Why are you walking?
I walked 3,000 miles from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles to talk to those experiencing poverty and homelessness firsthand, and to write a book about my journey to be called Talk to Strangers. It will be released in early 2019 for the 10th anniversary of my walk.
How many miles a day did you walk?
I walked 15-20 miles a day on average.
Where did you sleep at night?
It depended on the day. Sometimes I stayed in hotels or camped. Other days I stayed with people I met on my journey.
What cities and towns did you visit on your route?
I started my journey in Washington, D.C., on July 4, 2009. From there I walked to Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago. In 2010 I returned to Chicago and walked through Springfield, St Louis and Kansas City; and in 2011 I walked through Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan and Wichita.
In June 2012 I returned to Wichita and continued on to Oklahoma City, Amarillo, Albuquerque, Flagstaff and finally Los Angeles. Just as the sun was setting on Aug. 20, 2012, I completed my journey by walking into the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica, shoes and all. Here’s a full map of My Route
How long did it take you to walk?
I initially planned to spend four months walking, averaging 25 miles a day, and arriving in San Francisco by the end of October 2009. But lack of training, the hot summer sun, and the realities of a journey with a mind of its own slowed my pace considerably. Then, just a month in, I was forced to take a month of rest to allow a stress fracture on my left tibia time to heal. For two weeks I had been walking on a leg I didn’t know was broken.
That first year I made it as far as Chicago, proud of having walked 1,000 miles and ready to move on to the next chapter of my life. I never really thought I’d make it all the way across the United States; Chicago seemed a respectable accomplishment.
But, that next spring of 2010, I decided I wanted to walk a little more. And I realized it didn’t really matter how long it took–it was all about the journey and the people I met along the way. I revised my route and forged ahead. In the end it took me six months of walking, broken up over four years.
What shoes did you wear?
I didn’t wear any special shoes, but I wore out six pairs of sneakers on my journey. The final pair was Aasics trail running sneakers.
How heavy was your backpack?
When I started my backpack was 54 pounds. After a torturous first few days I quickly reduced the weight to 30-35 pounds by twice mailing items home. Typically it was approximately 35 pounds, depending on how much water I was carrying.
What did you take with you in your backpack?
In my backpack I had a tent, a sleeping bag, a laptop, a cell phone, two bottles of water, two pairs of shorts, two pairs of stretch pants, a pair of wind pants, a pair of long underwear, two exercise tops, four long-sleeved shirts, a fleece jacket, a rain jacket, two sports bras, 14 pairs of socks, 10 pairs of underwear, miscellaneous toiletries, a notebook, and a variety of electrical cords. I also collected little bits of scrap metal I found along the side of the road.
Where are you now?
I am home in Washington, D.C. working on my book.
Do you accept donations?
Yes. I am accepting donations to design, edit and print my book. Those who donate at least $25 will receive a copy of Talk to Strangers.
Have any other questions? Ask away.