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Alumnus gets to know America, one step at a time

April 15, 2014

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On November 1, 2013, Samuel Tidwell B.A. ’13 left his home in Greenfield, California with nothing but essential belongings that could be carried in a backpack and a homemade hand cart. Only three weeks earlier, Tidwell had committed himself to walking across the United States.

“This decision may seem sudden, but I assure you it was wildly premeditated,” Tidwell explained in a declaration of intent addressed to readers of his travel blog.

Initial inspiration for the trek came to Tidwell from the cross-country travels detailed in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. With collegiate responsibilities, he deemed the idea unrealistic. It was not until the summer following graduation that Tidwell began to seriously consider wandering America’s landscapes and challenging himself.

“I can’t help but think that if I understand the context I live in and locate myself, I will be able to live and act conscientiously with greater purpose than just surviving,” Tidwell said. “I need to see what’s out there so I don’t become cloistered by my fears of the unknown.”

Since the start of his journey, Tidwell has documented his daily thoughts and discoveries in a journal. He sends these entries—often with corresponding photographs—to a blog support team of family and friends. Due to his nomadic lifestyle, Tidwell plans for four to seven days between writing each journal entry and sending it along for virtual publication. This system has ensured minimal stress and consistent updates.

“Writing has been vital,” Tidwell said. “It is the only tangible proof that I have actually thought about anything while walking.”

Tidwell has already made his way through southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, and most of Texas. He will continue eastward until reaching South Carolina, where he will begin trekking north along the east coast. If all goes as planned, Tidwell’s journey will end in New York City, though there’s no specific date identified.

When times get expectedly tough on the road, Tidwell is fueled by his mental reserve of literary inspiration. Had he not chosen to major in English, Tidwell doubts that he would be walking now.

“My professors in the English department and the books they introduced taught me to cope with uncertainty and the discomfort it causes,” Tidwell said. “If I make it to New York, I will claim it as a victory for the humanities as much as for myself because it will demonstrate that our ideas produce real action.”

Katrina Staaf ’16 contributed to this story.

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