October 17, 2011

Twenty-Three Year-Old Nate Damm Walks Across America

When I met the young and ambitious Nate Damm in Portland, Maine (AKA “East Coast Portland”) in September 2010, he told me about his plan to walk across America.

Wow. Really? The whole country?

It sounded incredible… so incredible that I couldn’t really get my head around it. At the time, I was just beginning my own cross-country journey, visiting all 50 states during the Unconventional Book Tour. I thought that trip was an adventurous one, but at least I didn’t have to WALK everywhere.

Fast forward more than a year, and Nate kept his word. This weekend, Nate finished the epic journey in San Francisco. After starting in early spring to plan for weather patterns throughout the country, the trek took him more than six months and several pairs of shoes.

I expect he’ll share more about the trip in his own time, and I’m sure his insights will be much more valuable than mine. But as an observer, the first thing I think about a trip like this is that it requires strong internal motivation. The big question is “Why do this?”

Here’s how Nate answers it in his own words:

First, I want to see America in the most slow and mindful way possible. I am also craving adventure and want to test my ability to handle tough and uncertain situations. A cross-country walk has long been a dream of mine, and it’s about time I do something about it.

I also want to (hopefully) inspire people to pursue big dreams of their own. The last thing anyone wants to do is get to the end of their life and wonder, “What if?”

As of 3pm on Saturday, the journey came to an end. Congratulations to Nate! He walked more than 3,400 miles, most of them by himself, many of them waaaay across the midwest, and finally through the Nevada and California desert.

You can join me in saying “well done” to Nate by leaving a comment on this post or over here on his site. When he’s not sleeping, he’ll probably stop in to say hi at both places.

And Think About This

When I hear stories like Nate’s, it reminds me of this quote from Mark Twain: “They didn’t know it was impossible, so they did it.”

Nate undertook this quest because he wanted to challenge himself and avoid later regrets. What are you doing about YOUR dreams? How will you ensure you don’t look back later and say “What if?”

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Image: Sarah

Comment on this article

52 Responses to “Twenty-Three Year-Old Nate Damm Walks Across America”

  1. Congratulations, Nate! You’re early on in your quest to say, again and again, I did it! Awesome story!

  2. Thanks so much for writing this, Chris! It means a lot to me. Seems like yesterday we were talking about this in Maine. Time flies when you’re having fun. Cheers!

  3. Congratulations! What a great adventure!

  4. Congratulations, Nate! That’s quite a feat you undertook. Keep up the good work!

  5. Congratulations, very impressive!

  6. Congratulations, Nate! What an awesome experience. Looking forward to reading/watching your end-of-trip reflections.

  7. Nate, This makes me want to walk across America as well… so YES, you are inspiring people.

  8. Congratulations, Nate! I think you will inspire a lot of people.

  9. October 17, 2011

    Khara Plicanic

    I love this. To adventure, the open road, and endless possibility!

  10. Wow amazing! Just put your mind do it and did it. You’re an inspiration Nate!

  11. Love this post about Nate! He reminds my of my son, Matt, who decided after university to cycle solo across Canada (against the prevailing winds). I’ve been rereading his journal entries lately and his goal was to see what he was capable of by pushing himself beyond his perceived limits. He didn’t stop at the western coast of British Columbia. He got on a freighter and headed to the coast of South Korea, figured out how to get to the high-speed train without understanding a word of Korean, stopped in to see a friend in Seoul, and flew to Hong Kong. He’s been there for 5 years now, teaching English, travelling as often as he can, hiking and biking, snorkelling and exploring. He turns 29 next week, and is as adventurous as ever.

    I guess the question I often ask (instead of “What if?”) is “Why not?”

  12. Thanks for giving us the update here Chris, this is a really cool adventure! Reminds me of my goal to do the continental divide trail.

    Congratulations Nate!

  13. I am so happy to read this and glad Nate accomplished his goal! Congratulations.

    My 19-year-old son is just beginning this same goal. Jesse will be leaving on his walk across America on November 17. In June 2010 right after high school graduation, Jesse was burned and spent some time in the hospital. He is doing his walk as a fundraiser for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

    In between studies in California, he’s training and getting ready to leave in a few short weeks.

    Thanks for sharing Nate’s story. I’m going to look him up and read about his journey. I know Jesse has been talking to someone online who is currently walking. Wonder if it’s Nate?? So glad he completed it safely!

  14. Thanks, Chris.

    Congratulations, Nate! It’s one thing to have a dream, but it’s entirely another to plan and execute, literally step by step. This will be an inspiration to so many people, to plan and execute their own dreams, step by step. Thanks for doing it!

