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.


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.


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


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.
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
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>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.
This would be a really fun thing to do and I imagine you would come back with so many stories. Do you have any <a href="http://www.arcfinancialllc.com" rel="nofollow">financial advice</a> for anyone considering such a trip.
good job! i wouldn't even drive across country let alone walk or bike.
Go denmarrk
Curious about the cart. Do they actual sell carts like this? I'm not very crafty would I be able to find one at a camping store or somewhere else?
What we used was a run-about brand stroller, and took away all the seats and miscellaneous extras that we didn't need. <br> <br>You can find the one we used here: <br> <br>http://bergdesign.net/triple.htm <br> <br>They're a bit pricey, and we bought ours used on eBay for about $100. Try to shop around to see if you can get a good price - you may even get one donated if you let them know you'll be journeying with it.
Wow, this is a great story! When you did this journey, did you hire a <a href="http://www.lvaccident.com/html/job.php3" rel="nofollow">accident insurance?</a>
I enjoyed reading this story, and was so sad to learn that Rockwall had died... Thank you for sharing your story, and for reminding us of the gift of feeling love and gratitude.
A good meal for training is rice and eggs.<br> <strong>2 1/2 cups steamed rice<br> 2 eggs<br> some butter<br> a splash of soysauce<br> a wooden spoon</strong><br> fry the rice with the butter<br> mix the eggs with the soysauce<br> put the rice in a bowl<br> fry the eggs<br> then when the eggs are almost done throw in the rice<br> mix and put the rice and eggs in the bowl and enjoy.<br> perfect it as you cook it each day.<br> I like to put in a small amount of rice viniger in the rice while it cooks.
Given their weight, cost and power consumption, I'd think twice before bringing laptops and smartphones to this kind of journey. A cheaper, older phone (think along the lines of Nokia 3310 or a bit more advanced) can go for a week without charging, survives nearly everything that could happen, and still can be used to make emergency calls or get vital information from the net.
Hey, This is something I've been contemplating doing for a while, and just have a few questions. 1) How do you find a place to sleep every night? Do you run into any legal problems sleeping on the side of the road or other places? 2) How much water do you bring at one time, and how do you keep up a steady supply of it? And lastly, a weird question, but for travelling across the country it seems kind of important - on long stretches where there really arent' any towns, or it's night time and nothing's open - what about restrooms? haha. if you can answer any of these it'd be a huge help.... :) Thanks for the instructable, awesome information, and inspiring!
After me and my best friend graduate High school and before we enlist we plan on making our walking into a charity for war veterans.<br>
I'm 60 and at a cross roads in my life. Your description was very enlightening and gave me the encouragement to continue moving forward with a new career. Thanks for the instructable.<br>
Thank you all for your generous comments, advice, and emails. I'm a bit overwhelmed by the amount of viewership going on (considering that this is my second Instructable ever), but I'm learning to adapt with intermittent internet access.<br> <br> <p> Made it to New Mexico; hanging out at university in Silver City. Since I've got some proper communication equipment, I'd like to share a few more photos from the road with ya'll.</p>
Great writeup! I only have a couple of suggestions;<br><br>http://freecampsites.net/ maybe of help to you,<br>and I didn't see anything on having any kind of music for entertainment, what may work with your solar panel is to use a small USB powered speaker and a lithium ion battery. The speaker in mind is the Rosewill RNA-SYM 2.1, <br>http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16836280003<br>and a small battery like a backup battery for cellphone with a USB plug, and your good to rock out all day!<br><br>Good luck with your journey and I wish you the best!
Me, being a swede and just barely entering adulthood with all it's cons and pros... Well, this inspired me to make a similar journey. <br>After some years of studying and working I will walk the frozen north. After that, if the world will allow it, I would love to walk America!
First of, absolutely love this Instructable so far.<br>And for the question; i own a duster and a cowboy hat. Would this suffice for a cross country journey with some warm clothes under the duster itself?
Keep it up brother! Life is way too short to not follow your dreams.
After a bicycle tour I learned to swear by chocolate milk. It has all the necessary ingredients for such an endevour: fats, complex and simple carbs, and even some protein. You can find some even fortified with potassium which is good to keep those muscles from cramping up. <br><br>This has really made me jones for the road again. Keep on treking.
I second the chocolate milk recommendation! It is a quick way to replace 1000 calories and it can pack quite a bit of protein as well.
Your walk is giving you and education that you'll not get with a masters degree. Money can't buy that kind of education. God be with you!
