No, it’s not. I am walking, that’s it folks, just walking. The most basic form of human transportation since time immemorial.
I hear “that’s brave” or “don’t you have a relief vehicle?” or “what’s your cause” or “are you carrying a gun?” all the time and think, ‘When did walking, during daylight hours, in the United States of America become an act of bravery?’ I appreciate the concern and goodwill, and feel the kindness that flows beneath these concerns, but am a little baffled by the idea that what I am doing is “brave”.
When I was seven or eight, I would run out the door saying, “Bye mom! See you for dinner.” And then criss-cross through backyards with my fishing pole or pedal off on my bike to find adventures in the woods or down by the beach. I’d walk for hours in the sand dunes, by myself or with friends. Back then, no one called this “brave”. It was a fairly normal thing for a kid to do. I doubt any child is allowed this freedom anymore. What happened? When did being outside by yourself, even for an adult, become so scary?
Of course nature can be a bit scary a times. A friend wrote me to say, “Every time I’ve gone Out West I’ve experienced Natural Drama, and have thought of the pioneers forging paths westward. Wondered about women who walked alongside their covered wagons, with all their worldly belongings (maybe carried a baby/toddler across the Great Plains), knowing they would never see their parents/families again.”
This captures my thoughts exactly… as I follow the Santa Fe Trail in eastern New Mexico, I keep thinking of these pioneer women and men who didn’t know what waited on the other side of the mountains, who couldn’t check their GPS, snack on trail mix, drink from their camelback or buy (or borrow) a new pair of high-tech boots. I think of forced pilgrimages, like Trail of Tears… a journey with bare feet, starvation and survival through a force of bitter will.
It was a different time I suppose. Having done a third of my journey, I marvel at their stamina and true bravery.
Nor is what I’m doing unique. Almost every day, I hear about someone embarking on a similar trip, some more extreme, like tag team running across the country or biking the perimeter of the continent. I love to hear these stories and feel a kinship with the experience of crossing the continent and seeing the country in a slow, self-powered manner. I like the idea of so many people choosing to put their life on hold so they can have an adventure. I suspect that the economy has spurred some of this what-the-heck, what-do-I-have-to-lose attitude, but still, we are a privileged group.
So, in my estimation, what I am doing is not “brave” or “unique” (well… the webcam is a fun addition). All along the way, I have said that this is not an epic, solo journey created to test my strength and endurance, although I have found myself exhausted a few times. For me, this is a shared experience, both in reality and online. It is an act of humility and faith, in myself and others. I designed this project so I couldn’t do it on my own, so that I had to ask for help.
And that is the hard part for me, perhaps the bravery resides in those daily moments when I say, “Please help me.” More often than not, people offer more than I need before I have a chance ask. So, the asking has gotten easier and my faith in basic human kindness has grown stronger.
By asking people to invite me into their daily lives and homes, I have discovered rich networks of family, friendship, and faith that weave together a strong sense of place. This is what I call community.
“Brave”… no. Most of the time, I feel like I am walking through the backyard of America and waving at the neighbors along the way, as I set out for my daily adventure.