I took 7,389,599 steps between Virginia Beach and Baker Beach. I walked for 191 days, and covered 3,250 miles.
I wore through six pairs of shoes, and walked in three other pairs that “didn’t feel right.” I had five pairs of sunglasses, and ended the trip with 16 pairs of socks and eight pairs of sock liners. I clearly didn’t learn how to pack light.
I licked 150 14 ounce jars of peanut butter clean.
Forest is still airing out in the brisk fall Colorado air. The dental floss I used to mend a tear near the bottom of the pack before I left Fort Collins is still intact.
PJ’s front tire went flat once, and I only had one rear flat, which popped at the exact moment I stopped to replace both well-traveled tires and tubes. His parking break is nearly ineffective, and his cloth is weathered and stained. I think he looks great.
My hair is a bit thinner now than it was in early April, and my feet are a bit lighter thanks to the loss of three toenails. A 70 percent toenail survival rate seems pretty good to me.
My Walk Across America exceeded all the expectations I had for it.
I’ve had a very difficult time writing this final blog post…This is the fifth draft I’ve put together. I’ve been left in tears after looking through pictures, listening to some of my favorite walking music, reflecting on memories from the road, thinking about all the people that helped me, and how my family has been with me every step of the way, and supported me through my triumphs and failures, before, during, and after this walk. I’m forever grateful for their support.
As you read on, please note I’m not much of a philosopher!
My mom and dad formed a welcoming party at Union Station in Denver when I arrived back in Colorado. Four cousins and an aunt and uncle joined the party, too. I left Union Station April 1st, and returned October 9th, bringing my entire trip full circle.
One of my favorite aspects of Walking Across America was the simplistic beauty behind it. Once everything is boiled down to the basics, it becomes incredibly straightforward. I felt like I was able to act like a kid more than I have since, well, I was a kid. It was wonderful. Just getting goofy….Wearing whatever I felt like, taking funny pictures, talking to animals, and doing my best to look at the world through a child’s eyes. It’s amazing how much this changed my perspective during the trip. It will be something I continue to challenge myself to do. Maintaining that sense of wonder, dreaming, and feeling like anything is possible, because it is.
This was a light traffic day in California! Of course, dealing with cars was a consistent challenge. One challenge I had for myself was to not react to cars that were visibly pissed I was on the road. I had my fair share of “encouragement honks” and waves, but also had countless “f**k you honks,” too. I’ll admit I lost my temper once and flipped off a trucker who purposefully drove onto the rumble strips and angrily honked when he passed me on I-80 in Nevada. Other than that, I reacted the same to any honk, with a wave and smile, or nothing at all. This is reflective of the positivity I maintained throughout the trip. Of course there were bad days and hard moments, but I did everything I could to stay positive. This turned out to be one of the biggest lessons learned, and the greatest strength I utilized on the trip. Wearing a smile and putting an optimistic spin on every situation, no matter how difficult, kept my spirits high and made me more approachable. If I wore a scowl or was negative about things, people would have been less likely to approach me. A smile and positive attitude make you the kind of person people want to be around and help if the situation warrants it.
I was helped by so many people throughout the country…People with varying backgrounds and situations, ranging from wealthy to homeless. All of them had two things in common: huge hearts and faith. There were countless situations on this trip when things looked bleak. Whenever that happened, a guardian angel came along, in one form or another, and helped. I’m thankful God’s disciples were scattered between Virginia and Baker Beach to lend a helping hand, and strengthen my Faith in the process. Thank you.
My stay at Joe Bowen’s B&B in Bowen, KY, turned out to be one of the most inspiring nights of my trip. Now 72, Joe Walked Across America on stilts, twice biked across America, and built his house himself by hand. My biggest takeaway from our talks was follow your passions, and follow them with 100% of your heart. It’s not always easy, but imperative to do this if you want to succeed. I’ve taken this thought a step further…I’m not sure what the next step in my life is, but there is no way I’ll “fail” if I pursue something I’m passionate about and am 100% in. Even if I don’t succeed in society’s eyes, I’ll succeed in my eyes if I learn something and pour all of my heart into it. Ultimately, there’s only one person to answer to.
When I was walking through the Salt Flats, a photographer named Ryan Trimble stopped to talk to me on his way back to Salt Lake City after attending Burning Man. Ryan specializes in portraits of “street people.” He saw me and wanted to hear my story. Reflecting on our encounter reinforces the importance of not rushing to judgment. Everyone has a story and everyone has unique circumstances. We can all work on remembering that before jumping to conclusions about a person based on their appearance or our perception of their situation.
One common question I’ve been asked since walking into the Pacific is if I’m a different person or if this trip has been life changing. Overall, I’m no different than I was in April. The problems I had when I left for Virginia are still prevalent. There is no “magic trip” or “magic pill” that can cure all that ails us. But, there are ways to alter our perspective and give us the tools necessary to conquer our demons and overcome life’s challenges, while making our lives richer and more fulfilling.
What my Walk Across America gave me was a fresh way to look at the world, left me with the confidence to know I can do anything if I set my mind to it, and has provided the tools needed to become a better person.
The primary reason it’s been so difficult to complete this post is because the reality my Walk is over has finally set in. Part of me is happy it’s over, while another part longs for the adventure the road brings. Then a thought occurred to me…Why does it have to end? We are given an incredible opportunity to live life to the fullest every day, whether we’re Walking Across America, or heading to a job we’ve held for 10 years. The opportunities to experience new things, challenge ourselves, meet different people, and enjoy life’s little pleasures are at our fingertips. It’s our responsibility to go out and grab it.
Find your passion, chase it, and don’t be content with ordinary. It’s not the easy path, and there are bumps in the road, but the results make every trial and tribulation worth it. An amazing journey starts with a single step. Take that step, don’t be afraid, and never look back. It’s amazing what happens when you put a handful of steps (or 7,389,599 in my case) together.
**My future plans are up in the air, but the first step will be writing a book about my walk. It’s overwhelming, and will be a mental challenge. In this case, I’ll put together one page after another. I’ve already started thinking about another walk, possibly this spring. I know that my “itchy ass” will continue to encourage a lifestyle that incorporates travel. Life is short and I want to continue to get after it.**
8 thoughts on “Where Will We Walk From Here?”
More WOWS – You have me in tears. Love ya. Walk on into your book! Keep writing.
The steps of our lives and the distance it takes to find out what you are made of is totally a very personal and soulful experience and very much a different path for everyone !! Now is the time to get out and find out more about this as we trek through the years of age and experience !!
Well done Ben, thrilled to read of your beautiful journey.looking forward to the book, ONe page at a time( or as Annie Lamott says ” bird by bird”) so glad to have met you on that back road in Petaluma and glad for the hangout time in SF with Lily and Oston. Big inspiration. Peace and a joyful integration of a portion of your journey of a lifetime.
Thank you, Susie! Glad we ran into eachother, too, and meeting with Lily and Oston was wonderful! They are great kids!
Thank you for sharing your experience.
The ultimate “Go take a Hike”….??
Really enjoyed your observations and reflections…………………………..
Thanks so much, Keith! One very long hike, or very long camping trip! Thanks for following along!
Thanks Ben for the “re-cap” of your Walk Across America! What a wonderful and inspiring journey! Many people dream of doing things yet never accomplish them. You, however, followed through with your goals and dreams! Congrats!! Happy Trails Liz
Thank you very much, Liz, and thanks for following me the whole way. It was great receiving and reading your comments from coast to coast! Hope it hasn’t gotten too cold in Minnesota yet! Walk on 🙂