My Walk Across America by Sundance

Kate asked if I would share my journey with the Blog :–) So here goes:

March 9th, 2019, I set off to walk across America, at the age of eighteen. And late last year, on December 9th, 2019, exactly nine months/275 days after my departure, I finished doing just that. 🙂

In that time, I walked through Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. I walked through deserts and great plains, over mountains (all three of the major ranges in the continental USA – the Appalachians, the Rockies, and the Sierras), on trails, back roads, and busy highways. I’ve slept under bridges, behind buildings, in bathrooms, churchyards, graveyards, a barn, once, backyards, local parks, public land, motels, campgrounds, and the occasional trail angel’s house. And I had a KICKBUTT (edited to be Blog-appropriate :–P ) time.

Flashback to 2017 – I didn’t know what college or career I wanted to pursue after graduating high school. I had no direction in life, and, because of tension at home, I began to wonder what I would do if my mom kicked me out, and I became homeless. I pictured myself standing on my front porch, the door shut behind me. Knowing I had no friends to take me in, and family that might turn me away. I pictured myself stepping away from the house then – because what else could I do, at first, but walk away? – and never stopping. Walking down the sidewalk, across the street, through town, into the next. And the next. I began to envision myself seeing the country on foot. Dumpster diving for food, and sleeping on the side of the street, but making an adventure out of my misfortune all the same. Maybe, even, walking across the ENTIRE country, from my home in the Carolina’s to California!

(me, Gin -or Sundance as you guys know me by – with my stroller, named Faith, at the beginning of our travels!)

It was all a fantasy in my head (born out of boredom more than anything else, really; I wasn’t TOO genuinely worried about getting kicked out) – but I began to like the thought. Until it went from being this far-fetched idea, an answer to a question that scared me /”What would I do if I were homeless?”/ to an active daydream of myself walking around the country. Across the country. Not because I felt compelled to, as a last resort under dire circumstances, but because … I suddenly, madly WANTED to. (I must ultimately credit the American Discovery Trail for giving me the push I needed to not only walk across the country, but to wholeheartedly fall head-over-heels in love with the dream of doing so. Finding out that there was an official route I could use to walk cross-country helped give me the confidence to start. And learning that other, regular ol’ people have done it, that its an established thing, helped normalize the idea in my head, make it seem less crazy, less insurmountable.) When I started, I weighed 195 pounds, had no long-distance backpacking experience, no one who believed in me, and it was my first time leaving the nest as a 18-year-old kid who thought to pack nothing but ramen noodles and granola bars for food. And who thought that all she needed to do when it stormed was attach her rainfly to her tent. Not stake it down, just attach it. Who genuinely didn’t understand why her tent even CAME with stakes when it was a freestanding tent. 🤣

(me & Faith, at the end of our travels!)

And you know what? It was incredible. An absolutely, positively, phenomenal adventure. It gave me purpose, made me feel so fulfilled, so content. When times were rough, I would always stop & think … this may suck, but there is nowhere else I’d rather be than here, with Faith (the name for my stroller), living through this. And the never-ending, unwavering truth of that statement would bring me a great sense of peace. I am blessed to have had the privilege to live my dream – and to have met so many beautiful souls along the way. You guys were so kind to me. When you didn’t need to be. When it could have been easier not to be. People’s kindness along the way was like a well that I kept expected to run dry one day, but that just kept filling.

(a very fitting sign I saw on my way to the beach, on my very last day)

I am also thankful to have survived. Along the way, I had many close calls with cars. Many times where I couldn’t find a place to sleep and broke down sobbing. Many times where I felt unsafe and scribbled down a goodbye note to my mom in case anything were to happened. Many times where I woke up to a noise in the night and grabbed my pepper spray & knife and prepared for the worst. Before I left, I remember thinking often, when I was alone and my mind would wander, about how this might be my last year on Earth. That I might genuinely die, soon. That I will have to risk my life if I want to live my dream.

Image may contain: 4 people, including Sheryl Robinson Benningfield, people smiling, outdoor

(my family – waiting for me at the Pacific Ocean :–D )

And I decided I wanted to. And I would again. If I had to go back in time, I would make that same decision. Even with there being no guarantees. To know I might die, to have that possibility feel SO REAL, pained me before I left. But once I started walking … I just loved it too much for it NOT to be worth the risk. To let my fear burden me anymore. In Utah, I met a Native American man who told me “you are brave, in a time when so many people are scared to be brave” and that really touched me. In the end, I want to thank everyone I met along the way. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Your kindness & generosity was my favorite part of walking across America. Getting to meet all of you was my dream, come true. 

Special shoutout to Faith, my partner in crime, whose company kept me from ever feeling truly alone, and whose sily googly-eyed face always made me smile. Love ya.

And a shoutout to my past self, two summers ago. Who wanted, so desperately, to walk across America but didn’t think she could do it, for a time, and that broke her heart. I want to give her a hug and tell her WE DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 😄🎉😄🎉

Gin & Faith, over and out!

PS here is a link to the video of my finish:

PSS – thank you, BlogClan,  for tuning in to this post about my adventures!! <3 Hope it reminded you that you can ABSOLUTELY accomplish your dreams too, they’re possible – and they’re waiting for you, so go get ’em!!!!!!!!!



Leave a Reply to 🎷Wavesplash 🎷 [Wavey; she/they/star] Cancel reply

    I shared this story with my mom she was BLOWN AWAY!!

  • late but that’s amazing sunny I’m so proud of you!!! you are amazing <3 <3 good job!!! I love that you had a dream and a vision that most people would scoff at and you saw it through with tenacity, bravery, and optimism. You’re an inspiration and I’m so glad you made it through and you had fun and a good life experience!!! you’re truly amazing <3

    also heck yeah northern california!! it's so windy 😛

  • Just saw this while scrolling down, but well done, Sunny! It sounds like it was a life-changing experience. Such an amazing thing to do and stick at it too when times were tough. Lots of credit to you! 🙂

  • hey Sunny I’m not sure if you’ll see this in time but for the BlogClan newsletter I’m writing an article about your journey! if you’re available, I’d love to get a quick interview for the article! absolutely no worries if you’re not. if you are, though, please get back to me asap and let me know what a good place to do the interview would be. (I know you deleted a lot of your messaging-platform accounts) again if it doesn’t work out no worries & thank you so much! <3

    • HEY WAVEY!!! 😍 I’m totally available to be interviewed, sign me right up! 😀
      We can do it through a secret page here on the Blog, or you can email me at 🙂 either way works for me!

      (so sorry for the late response, I just caught your message now! 😅 )

      • oh ok that’s awesome!! no worries about the late response, I think this response is later anyway 😛 I think I’ll email you because I get notifications for that, so I’ll respond faster. thank you so much!! I’ll email you very soon 😀 my blog-email is btw

  • Oh my gosh…..that’s so…heartbreaking, that you have to be away from your family for so long, yet it’s so inspirational…go Sundance!

  • This is an incredible story, and I’ve always wanted to do something very similar! (but in the UK bc that’s where I live)

    The photos throughout the article didn’t show up for me tho… but i guess that isn’t the end of the world 🐱

  • Congratulations!! It must have been so amazing, and I can only imagine the awesome adventures you had on the way!
    This is really inspiring, thank you for writing this down! <3

  • This is the most inspiring story I’ve ever seen on the blog. You touched my heart with this story.