    Jeff

  15. It’s people like you, Nate, who inspire the rest of us to dream big and dare to live beyond our self-imposed limits. Kudos to your adventure and your courage.

  16. Congratulations to Nate! I truly understand why he did it. After sailing around the world, some people asked me, “Why didn’t you just fly?” They just didn’t get it.
    Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” People like this embrace the meaning of the word, Adventure.

  17. Kudos Nate! This inspires me to keep on my path! At age 53 I’ve decided to quit my job, sell my possessions, and travel for as long as my retirement money will allow. My journey starts after the new year! One of my desires is to walk the Camino de Santiago!

    Please continue on your path of inspiration!!

  18. I had the privilege of meeting Nate at the WDS (I think he was in Missouri at that point) and that man should be an inspiration for all of us. Instead of listening to people who told him he couldn’t do it or it was stupid or a waste of time, he simply said ‘why not?’.

    To quote Robert Frost, he “took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.”

    Congratulations on completing your epic journey! So, what’s next, Alaska to Argentina?

  19. Thank you Nate for the inspiration, may it continue to carry you and propel others forward to test themselves, step-by-step.

  20. Congrats Nate!! I’m sure you have so many interesting experiences and insights gained that you’ll now be able to share.

    The greatest part of completing your ‘what if’s’ in life as well as your ‘why not’s’ is that now you get to ask ‘what next’? !!

  21. Thanks Nate for inspiring us mere mortals and thanks Chris for telling us about this. My big outrageous goal is to put a Bloomers! know + grow Garden in every preschool in the country. For a long time, even I thought that was kind of ridiculous. I mean, we don’t even know for sure how many preschools there are in America. But it’s articles like this one that remind me that no goal is too big nor too outrageous. Thanks!

  22. Wow, what an amazing thing to do. I’m so bleeping inspired!

  23. love it ,, congratulations ,, America is an amazing place to travel independantly , done it twice and met so many good people , 18 years ago , no internet , coins only to contact scotland, lol ,motorcled from niagra to florida selling celtic tattoo designs ,,something i created in niagra and baltimore thanks to good people i met , it gave me the ticket i needed ,,,then drive away to san fran , , and 2 years later went back to Yarmouth maine ,4 weeks, converted a camper , and spent a year with my girlfriend getting to the west ,great journey,the slow walk must have been amazing tho , speed changes perception and paths to be crossed , and the adventures ,, look forward to reading , and the people you inspire ,, its needed ,,

  24. I desire to do the same thing! That is awesome, Nate.

  25. Incredibly inspiring. Thanks Nate & Chris.

  26. You’re the man, Nate! All my respect and good luck in the future.

  27. That is epic. I don’t know if I would ever do it by foot, but by RV or car sure thing. It would be fun. My question is did he just walk straight across or did he visit many states? Im so confused. I had a friend who rode her bike from portland to Michigan, but that was a group thing and a bike…this is way more hardcore. I so want to see photos now.

  28. ‘I also want to (hopefully) inspire people to pursue big dreams of their own. The last thing anyone wants to do is get to the end of their life and wonder, “What if?”’

    Perfectly stated, and I think the job has been done. Consider me inspired…

  29. Congrats on this incredible accomplishment!

    I did something similar this summer, but my walk was across Spain and only 16 days, 350 km. Still, I lived out of a backpack in tiny rural spanish towns, put my navigation and spanish communication skills to the test (no English spoken in these areas of course), and did what I previously thought was impossible, for myself anyways. Most of the time I walked alone or with other fellow “pilgrims” who I met from all over the world.

    I totally agree that walking across a country is the most mindful way to really experience it, and I highly recommend the Camino de Santiago to anyone looking for a big adventure. I can’t wait to go back and do another longer pilgrimage on another route!

  30. Hi Chris, this time I really have an answer to your blog ending questions.

    How will you ensure you don’t look back later and say “What if?”

    I just do something meaningful that I am pulled towards not do what I am pushed to.

    To this little project I was really pulled too.

    I created this video of our tribute to Steve Jobs. A portrait of 4001 post-its posted outside of the Apple Store in Munich.

    Hope the whole AONC community enjoys this. Its still up until this Thursday. So whenever you are in Munich give me a shout.

