Friday, July 22, 2011

48-state walk

Less than three weeks ago I started thinking about doing a 48-state walk that'll last two years, covering around 10,000 miles. Within a few days, I had pretty much decided to go ahead and do the walk. I plan to begin this walk late next month, even though my legs still don't work very well. (Actually it's my hips, but when your hips don't work, it feels like the problem is in your legs.)

The plan is to start in Maine in late August. From there I'll go down the east coast to Florida, veering a little bit out of the way to hit WV, KY, and TN. I should make it to Florida by December, then spend the winter walking across FL, AL, MS, LA, AR, and into TX. From there I'll start heading north in February or March of 2012, hitting OK, KS, MO, NE, IA, and MN before heading west again as summer begins.

I'll spend the summer walking across SD, ND, MT, WY, ID, WA, and OR. From Portland I'll head south toward Los Angeles during the fall of 2012 and into winter. From southern California I'll head back east beginning in early 2013, following much of the same route I took last year, veering a little bit out of the way to hit NV, WI, and MI. State #48 is Ohio. I could end the walk in Ohio if I choose, but I'll probably continue on to NYC again, to make it a coast-to-coast-to-coast walk.

No, I'm not gonna have "a cause" because I'm not a fraud or an attention whore. Yeah, some media attention would be nice, but I'm not going to seek attention. After a while, media attention will probably be unavoidable anyway because nobody does what I'm about to do. Also, since I'll probably be able to blog more regularly this time, the blog might generate a little buzz, even though that's not my objective when I blog. (My objective is to share parts of my story with people who find it interesting.) I refuse to do anything specifically to attract attention to myself. If I get attention from the media, it'll be the result of others telling the media about me. If you ever want to tell the media about me, I would certainly appreciate it.

Do you really want to know my true cause? I'm warning you, the honesty might disappoint you. Well, here's my true cause: Like everyone who goes out and walks for thousands of miles, my true cause is that I'm sick of all the unnecessary bullshit that everyone loves to dish out in "normal" life in this country. I feel at peace when I walk, even with the police harassment, extreme cold, extreme heat, extreme hunger, extreme pain, poverty, etc. I choose not to have "a cause" because I have integrity. Due to the fact that I never portray or promote myself as a hero with a cause, I actually meet real people when I walk, instead of people I fooled into believing I'm some kind of hero. You probably can't understand this, but my way is a million times more gratifying and worthy of your respect than it would be if I walked for a phony cause like everyone else does.

I will wear sandals through the entire walk, just as I did for the previous walk, for more reasons than I can mention here. I probably won't disclose the brand name of the sandals ever again, though, because the manufacturer apparently does not understand why it would be in their best interest to hook me up with 8 or 10 pairs of sandals, which would cost them essentially nothing. They offered me one free pair when I contacted them regarding prospective sponsorship. I told them they're funny.

You know what's the first thing people notice about me when they see me walking or when they meet me? The first thing people notice is that I wear sandals, because almost everyone expects to see boots. Regular people notice my sandals, and journalists notice them, too. And if there's one thing I know about journalists, it's that they love stories like what I'm about to do. Furthermore, they love the sandal story just as much as everyone else does. So my offer to the sandal manufacturer was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for them, since I alone could give them countless avenues to free advertising, as well as my genuine endorsement on TV and in newspapers. As someone walking 10,000 miles exclusively in their product, they should've seen dollar signs with me, but they just didn't get it.

Last but not least: If I have to spend any more time in jail for knowing my rights when cops perpetrate crimes against me, I'll probably quit the walk because I have nothing else to prove to anyone ever again.

Become a fan of Aimless on Facebook.

Aimless Video Evidence


ER said...

Ryan, I’m really worried you’re about to make a big mistake. You’re about to start this journey, expecting people to discover you, and it’s not going to happen by itself. Without self promotion, nobody is going to know that you are about to embark on this journey. You don’t need a “cause,” you just need to make people aware of what you’re about to do.

When I hear you talk about the “media” it worries me. It’s such a last-decade way of getting yourself known. These days, with social networking (also called “New Media”), one doesn’t need TV, radio, or newspapers to get attention. Far more people get their news and entertainment from the internet these days than traditional media. That’s why newspapers are going out of business left and right. An even greater number of people use social networking like Facebook, Twitter, and the new Google+. Do you have accounts on those services?

