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How To Walk Across America

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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.
 
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Ezava26 months ago
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
Elektoralny427 months ago
I live in Warsaw, Poland and currently I'm trying to translate your instructable. One day I want to walk across U.S. too. :)
Best wishes
-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.
bryanquocle (author)  Rizan Boocay1 year ago
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.
3366carlos1 year ago
good job! i wouldn't even drive across country let alone walk or bike.
Go denmarrk
*denmark
dylance921 year ago
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?
bryanquocle (author)  dylance921 year ago
What we used was a run-about brand stroller, and took away all the seats and miscellaneous extras that we didn't need.

You can find the one we used here:

http://bergdesign.net/triple.htm

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.
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.
2 1/2 cups steamed rice
2 eggs
some butter
a splash of soysauce
a wooden spoon

fry the rice with the butter
mix the eggs with the soysauce
put the rice in a bowl
fry the eggs
then when the eggs are almost done throw in the rice
mix and put the rice and eggs in the bowl and enjoy.
perfect it as you cook it each day.
I like to put in a small amount of rice viniger in the rice while it cooks.
Zovits2 years ago
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.
thejonbolie2 years ago
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!
mikeybo22 years ago
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.
jssussex2 years ago
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.
bryanquocle (author) 2 years ago
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.

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.

Beyond Mile 130.jpgField of Flowers.jpgMountain Side.jpgRIP.jpgRiver.jpgRolling Grasslands.jpgSpring Blossoms.jpgSunset Mountain.jpg
User12 years ago
Great writeup! I only have a couple of suggestions;

http://freecampsites.net/ maybe of help to you,
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,
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16836280003
and a small battery like a backup battery for cellphone with a USB plug, and your good to rock out all day!

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.
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.
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?
voyageur102 years ago
Keep it up brother! Life is way too short to not follow your dreams.
cabella2 years ago
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.

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.
abaneyone2 years ago
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'.
'In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few'. (Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind).
Stay safe and keep your beginner's mind.
sterlingss2 years ago
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

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.
Nayler2 years ago
Truly Wonderful.
Really enjoyed reading this,
Thank you for producing something so inspirational.
I wish you good luck for the rest of your journey.
olmon2 years ago
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 & wasn't seen again for 18 years. Of course, he was declared legally dead in the meantime & everyone was really surprised when he showed up again. The other one would only be gone for 2 or 3 months at a time.
Have a great trek. You'll have stories to tell for the rest of your life - - -
mamalaoshi2 years ago
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.
gregpphoto2 years ago
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!
bryanquocle (author)  gregpphoto2 years ago
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.

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.
cdltpx2 years ago
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.
J-Ri2 years ago
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.

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!
gregpphoto2 years ago
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 "Hike Your Own Hike" 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!).
Greetings from The Shire!

I find it amazing that someone might have started such a monumental task from here...

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. You've definitely got my vote.
nbrown-12 years ago
Have you ever heard of Vibram Trex?

They're a kind of shoe that is basically a glove for your feet, only thick enough to keep their shape, but still let you feel the road under you.

Gives you extra grip and protection from the ground (like keeping you from getting burned on hot days, or cutting yourself on something unexpected), but avoids many of the issues with shoes.

Plus, completely waterproof.

You can probably get some in any of the cities you pass through, if that sounds like something you'd be interested in.
Everyone I know who has a pair swears by them. :)
sherab2 years ago
Rock on Bryan! I certainly hope you write as much as you can about this. My brother is Steven Newman, the Worldwalker (http://theworldwalker.com). He spent 4 years walking around the world and it was a spectacular journey. He wrote a great book called Worldwalk (used copies are cheap but I'm going to PM you and get u an autographed copy). I myself have been to just about as many countries as years I have been on the planet and have learned so much about the world and how great the people in it are. if only more people like you would get out there walk, explore, and spend the time to see the wonder there and get to know folks as you are doing, what a wonderful world it would be. So write, write, write! You have fans now.
bryanquocle (author)  sherab2 years ago
Thank you so much for you support, I am truly inspired to continue writing. I feel called to continue walking, perhaps sometime later in my life. Discovering the lives of the the world's inhabitants is a fascinating way to spend a lifetime.
Like the other posters, I ended up reading the whole narrative. You have a talent for storytelling and I look forward to reading your book if one comes out of this journey.

I love the Hunter S. Thompson quote at the top of step 17.

You will find Austin, TX has a more hippie/university district vibe than the rest of Texas. It is a good place. The hill country area is beautiful and I think you may end up traveling through during wildflower season.

Much of rural Texas is inhabited by the sort of rednecks that give rednecks a bad name, so be on your guard. I don't mean to offend any Texans reading this; there are probably more folks who would offer you some iced tea than who would deliberately run you over, but I've met my share of both here.
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