On March 1, 2017, we began a cross-country walk from Long Beach, NY to San Francisco, CA. The first question most people ask us is, why? We cannot give just one reason for this though. The walk has always been about many things. We are walking to meet people across the country, have conversations, share stories, and to learn from, and about, the different communities we interact with. We are walking to challenge ourselves physically and mentally. We are walking to see our country, and all it has to offer. We are walking to raise money for JOIN, a nonprofit that serves people experiencing homelessness in Portland, Oregon.
But, why are you walking? The slow pace of walking is what defines our journey. During an episode of On Being, Ellen Davis offered a description of poetry, saying “often you can read an instructional manual or a textbook without paying all that much attention. You skim your way through it to get to the heart of the matter. But you can’t read poetry that way. Poetry slows you down. And anything in our world now that slows us down is to be valued.” For us, walking is the poetry of transportation. Much like poetry, walking slows us down, forcing us to pay attention. It will fulfill our desire to see and experience America at a slow and patient pace.
Who are we?
We are Danny Finnegan and Abby Bongaarts. We became friends when we lived as community mates in Gresham, OR as Americorps volunteers through the Jesuit Volunteer Corps NW. We worked at an organization called JOIN, serving people experiencing homelessness in their day center. One day, after the day center had closed, Abby described her dream of walking across America to Danny. He knew he had to join. Abby assumed that, like countless others who made plans to join, he was not serious. Three months later, Danny and Abby had their first planning session. They have been planning this walk for the past year.
Abby is a 24 year old from St. Louis Park, Minnesota. She attended Stonehill College in Brockton, Massachusetts and graduated with a degree in History and German. During college she spent a year in Munich on a student exchange. Abby has been planning and dreaming about the walk since 2011. Not surprisingly, walking is Abby’s favorite hobby.
Danny’s 23 years old from Rockville Centre, NY, and is the youngest of four children in a big Irish family. After graduating from Fordham University in 2015 with a degree in English and film studies, he moved to Gresham, Oregon for a year to volunteer with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps NW. While neither patient nor physically fit, Danny remains committed to completing the walk.