Have you ever had a Jerry Maguire moment in life when you realize that things need to change and that you’re the only one holding yourself back? I wanted to take a break from our regularly scheduled programming to tell the story of an inspirational guy I met yesterday. Just talking to him for an hour changed my perspective and got me thinking about what is meaningful. Admittedly he was British and hot, that definitely got me to pull over and pay attention. He has an amazing story, and it’s one I wanted to share here and maybe help his cause.
Alan Slater has been walking alone across the United States for the past seven months. I met him walking down the road in my state of Virginia, and he explained to me that he’s “almost done” with his trip from San Francisco to New York City, even though he has about another month to go. He walks about eight hours a day at around 3 miles an hour, covering roughly 25 miles a day. His website is AlanWalksAmerica.com, where he chronicles his journey and raises money for cancer research. (The entries are a few weeks behind as he updates them when he is able to get to a computer, and is trying to go in order. He does have a phone with him.) He does not take rides from anyone at all, and he didn’t let me drive him anywhere even before he knew I was a “journalist.” He does accept lodging from people and he said that he has been so touched by how kind and open everyone has been to him. He’s impressed with America and with how courteous and nice we are. He told me he’s had about three run-ins with “rude” people whom he wouldn’t want to meet again, but it didn’t sound like his safety has been threatened at all.
I took Alan out to eat at a local diner along his route. Alan, who turns 26 this week, explained that he finished his university degree in physical activity, exercise and health three years ago in the UK. He traveled around the world after college, trying to figure out what he wanted to do. He said that he was wary of getting in a rut and not stopping to examine his life or career path. After his grandfather was sick and passed away from cancer in February of last year, Alan decided to embark on a journey that would both raise money for cancer research and help push him out of his comfort zone. He compared it to an Aboriginal walkabout, adding that we all “need to be put on the other side of things and see it from another perspective.”
The first two months were incredibly hard for Alan. He felt understandably anxious when he first set out and he lost weight, was in physical pain and had to deal with blisters on his feet as he navigated the very barren west. Now, camping out on the side of the road and walking every day are routine to him. He said that he sees it as a job and that it’s taught him that anything is possible when you set your mind to it. He didn’t consider his journey extraordinary or inspirational at all, and the things he told me about what he’s learned along the way were both simple and profound. These are concepts I’ve read and thought of about countless times, but it meant so much more coming from someone who has lived it. I will remember meeting this guy for the rest of my life. Here’s some of what he told me about his journey and about what it meant to him.
Anyone can do this, it just takes getting past the anxiety at first…
Somehow when you picture adventures… like climbing Everest, you think every minute is going to be agony, you’re going to be in miserable.
In reality a lot of it is quite arduous and boring, not a lot happens all the time. Hence this is kind of like my job… it doesn’t seem like an adventure when you do it every day.
We all need to go on a walkabout in life and be put on the other of things and see it from another perspective.
There is this big fallacy that people are born with adventurous genes.
I really do believe everyone is just equal, and if you really want to go on an amazing adventure, just go for it.
Anything is possible these days, I’m just an average guy so if I can do it anyone can.
This trip has taught me to push in my anxiety and don’t be comfortable. It’s the same in life, with [going outside your comfort zone] comes freedom. I want to do something more rewarding than just accepting my lot in life. I want to keep pushing myself to find what makes me happy…
You can do anything, I truly believe, you have to just be persistent.
Alan said that when he reaches the end of the trip he’ll be returning to see his family in England. His journey honoring his grandfather has ultimately taught him how much his family and friends mean to him. He also joked that he’s looking forward to taking a nice bath and having a break from walking every day.
I hope that if I take away anything from meeting Alan it’s that we’re capable of great things in life, and that there’s no reason not to start our own journey toward our goals. You can learn more about Alan’s trip, and help out his cause of cancer research on AlanWalksAmerica.com. (Note that donations are in British pounds, which are roughly 1.6 US dollars.)
Update: Here are some additional articles about Alan’s journey:
February 21: Greenville, TN, Greenville Sun
December 27: Tahlequah, OK, Tahlequah Daily Press
December 7: Woodward, OK, Woodward News
November 30: Guymon, OK, Guymon Daily Herald
September 4: Placerville, CA, Mountain Democrat
August 31: Rio Vista , CA River News Herald