The End

I honestly think it is better to be a failure at something you love than to be a success at something you hate. – George Burns

WHAT HAPPENED?

Our walk has ended.  Our bodies have betrayed us.  Despite slowing down our pace and taking several rest days, our feet are not getting better.  They’re getting worse.  We’re dealing with plantar fasciitis, blistering, sore and popping ankles, and random undiagnosed pain on the tops of our feet, in addition to other ailments.  We’ve tried to ignore them all, naively hoping they would go away or at the very least, stop getting worse.  We wore a brave face as long as possible to convince not just others, but also to delude ourselves into believing that everything was fine.  No one issue is that big of a problem, but the cumulative effect of them has become too much.  We don’t want to risk a debilitating injury or permanent damage.  Accepting our limitations can sometimes be as difficult as dealing with them.

Goodbye Friends

After spending the better part of the last two years thinking about and planning this trek, and after spending two of the best months of our lives living a dream only to have it come to such an abrupt and unceremonious end, to say that we are disappointed would be an understatement.  We also feel incredibly guilty.  Nearly everyone–friends, family, and strangers alike–have been so supportive, kind, generous, helpful, encouraging, and wonderful to us along the way.  We apologize for letting you all down.

We’re also rather heartbroken that we don’t have an excuse to drink chocolate milk on a daily basis anymore.

SO WHAT DID YOU ACCOMPLISH?

Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened. – Unknown

We had several reasons for attempting this walk.  One was to test ourselves and to see if we could face the various challenges something like this presented.  In that regard, we admittedly came up short.  But, we are so glad we tried, because it wasn’t just about trying to walk across the country.  As we noted in ABOUT THE WALK, we also wanted to confront our own cynicism. We wanted to “reconnect with friends, family, the country, each other, and ourselves,” and to “celebrate the things that unite us as neighbors, a nation, and as human beings.”  Regarding those ambitions, we met with resounding success from day one.

Despite our own fears, what the news reports, and the warnings of countless others, the world is not out to get us.  Not once were we ever threatened, intimidated, or otherwise harmed by anyone.  In fact, the worst thing that happened was we were flipped-off by a passing driver; one single driver out of the thousands that passed us.  Instead, what we found was a real sense of community.  In small towns, large cities, on farms, and in forests, it’s apparent that despite our many differences, we’re all in this together.  Strangers saw two people, completely exposed to the environment, terrain, roads, and traffic, and they just wanted to help.  Friends and family saw us doing something different and admittedly crazy, and wanted to lend a hand.  Whether it was finding us a place to stay, giving us water, providing information about an area, food, money, or even just stopping to talk to us, we were shown love and tremendous generosity almost every day, usually multiple times per day.

Our blog, which began as a way to let our friends and family know what we were doing and where we were, morphed into a love letter and thank you to all of the amazing people we were privileged enough to meet along the way, and the incredible country we call home.  Words can’t do justice to how fantastic you all have been, and there aren’t enough ways to say thanks.  Please know that we have been affected in such a positive way.  You’ve cured us of the disease of cynicism and changed the way we look at each other and our interactions with anyone and everyone.  For that, we will forever be grateful.

Our joy from what we learned and who we met far exceeds our disappointment in not making it cross-country.  We had a dream and chased it.  We won’t have the “what if” haunting us the rest of our lives.  Instead, we’ll have the “remember when” to look back on happily.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.  He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.  If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.  Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Oh, and for those that are interested, we did manage to walk 850 miles across five states and into a sixth, over a nine week period.

SO THAT’S IT? NOW WHAT?

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.  I’ve felt that many times.  My hope for all of us is that “the miles we go before we sleep” will be filled with all the feelings that come from deep caring—delight, sadness, joy, wisdom—and that in all the endings of our life, we will be able to see the new beginnings.” – Fred Rogers

We’re not exactly sure what’s next.  We feel compelled to finish our route, even if it won’t be on foot.  There was so much we were looking forward to, I’m not sure we can completely abandon our journey.  We think we’ll load our gear in our car, grab the Google walking directions, and try to follow them west as closely as being in a car will allow.  Obviously it won’t be the same, but perhaps it will be cathartic in some small way.

HEY, I GAVE YOU A DONATION TO HELP YOU WALK ACROSS THE COUNTRY, NOT TO HELP YOU GET TO LOVINGTON, IL!

The last thing we want is for anyone to feel cynical or jaded about how our walk ended.  If you made any kind of donation to us and you’re now wishing you could take it back, you can!  We were overwhelmed by your generosity, and now that we didn’t make it, we’re equally overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility to make things right.  If you want a refund, click here.  We’re going to wait for about a month for everyone who wants one to contact us.  After that, any remaining money that we were given will be donated to a charity that provides free wheelchairs to those in need, so they can walk by rolling. Also, to make up for all of the food and water we were blessed with along the way, we will be making a donation of non-perishable foods in a roughly equal amount to a local food bank.