country is more a fantasy than a purposeful way to spend your time.

Also, if we consider any business or project, there is always the element of a mission statement to guide the enterprise towards its goals.  Discovering a purpose for your journey is no different.

I found that during my darkest moments out on the road, when I'm aligning my mind and heart towards my purpose, the road lights up and I regain a sense of direction.  Some days I'll ask myself why I'm out here at all, mulling for hours or even days in despair.  But I spent many months carving out my intention for the walk, so eventually I lead myself back.

Your purpose can be anything.  You could be walking for a cause, such as cancer, homelessness, education, or in memory of a loved one.  Mildred Norman, better known as the Peace Pilgrim, walked for 28 years and crossed the United States seven times for world and inner peace.  John Francis walked for 17 years in silence for the sake of environmentalism.

Or you could walk for the fun of it.  It's truly up to you to decide, and discover your purpose.

There are a number of ways to discover one's purpose, anything from embarking on a multi-day vision quest to taking on a meditation retreat.  One particular method I've really liked, and adapted it to discovering my purpose for this walk, is outlined on Steve Pavlina's Personal Development blog.  It takes about half an hour, but the method is rather powerful.  You can find it here.

My Purpose:

I am walking the miles that my father couldn't, to keep his watch wound everyday in his honor.
Ive made it no where in my life thus far. I want to find a walking mate. Im heading west i live in illinois. I need to do this to prove i can do something.
If anyone is interested email me at w1nged1@outlook.com<br>
<p>Hey guys! So cool to see so many people interested in adventures! I am 27, and planning to walk from Orlando FL, to New York. Though I am planning this for many personal reasons. This will also be a documentary blog about America. Specifically focused on homelessness, and different types of adversity within a wide span of communities. Diversity is key. Everyone has their own struggles, whether it be a regular 9-5 blue collar, or struggling homeless man/woman, I want to tell their story, and give people a different perspective on life they otherwise would not be able to experience. Throughout my (or our) journey, I (we) will be interviewing many people, asking about their lives, how they got where they are, and what they learned throughout their journeys as well. Sort-of a way to get their story out there, or in the least, vent. Most of the trip will be a mix between camping, and walking. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of walking, lol, and will take anywhere from 18, to 28 days. But that is part of the adventure. If you think you'd be interested in walking with me, you can contact me through my Email: jonimerks@gmail.com, or just send me a pm here through *Instructables. Happy adventuring! ;)</p>
<p>I have just spent the last few hours reading this entire article, and i must say its amazing and inspires me! I am a fellow wanderer and nomad, all though i have been some what stationed/stuck in my current location south Mississippi for around 3 years now and im about ready to up and pack my bags, gear, and bike! Im gonna try and take a journey all across the US! Like you i have lost my father some years ago, he was a traveler of sorts been to more places then me, he was a trucker for over 35 years. He and other reasons are my inspirations plus im doing it for myself. Thank you for sharing your incredible adventure!</p>
Im a 42 yr old guy wanting to walk from arkansas to washington state...anybody wanna go just me and my dog...
<p>When are you leaving?</p>
<p>I am walking from Spring/Houston Texas to head up toward Colorado then over to Oregon</p>
<p>21 here from Northeast TN, going to South Florida then planning a bigger trip from east coast to west, would enjoy company and tips!</p>
Hey there! I don't know if you're planning on going still but I'm 20 from Central NJ wanting to head to the west coast, maybe if the journeys coincide we could meet up
<p>hi me and my friend are planning to leave for california from ny any where from august to october. if you havnt left yet we could meet up some where</p>
<p>hey man, i'm also 20 from central-ish nj and am taking the american discovery trail this summer</p><p>http://www.discoverytrail.org/</p>
<p>hey man, 21 from north bergen. looking to walk to the west coast starting soon before august 1st. if you haven't left yet, would love to walk together. lmk!!</p>
<p>Hey!! I'm in Florida and looking for company for a big trip- if you're not here yet/still here and would like some company please message @ripmainblog on tumblr. :)</p>
<p>Hi im 17 and I'm planning to ride my horse across the Mojave desert next year, Im starting from Yarnel, AZ through the mojave preserve and death valley to Dyer,NV. I need lots of advice about desert travelling and maybe advice for maintaining 2 horses . I've lived in the kind of desert area my whole life, but haven't actually been &quot;on my own&quot; but i do walk a lot. Thank you!</p>
<p>my name is justin, im 26 and wanting to leave PA, anyone walking from or thru here email me if you want company.. Bowerz232@comcast.net</p>
I live in the midwest and I need to figure out how I can get to East Coast and start somewhere so I can get to the west coast that's why I was scared to and how much money you need but otherwise that's it all planned out then
We an do it together
I'm in when are you planning to leave? I have a trip planned for next year if you want to join I also live in the midwest
Me and my friend are planning on walking from DC to San Fransisco if anyone wants to join us that is 18 and older we would love some company we are doing this for charity on March 26 2017 and the charity is autism speaks please pm me if you want to come along
I am 39 female and not in the best shape. I have depression and am becoming anti-social. I have always wanted to do this to see the world a different way/ slowly.my family all but my husband are for it. I'm a little scared but am buying small items, ie...stroller back pack, food for camping when it's on sale. I've been planning this for about 2 yrs. I plan to get closer to God by finishing the bible. And getting to know my limitations. I know I have rescue if needed. But I hope to make it when I start out. Signed scared but determined
Hi, where are you at regarding your plan for this journey?
I'm 40 and planning to do the same. Maybe our paths will cross.