The newest form of promotion that people just FLOCK to is live streaming. I guarantee you’d gain an audience if you did a 5 minute live stream on or Ustream each evening from the road, talking about your day, and maybe a weekly hour-long Q&A. You can do it from any iPhone or Android phone.

If you’re planning to leave in a month, then you’re already behind the curve. If you don’t start now to develop a core seed of followers, it’s going to be nearly impossible to do it from the road. IF you have a core group of followers, then once you start the walk, and start posting updates, people will rate them up on Facebook, retweet them, and add you to their circles on G+. You’ll gain more followers as the buzz spreads. But you need develop a core following now for that to happen. Just start a Twitter and Facebook account dedicated to the trip, and post “I’m going to walk across all 48 states without stopping starting next month” with a link to this blog post. Then post a quick note about your planning a couple of times each day. That’s all there is to it.

I would be more than happy to Tweet and do a Google+ post about you once you’ve made a couple of posts on those services talking about the walk. I don’t have a ton of followers (75 on Twitter and around 300 on G+) but some of my followers do have a lot of followers, so if a few of them spread the word… That’s how the ball gets rolling.

Otherwise, if you just set off and hope that people will find out about what you’re doing, then it’s going to be exactly the same as last time, and you’ll be disappointed in the end.

You know how to reach me. Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.

Ryan M. Powell said...

Apparently I haven't made it clear yet that this is not a "look at me" venture. You still seem to think I do this for attention, even though I've said over and over that I don't do this for attention. If I wanted attention, all I'd have to do is wear a sign. Really, that's all I'd have to do, and it would get me on TV in every city I walk through. But I don't do it. Why do you suppose I don't do it?

The guys who draw attention to themselves have no clue what they're missing. All they want is undeserved attention, and they get it. I welcome media attention, but I will NEVER draw attention to myself. I will NEVER pretend to be someone I'm not.

It really doesn't bother me that you are the only person who reads this blog. It may have bothered me a little in the past that almost no one cares what I have to say, but it really doesn't bother me anymore. I do what I do because I love doing what I do. Even though it doesn't always seem like I enjoy doing it, I wouldn't trade my Aimless experiences for anything. I try to share a little bit of it with people like you when I can because I know some people consider it a gift.

ER said...

Ryan, you seem conflicted about why you're doing what you do. You say you don't do it for attention, yet you also say you'd appreciate people making their local media outlets aware of you. You also seemed more than a little disappointed that you didn't get any attention when you finished your last long walk.

The only reason I'm giving you advice is because I think you DESERVE the fan fare, whether you want it or not. There's no disgrace in entertaining people by telling them about your journey. I, for one, would love it, and I know many others would as well. Why wouldn't you enjoy sharing? I just don't understand. If you want this to be something that you do in complete privacy, then why even have this blog or the Aimless website?

I don't want to insult you or argue, but you are wrong if you think wearing a sign would get you on TV and bring hoards of followers.

What it comes down to is that the words you say and the underlying message you're sending are conflicting. You give the impression that you want people to know about the amazing journey you're about to partake in, but you say you don't care if anyone knows.

In all honesty, Ryan, which would you prefer?

1. Thousands of people around the world wake up each day, read about what you did on your epic walk the previous day, and go to work with a smile wishing they could do what you are. When it's over, after walking father than anyone ever has in this country, a crowd of people turns out to congratulate you. Serendipity takes over, and it turns into a once-in-a lifetime opportunity that neither you nor I can even imagine at this point.

2. Each day you walk. Nobody knows or cares. You have the memories and experiences, but they go no farther than the confines of your own skull. When it's over, you go back to doing what you are now.

Honestly, which one would you prefer? Because you're heading toward #2.

I'm not trying to fight you on this, Ryan. I honestly want the best for you. I get the feeling you're hostile toward me, and resent the things I'm saying, and that's another thing I don't understand. You confuse me on so many levels.

Ryan M. Powell said...

I'm not hostile; I just think you and I have communicated enough to be comfortable saying what we really think, instead of trying to sugar-coat everything in an effort to keep from hurting each other's feelings.