  31. Congrats Nate! What an awesome achievement. Great inspiration to us all :o)

  32. My dream? Move from Houston to California. The work has begun. Thanks Chris. You inspire.

  33. Congrats Nate! I have a friend Don Moseman, or Walking Don, who made this trip twice. One of his motivations was the years he spent in San Quentin. Freedom is a gift! I think he always was a walker. He is now in his 70′s and walks around Mt. Tamalpais taking intimate photos of wild life. Wow! Oh, yeah, and My dad is one of those 100 mile mountain runners. He is 80 now and can still knock off an 18 hour “walk” even with a pace-maker. Who knows what’s possible? Good for you.

  34. Amazing accomplishment. I will be reading your blog, as I’m planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2012. Any advice on long distance hiking would be appreciated.

  35. Congrats Nate!

    I haven’t really heard much about anybody doing something similar since Peter Jenkins did it in the 1970′s. He took 2 years to do it and wrote a very popular book at the time.

  36. Congratulations Nate
    Big goals -love the motivation of mindfully enjoying the experience. Will head to your site now to learn more!
    Keep dreaming and believing

  37. High-five Nate. Truly inspiring.

  38. I up and left my career and spent 6 months riding my motorcycle from the USA to the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia, Argentina. It was AMAZING. When people tell me it’s the adventure of a lifetime, I tell them that I hope it’s not – I hope it’s one of many! We need to make active decisions in our life to go after whatever it is that we want.

  39. Nate! You did it. I am proud of you, my fellow Mainer. We have got to talk on the radio again. And, Chris, to think I met you both on that same auspicious evening in Portland, Maine (the REAL Portland – OK, kidding..maybe;))

    Monumental stuff, gents! Congratulations, Nate.

  40. Congratulations to Nate. An inspiration to a lot of people, especially young people who should go ahead and do what they dream of doing before it becomes What if?

    I’m at a much later stage in life where my “What if” is rapidly turning into, How can I make my What if a reality before it’s too late? There’s a lot to be said for accomplishing what you can when you are young and before you have lived to regret not doing it/them.

  41. While the sense of achievement will always live with him, the sense of connection to the country will be there as well. When you fly to get to places you get there quickly but you miss the transitions – the way landscapes change subtly or quickly, the way people and accents and cuisine change. Spending a year driving across the US was a huge eye opener for me, I can only begin to imagine how doing it on foot changes your perspective on the world.

  42. Congratulations to Nate. Hope you find now another challenge :-)

  43. Congratulations, Nate! What an amazing accomplishment! In the future I’m going to follow in your footsteps (literally).

  44. Nate,
    Outstanding!! Thanks for sharing. It definitely is inspiring to read about true to life people that achieve things that seem impossible but really are.

    Tim

  45. Wow, reading this post brought back a great memory of my parents reading a fabulous book to our family of five kids. The book–”Walk across America” by Peter Jenkins–was written 25 years ago. I think I need to pick up a copy and read it again. There was also a sequel. He shared amazing experiences and his dog was with him too. I believe he met his future wife on that adventure as well. I would encourage any of you to pick up a copy. It certainly stirred a sense of curiosity and adventure in me as a young teen.
    Congrats to Nate–it would be really cool to hear more about his experiences now as compared to Peter’s. I’m sure some of the basics haven’t changed–at heart, this country is comprised of amazingly generous and kind folks. We all need reminders of that!
    Thanks for sharing this Chris.
    Happy trails,
    TJ

  46. I love his story.
    It’s incredible. I really want to learn more. Like the logistics of it. And how he ate. Or how much money he had.

  47. Nate’s journey is impressive because he actually followed through on his decision and finished. I know of several people who said they would walk across America, and a few who even started, but Nate is the only person that I know of who has finished this massive undertaking. And he’s just getting started!

  48. Well done Nate!

    (“They didn’t know it was impossible, so they did it.” Mark Twain LOVE IT!)

  49. Congratulations to Nate for going out and doing what he has always wanted to do. It took me many years to get to that point in my life and I commend him for taking the step to go out and do it! I decided last spring after getting my Associates degree that I wanted an Bachelor of Art degree in Art and I’m now doing it. I am definitely not the youngest person in class, but it’s so rewarding to be learning and growing and working toward something that will help me continue down the path that seems to be calling my name…

  50. @Nate: Great job!

    @Chris: There is another good quote from Mark Twain: “The man with a new idea is a Crank until the idea succeeds.”

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  52. It is so heart warming to hear these stories. I used to always love them, but with a hint of regret that I did nothing to follow my own dreams, like they did. I have no such regrets any more since I quit everything to become a modern-day nomad. It’s scary, but so is living with regrets.

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