<p>So, did you leave yet? I am also planning a cross country trip and I am leaving Oct. 7th, two days from now. Please check my site......Hawk's Walk across the USA..........it's on Facebook. Which route will you be taking? Take Care, Jim</p>
<p>So, did you leave yet? I'm not planning a cross country trip, but I am curious to know how it went for you. I didn't find anything about Hawk's Walk...</p>
I'm 3, live in Philadelphia and would love to walk across the country to San Francisco California. I lost my marriage and would do the walk in the memory of the love that I carry for this girl. Would any one join for this amazing journey?
I'm a 37 years old guy and looking for a walking companion.
Currently living in NJ amd i can't seem to find the most logical route to California been wanting to take this trip for a long time now I need help this article really put alot in perspective
I live in california and im planning to walk accross the us all the way to Charlotte north carolina would anyone like to join me? If you're in email me at vanessalupian798@gmail.com
<p>I am interested!! Something I have always wanted to do. I would like to do it for a cause, are you interested?</p>
I'm super scared I'm already but what should i do should I go for it
I'm 49, will turn 50 this year, and my life is utterly blah. I'm going to walk across the country to try to raise a few dollars for breast cancer research. My cousin, who is more like a little sister to me, was diagnosed when she was about 33, had all the chemo and radiation, and went into remission. A few years ago, the cancer returned. This time she did a double mastectomy - I think her comment was &quot;I'm not going to let my boobs kill me.&quot; I've got nothing going on in my life, so I thought I'd try to raise some money, even if it's just a few bucks, for breast cancer research. I figured that this stunt would be odd enough to get my acquaintances to donate something.
I'm a weekend walker. Today I decided I'd like to take a year to walk from Brooklyn to LA. I'm looking for a female partner. For religious reasons I must rest Friday night to Saturday night. Anyone interested
i actually attempted to walk around America last year. however, i wasn't conditioned enough and only got 55 miles in before my leg quit. <br>this walk was actually a precursor to my teshuva. <br>i wish you all the best and if you want to chat, my email is waterpenguin2@hotmail.com
<p>Hey I am entertaining the idea of walking across the country from east coast to west coast.... Only difference beside direction of travel will be that I am paralyzed. I have recently come across an alternate wheelchair that will give me the mobility needs to make the journey physically possible, but I was wondering if you could help me plan a route based on your experiences and a little input from my specific needs.</p>
<p>Lightning storms are not a bit rare in the East. Here in Ohio, they are a semi-regular thing from at least April through October. In Florida, it's a year-round thing.</p>
<p>How much money did it take you to do this? Did you get sponsorships? I want to do walk a cross America with my . How much money will we need?</p>
<p>how did you live unconnected (without internet) for months?</p>
<p>dear bryan</p><p>i'm in the beginning stages of planning my first coast to coast walk and would like some of your imput on the following questions. i'll continue reading your guide - perhaps the answers are there but in the meantime:</p><p>what type of cart did you use? </p><p>what were the pros and cons of it?</p><p>do you have other cart recommendations</p>
<p>My friend,</p><p>I am planning a long backpacking trip through our country, the United States. I have been studying, budgeting and learning for half a year, and am now beginning the process of mapping my way and getting a somewhat good idea of the parts I will walk through. The first issue I will have to tackle is walking out of the desert. I see you got both in, and out, of Arizona alive. The first thing I need to learn is how to walk out of the Arizona desert, where I reside. Could you give me detailed accounts and useful tips for walking through the desert? I would greatly appreciate it. Congratulations on your endeavor, I can't wait for my walk.</p>
Wow that's a long journey!
Harder not either, and help not hell xD
I read your entire article maybe a dozen times. I don't know why, but it speaks to me. I'm leaving mid December to start back packing across the country for love and to find some inner piece I've been wanting. I have questions, and I can't find answers, but I'm glad you posted this. My trip will be either than yours, but maybe I can find Hell on the way. Get back with me sometime! maniac5123@yahoo.com
<p>I have wanted to walk across the country for some time now. You have given me some ideas on how I would go about doing it, but I have one thing that is stopping me from accomplishing my goal, and that is my dog. If I make the trip with her, I have to plan for her as well, which makes the trip at least twice as difficult.</p>
sorry about rockwell
Thanks for sharing.I read every bit your instructional. Im leaving from ocean city maryland in march expecting to reach san francisco by october. I may have some more questions for you over the next few months but i thought id reach out now. Thanks
I live in Warsaw, Poland and currently I'm trying to translate your instructable. One day I want to walk across U.S. too. :) <br>Best wishes <br>-J.
Well thanks Bud for sharing all this with us. I have been trying to find out about walking from East to West of the USA. I am from England. I guess originally I wanted to walk around the globe. The idea came to me after I had done the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. Something triggered inside of me as if it's the first time in my life I have found what I really want to do. I more I walked the more I was in touch with my real feelings. So walking across the USA would be the experience of my life and then we will see what the future holds. Your story is touching.
I had a friend who walked the Camino to Santiago de Compostela - it was an inspiration for my walk to some extent. My hope is that you get a chance to come across the pond and continue on. Best of luck to you, friend.
You rock! Thanks for sharing the wonderful story and all the great info--I'll be using a lot of it.

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Bio: I recently graduated with a BS in Chemistry and am currently pursuing a masters in Chemistry at University of California, Irvine. After returning from an ... More »
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