Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Journey

I have a friend who is walking across America.  He's on the American Discovery Trail, which I didn't know existed until he took off.  He started in March on the east coast.  He camped in snow.  He has dealt with thunderstorms and freezing weather and heat.  Some nights, he stays in inexpensive hotels, others he camps.  He isn't wearing headphones, he has a phone and some form of computer with him, because he posts to a blog nightly.  He clearly is using apps to check weather and navigate.  (Which makes me wonder how people did it before smart phones.)  He had planned on taking 9 months to complete the trip, but personal circumstances have caused him to bump up his time line and attempt to finish in 7 months.

This week, he hit the "half way" point.  Although, as he nears the Rocky Mountains, I suspect his pace will slow quite a bit.  He has mentioned, in his blog, that the further west he goes, the more nights camping he will have.  I'm concerned about him getting enough food and water.  Carrying large quantities of water is difficult, as it adds tremendous weight to his pack.

Reading his blog, what I am most struck by (and he seems to be as well) is how tremendously kind and generous everyone is to him.  He is a vet, and isn't afraid to identify himself as such, which I think probably helps.  He's also older, mature . . . so not some hippie kid shirking their responsibilities on the bank of mom and dad.  He has an open and kind and calm demeanor.  All of which, I think, helps people respond in kind.

Nearly daily, someone pulls over on the road to offer him water or food or a place to rest.  He has had wonderful conversations with people from all walks of life: from folks hanging out in East St. Louis to elderly women tending their gardens.  He even had a homeless person give him $2 because the guy thought my friend was also homeless.  He tried to refuse it and the homeless guy told him to not question a person's freely offered generosity.  A great life lesson, to be sure.  He has asked to camp in people's yards and been greeted with dinner and hot coffee brought to his tent in the morning.  In fact, the only hassle he's faced is from the state troopers who stop him about once a week to check his ID and want to know his particulars.

In a time when we are bombarded with messages of how much danger lurks just beyond our finger tips, it is refreshing to see that someone could walk half way across America and have only good interactions with the people he encounters along the way.

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