You're looking at the attention issue as something that's black and white, with no gray area. You seem to think I should want either constant attention or absolutely no attention. Well, that's not how it is. Maybe I just want A LITTLE attention, and maybe I want it for the right reasons. And unlike the guys who do it all for attention, using phony causes to attract attention to themselves, I'll tell you straight-out that I crave a little attention. But most of the time I want to be left alone so I can get down the road, because talking to people takes time and energy that I need. I have already explained this over and over.

Wearing a sign most certainly does attract attention. Just google 'George Throop' to find out how much attention a sign gets ya. I can explain why it works, but I'm not going to explain because it's really easy to figure out. In fact, I only know George because someone I met at a Coffee Bean in San Francisco told me about him. The guy at the Coffee Bean said he stopped driving to talk to George after seeing George's sign, which said "WALKING ACROSS AMERICA" in big reflective letters for everyone to see.

I appreciate that you give a shit about my travels and my walk(s), but I appreciate it mostly because you give a shit for the right reasons.

To answer your question: I certainly would not prefer #1. That doesn't mean I'd prefer #2, though. It just means I'd prefer something much closer to #2. Y'see, I could make #1 happen very easily. All I'd have to do is pretend to be someone I'm not. That does not make me happy.

You obviously thought I would prefer option #1, but I don't want anything to do with #1. This should tell you pretty clearly that what I want is not what you think I should want. Even if I was able to attract all that attention by doing everything my way, I still wouldn't want that much attention because attention is not my objective. Fame is not my objective. If I somehow manage to become somewhat famous through this next walk or books I may write, I will not embrace fame. All I've ever wanted is a chance to do what I've proven over and over that I can do better than essentially everyone.

I wrote a lot more than this, but I deleted it because it's just too long. (Literally, Blogger won't let me post it.) I saved it in a Word document, so maybe I'll post it some other time.

Ryan M. Powell said...

I need to clarify something: Yes, I wanted attention when I began all this Aimless stuff. More specifically, I hoped my project would get attention. I didn't want people to look at me; I wanted people to look at what I had to show them because it was (and still is) more interesting than almost everything on TV.

But these walks are not Aimless, and I'm no longer actively trying to create any kind of art. These walks are just me doing what I do now. I'm happy to share some of it when I can, and I may write books about it someday, but the Hollywood dreams are long gone. Someone could still make an awesome TV show by following me during my walks, but that's not my objective anymore.

ER said...

Okay Ryan. We obviously have a differ of opinion when it comes to how/why you should promote/gain attention to your work (and it IS work). Whatever the case may be, I do hope you share as much as you can. I'm saying that from a selfish point of view. Walking that kind of distance and having the experiences that go along with it is something I envy, and wish I could do myself. I know I'm not the only one who would love to know what happens on a day-to-day basis when you put one foot in front of the other and criss-cross America in the current state that it's in. I would love to experience every interaction... Every conversation... Every bump in the road. But all of it is up to you to share. Keep it to yourself, if that's what you prefer.

I know I'm not the only one who would tune in to your daily experiences purely for the sake of how interesting they are, living vicariously through your eyes.

But if you won't get enough satisfaction just for the sake of sharing, then I guess you have no motivation for making a simple daily blog post, or hourly Tweet, or occasional live stream. If that's the case, then do it for yourself. Whatever it is that truly motivates you, I honestly respect it beyond words. I couldn't imagine taking on that kind of adventure without the support of a group of like-minded people, and the motivation they would provide.

In any case, I will be following along in any way you allow. Whether it be a monthly blog post, a weekly Tweet, or a daily live stream, you can be sure I will see it.

Enjoy, Ryan.

ER said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ER said...

BTW Ryan, if you happen to find yourself in SW Florida, give me a shout and I would be more than happy to give you couch to crash on in exchange for one of your pizzas. :)

Ryan M. Powell said...

Yeah, um, I'm not gonna find myself in SW Florida. I'll probably just nip the corner of Florida, near Pensacola. Even if SW Florida was my favorite place in the world, I wouldn't walk there because it's on the way to nowhere. It's like 600 miles out of the way.

There's a good chance I will blog somewhat regularly during this walk because 1) I'll almost certainly be able to blog this time; 2) I may have a phone with internet within a week or two; and 3) The seasons will likely force me to walk fewer miles per day than I did during last year's walk, at least until late spring of next year. Fewer daily miles means more time to do shit like write blog posts.