Frequently Asked Questions
What is Dudetrek?
Why Walk Across America?
Where Have You Been So Far?
How Did You Prepare?
What Do Your Parents Think?
What Gear Do You Use?
What Do You Eat?
Where Do You Sleep Each Night?
What’s Next After Dudetrek?
Where Can I Get a Dudetrek T-shirt?
My name is Jonah Boyer, I am 18 years old, and I am walking across America. I started on August 31st in Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware, and I plan to end in San Francisco sometime this summer. At first, I followed a very specific route without deviating from my plan. Over time, I have learned to just go with the flow and see where the wind takes me. That said, I am generally heading West with California in my sight line. I have already met so many amazing people and seen many amazing things. Be sure to go to check out some of the pictures I have taken so far!
The simple answer is “For Fun!”. Truly though, I have many reasons for embarking on this quest. The idea crossed my mind last year during my senior year of High School. I felt pressured to decide what I was going to do with the rest of my life, and I didn’t feel ready to make the decision. I have always loved the outdoors, staying in shape, meeting new people, and doing new things. The choice seemed natural. While I have many passions and many goals, I have simply decided to pursue them in an alternative direction. This does not mean I am never going to college, this just means my craving for adventure comes first. I often consider the comparison between knowledge and wisdom. In my mind, college offers greater knowledge while walking across America offers greater wisdom. Nevertheless, it is mainly about having fun and learning along the way.
I have walked through Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and I am currently in Missouri. I’ve walked through the flat farm lands of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern shore, through the marshland near the Chesapeake Bay, along the rocky Potomac River, up and over the remote Appalachian Mountains, through the hills of Eastern Ohio, into the sandstone cliffs and caves in the Ohio River valley, over the surprisingly rolling hills of Indiana, past the massive bluffs and open farmland in Illinois, up the Mississippi during a time of drastically low water levels, and I’m finally approaching the forested Northern Ozarks of Missouri. I’ve walked into the downtown areas of Washington DC, Morgantown (WV), Columbus (OH), Cincinnati (OH), Louisville (KY), Bloomington (IN), Evansville (IN), and St. Louis (MO). It’s been a wild ride so far and I’m not even halfway there yet.
My planning and preparation began around October of 2011. At that time, I was just toying with the idea of forgoing my college experience for a year, to do something unconventional and exciting. I thought about sailing around the world with a fishing crew, or hiking the Appalachian Trail before deciding that walking across America was what I truly wanted to do. I began reading about others that had done this cross-country walk and also did a lot of research about how to be most efficient with my gear. I spent hours and days and weeks with various maps- both online and on paper. I cross-referenced as many as I could and put all the information on Google Maps so I could show it to anyone that wanted to see. I also kicked my fitness into overdrive. I would run on the roads and trails around my house, play ultimate frisbee with my friends every single day, do pushups and sit-ups, and go on practice hikes with my backpack as often as possible. I sent emails to potential sponsors to try to get deals on gear. Less than 1% replied positively, but those few companies saved me thousands in equipment costs. Meanwhile, I was still trying to get through my last year of high school on a high note- balancing my school activities with the seemingly short amount of time I had to chill with my friends before we all went separate ways. I graduated and before I knew it summer was almost over. I was as ready as I could be, but I was stressing out because I wasn’t sure if I was ready, even up to the day I left. My parents drove me to the beach on the morning of August 31st, and from then on, life has been surreal.
When I first told my parents, they were worried that I was making the wrong decision. I didn’t apply to college anywhere and they worried about how this may impact my future, especially if I wasn’t able to make it past the first week of walking. As I made more and more progress towards preparing for my departure, their questions changed from “What if…” to “How can I help?”. Now that I’ve made it this far, they have embraced the idea and support me 100%. Ultimately, they still worry about me constantly and I make sure to call them every night to let them know that I am alive and loving every moment. It took time to show them that I was serious and very dedicated, but at this point they are my biggest supporters and I find great motivation from that.
To carry my equipment, I have an InStep bicycle trailer with a stroller attachment that I use to push around. I started using an ALPS Mountaineering Backpack, but soon after getting into Missouri I decided that I need a change, and that my back had taken enough wear. I have a Big Agnes tent and sleeping bag, Keen trail running shoes, an Eagles Nest Outfitters hammock, an inflatable pillow, an Outdoor Research bivy sack, a GSI Outdoors cooking kit, a Mountain Safety Research camp stove, an all-purpose 8×10 Wal-mart tarp, a thin Wal-mart sleeping mat, a water bladder, a Kindle and my iphone (with chargers), headphones, a journal, first aid kit, water purifiers (which I haven’t had to use yet), 3 pairs of warm socks, leggings, pants, 3 long sleeve shirts of different fabrics, dudetrek t-shirt, winter jacket, crocheted hat, bandana, and a filter water bottle. I think that’s everything. If you are interested in specifics, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My diet is anything but consistent. I use military MRE’s and dehydrated Mountain House food that I’ll order online, have my dad ship to a post office, and pick up whenever I get there. Most of the time however, I just eat whatever is available at the stores in the towns I pass through. Usually, this means stuff like Pop-tarts, bread (I’ll squash it down into a ball so it saves space), dry cereal, trail mix, occasional fruit, and sometimes a can of soup. In towns with a population of a few hundred people and one general store, I just eat whatever they have. I also love stopping in Mom and Pop diners because the food is always cheap and plentiful. Really, my only daily expense is food so I can afford to go out to restaurants now and then.
I am honestly not sure what the true proportion of outside to inside sleeping is, but I’d say it’s close to 50-50. On the nights I sleep outside, I most often stealth camp. The sun will set and I will be nowhere near a town, so I must find an inconspicuous spot where I can avoid being seen or found. This means ditches next to railroads, sections of dense forest between farmland, under bridges, etc. If I can make it to a town by the time it gets dark, I will usually head to the local police station, fire department, or church to see if there is a safe place for me to get some shut eye. Usually, they will help me find somewhere out of the cold to sleep for a night. I have slept in churches, under pavilions, in sheds, in motels; anywhere I can lay down without being disturbed or feeling in danger. Other times, I will meet people and they will open up their homes for me, letting me crash in an extra bed, on their couch, or even just on their floor. Those are my favorite nights because I get to meet awesome, friendly people, eat home cooked meals, and get a good night’s sleep. If I’m walking through your neck of the woods, PLEASE LET ME CRASH ON YOUR COUCH. I am eternally grateful to those that help me along my journey, as they make things much easier, more comfortable, and more fun.
I have so many things I want to do after Dudetrek, but I can’t decide where I’d like to start. I would like to go to college at some point because I think I can gain a lot out of higher education and the plentiful resources and networking opportunities it will provide. If I can complete this pilgrimage, I know I’ll be able to write a hell of an application essay, anyway. That said, traveling is very addicting and I have a feeling I won’t want to stop so soon. I’d really like to see Spain, India, Brazil, West Africa, and many other places that have so much to offer culturally. But all of those things are expensive and I will need money to fund future trips, meaning I need to get a job and stay in one place for while. I have never explored west of the Mississippi before, but I am very excited to experience everything it has to offer. No matter what path I take, I will continue to play music, stay active, and try new things. As I meet new people every day, I often ask about what they do for a living or how they occupy their down time, because the more I learn about how others live, the more I learn about my own life and how I fit into this world.
If you would like a tie-dye Dudetrek T-shirt like the one I wear every day, email email@example.com