I admire your openness and spirit of inquiry. This piece has been on my mind for a few days. If you are motivated, write a book! I'd read it. Doesn't need to have any overarching 'message'. <br>'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few'. (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind).<br>Stay safe and keep your beginner's mind.
Keep up the good work i am very interested altho i prefer Biking but costs would go way up for maint on the bike well here is a IDble i like <br><br>http://www.instructables.com/id/Backpacking-Cooler/ i found this and RobbySkateboard said Wouldn't it be nice if you could go backpacking for a week and be able to have an ice cold soda on that last day? Or to keep sausage and eggs cold for longer? Well for the total cost of less than 10 bucks you can! This is a cheap and effective DIY. The whole thing weighs barely anything even with 3 ice packs, you'll definitely be carrying more weight from the food you'll be keeping cold rather than the cooler and cooling packs themselves. This project will take you an hour or so and the payoff would still be worth it even if it took 10 hours.<br>
Truly Wonderful.<br>Really enjoyed reading this, <br>Thank you for producing something so inspirational.<br>I wish you good luck for the rest of your journey.
Sounds like a ball ! ! I've often thought about doing a walk about. It runs in my family. Both of my grandfathers were noted for going walk about. One of them went for a walk &amp; wasn't seen again for 18 years. Of course, he was declared legally dead in the meantime &amp; everyone was really surprised when he showed up again. The other one would only be gone for 2 or 3 months at a time.<br>Have a great trek. You'll have stories to tell for the rest of your life - - -
I really enjoyed reading about your experience so far and look forward to hearing more about your continuing adventure. Your instructable was very informative. It's dangerous in my town to try to walk to the store a mile away (no sidewalks, no shoulders and the drivers are crazy) so reading this made me long for the days when I didn't have a car and I walked everywhere in the towns I lived in. There is something about walking with a purpose that makes me feel peaceful and more aware of my surroundings.
Oh and I just wanted to add that when you say a backpack can cause stress on the back and shoulders, perhaps this is because it was fitted, worn and/or packed improperly. The hipbelt of a pack, when worn and fitted correctly, transfers almost all of the weight to your legs, so if anything a backpack might cause stress on your hips, knees, and/or ankles, but not your back or shoulders. By loading the pack with the heaviest items close to the body and between the shoulder blades, this creates a stable load where the shoulder straps are there merely for balance. The hip belt does all the work. Makes for some diesel quads and calves!
Ah, that must have been it then. As I'm looking forward, I'm finding that I would much rather prefer a lbackpack over a cart, especially once I get out of desert country. Like I say, much of the weight is in water for these week-long treks through the sand.<br><br>And yes, I thought about the odds of meeting another man on the road. Not to mention he was just about done with his trek, whereas I had just started.
I would modify that cart to have a skin on it add a couple solar cells and some batteries you would have lights and computer power. I would also add an alarm to it they make a bike alarm that will go off alerting a pager you carry. Look into hammocks they are light weight since you have this trailer you could carry an A frame this way you only need one solid spot to anchor to then you drive a couple stakes in the ground this way your camp could be set anywhere since you use a tarp to cover your hammock and cart. Some places you could probably add a sail to that cart and the wind from the semi trucks could very well propell you down the road. If you wanted to you could build a small frame to cover you as you walked for rainy days.
One thing about the tent, never, never, NEVER keep food in your tent to keep it away from critters. They can smell it through the tent, and will try to get it if they want it enough. You don't want a bear or mountain lion coming in to get a snack. Even smaller animals like raccoons can mess you up pretty bad, and can carry diseases.<br><br>Use a rope to suspend your food from a tree, out of reach of most of the critters. If they do get it, not a big deal, better than them getting you!
You met someone else who just happened to be walking around the country as well? The odds of that make it a bit hard to swallow, but I'll buy into the Forrest Gump aspect of it. I'm a total believer in &quot;Hike Your Own Hike&quot; but in regards to the cart, damn son! Wouldn't it have been much more practical to carry an average of 20 or 30 pounds on your back, 40 pounds at the very most (including food and water)? I've hitch hiked and tramped a bit, albeit not yet on the scale of your journey, but to me, the most beautiful thing about living this lifestyle is the simplicity of only needing a few things, and relying on your creativity and a dash of luck to take care of the rest. Beyond the Ten Essentials (knife, compass, first aid kit, shelter, extra clothing, etc), not much else is needed for humans to make it out there. But hey, like I said, Hike Your Own Hike brother! Hopefully I'll see you out there one day (from the front seat of a car, I save my walking for the woods!).

About This Instructable


301 favorites


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 »
More by bryanquocle: How To Walk Across America Personal Development Strategy Guide
Add instructable to: