This is our third round of Frequently Asked Questions. We have put together a combination of questions we are frequently asked by people we meet on the road, as well as a few questions we received from a fellow JV friend.
Do you feel like people are so responsive to you when they think you are homeless because you are two young white people, and don’t appear as “stereotypical” homeless folks?
Yes. We definitely recognize that our privileges such as our skin color, youth, and socio-economic status benefit us immensely on the walk. Because of our race we are likely viewed with less suspicion by residents when we enter a new town and some of the brand name gear we carry signals a certain level of wealth. We realize that the benefits and privileges of our appearances offered us in everyday life carry over into our experiences on the walk.
I am not of the opinion that you are doing this, but have you received any criticism for “playing poor,” by actual homeless folks or otherwise? Or is your advocacy completely appreciated?
Not yet. We try and be very upfront about what we are doing to make it clear we are not pretending to be homeless. We have a sign on the front of our cart that says what we are doing and, when people give us money, we always explain that it will go to a homeless day shelter. A few times on this trip, people have wondered if we are presenting ourselves as homeless as a way of raising awareness for homelessness, and we want to clarify that is not at all our intention. We look the way we look because of the nature of our trip, and are using the cart we are using because it is the most practical means of traveling across the country by foot. The only way we are attempting to raise awareness about homelessness is by engaging people in conversations about our experience working at JOIN, and the importance of affordable housing in all our communities. Often, when people do mistake us for being homeless, they will offer us money for food or shelter. While we keep a tally of all the money we receive, and put it towards the fundraiser at the end of every month, we also always want to be clear about where the money goes.Some people would prefer to give their money directly to someone experiencing homelessness rather than an organization, and we want to respect that. The only times we have received criticism for our advocacy is when people think the money we raise goes to our expenses and the leftover goes to the shelter. However, this is not the case. We saved our own money for over a year, so that everything raised goes directly to the shelter. Overall, everyone we have met has been supportive of the cause and we have had many productive conversations about affordable housing and homelessness.
How many pairs of shoes have you gone through?
Danny: I’m currently rotating between my third and fourth pair.
What’s your longest day yet?
We did a 35 mile day in eastern Colorado, which was tough but the weather was very cooperative.
What’s your favorite state?
Danny: It’s tough to say, since we’ve seen such gorgeous scenery, and experienced such hospitality and generosity, in each state, but my vote goes to Colorado. There were so many different landscapes across the state, from the flat, rolling, Kansas-like plains of the east, to the Rocky mountains, to the desert of western Colorado. It’s had some of the coolest, funkiest little hippy towns, some of the nicest weather we’ve had, and all the amazing views we got while crossing the mountains.
Abby: I don’t have a favorite state. It’s hard to compare them because they all bring different challenges and experiences.
Do you think your man/lady combo is an advantage/disadvantage in your travels, when being approached by strangers or asking to camp in their yards?
We think it’s an advantage having a man and a woman. When we knock on someone’s door asking to yard camp, Abby always does the talking because we think a woman appears less threatening. When we are approached by strangers on the road Abby feels it’s an advantage having Danny because she is less vulnerable than she would be alone. It also can be comforting when we’re staying with a single person.
Are you tired of each other?
Not yet, but San Francisco is still a long ways away (joking!)
You have shared so many beautiful anecdotes about community and hospitality, but are there long dry spells in between where you feel on your own, or have been rejected at all along the way?
Abby: Especially now that we are out west there are definitely times when it feels like we are on our own compared to the east coast and midwest. Even though we have experienced so much hospitality and community with strangers, I definitely miss the familiarity of relationships from back home, since we are always the outsider. We’ve been really lucky not to get rejected much along the way, with the exception of some internet trolls on news articles about us haha.
Danny: It’s something I was aware would happen going into the walk, but I still find myself overwhelmed by the isolation that can kick in. We obviously have each other for company, which is great, and we have met and become friends with countless kind strangers along the way, but there are long stretches where the experience can be lonely. There are constant reminders on social media of nights out with friends that you missed. There is a constant bombardment of news that can make me feel removed from the real world. The trip as a whole is a very internal experience, in which you spend a lot of time with yourself. As challenging as it has been to be removed, it has also allowed ample time for writing and reflection that we wouldn’t otherwise get.
What’s the best site you’ve seen?
Abby: Similar to the favorite state question, it’s difficult to pick a best site. However some good ones have included the top of Cottonwood Pass in Colorado, the WWI history museum in Kansas City, the Gettysburg battlefields, the plains in Kansas, and the view of New York City from Jersey City to just name a few.
Danny: My favorite sites are all the tourist traps in the small towns we’ve passed through. The world’s largest ball of sisal twine, in Cawker City, Kansas is definitely up there. The world’s largest easel, with a version of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Three Sunflowers In A Vase,” in Goodland, Kansas was very questionable. The world’s largest pecan in Brunswick, Missouri was the biggest tourist trap of them all. It was a sculpture, not a real pecan. SMDH.
Are you walking back when you’re done?.
Danny: Hellll no! I’m currently planning on taking a train back, and am hoping to pass through some cities that we didn’t get to see, but we’ll see how that goes.