On Wednesday, October 9, just a little after noon, I walked out my front door in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, determined to walk all the way to Toronto, a trip of close to 500 miles. After 32 days of walking, with just one day of rest, I arrived at the home of my grandchildren in Toronto, on Saturday, November 9.
The execution of this plan was simple in principle — walk about 15 miles each day and after about a month it will be done. There were definitely logistical problems to be solved, like planning what to take with me and how to carry it, where to stay, what to eat, and so on, but once these were out of the way, it seemed like a fairly routine exercise to execute the plan.
In one sense, the walk was indeed routine. After some early learnings I fell into a pattern: wake up, prepare my feet, get to my starting point for the day, walk to my ending point for the day, get to my accommodation for the evening, shower, get my feet off the ground for a while, write a blog post, go to sleep.
But that description is merely mechanical. So much more was going on with me as the days went by. I would like to finish this blog by mentioning a few of those things now.
An aspect of my journey that took me by surprise was what an integral part of it was this blog. My initial intention was to post a few pictures each day so that my family and friends could keep track of me. But I found myself actually wrapping a narrative around those pictures that, together with the novelty of what I was doing, seemed to attract many interested viewers to the blog (I believe more than 3000 unique visitors, if Google Analytics can be trusted).
As is common with blogs there was the possibility of viewers making comments. I found myself eager to read those comments each evening, and I tried to respond, however briefly, to just about every one. As the days went by I grew increasingly appreciative of the interest and encouragement shown by so many — I’m actually tearing up a bit as I write this.
Then an amazing thing happened. Each day as I was walking, I felt as if all my readers were actually with me on the road. I felt like one of those tour guides you sometimes see with a little colorful flag or umbrella, leading a group of tourists around. Every time I saw something interesting enough to photograph, I felt like I was pointing it out right there to my readers. I composed little phrases or sentences in my head that I would use later in the blog, but it was as if I was saying those things to those I imagined were right there with me.
This transformed the trip for me from a lonely adventure to a joyous stroll through the countryside with friends. It was completely unexpected and as I saw it happening it made me more and more determined to write up my adventures each day. I only failed once (but recovered the next day), and that was probably for me the low point of my trip, emotionally.
So I just simply want to thank each and every person who took the time to speak to me when I was “out there” — you all helped to make my adventure our adventure and I feel a special kinship to all of you, many of whom I have never even met.
I mentioned the loneliness of the trip. This was also a surprise to me, and one I discovered very quickly. One of my readers helped me understand the difference between loneliness and aloneness; really I was experiencing the latter. I was very much alone for virtually all of the time that I was walking each day, in spite of the many cars and even other walkers going by.
Occasionally, however, I would have an opportunity to interact with people. Sometimes this was as simple as someone asking me what I was doing — I think I made quite a sight with my modified jogging stroller and clothing that made me look like a highlighter pen. Other times it was staying the night with a family. But because of the predominant aloneness, those human interactions became very important to me and I found myself interacting in a far more intense way than I normally do. I was so appreciative of their attention and I was so interested in hearing their stories, which were varied and fascinating.
I found myself contrasting the long periods of aloneness with the shorter times of intense interaction and it seemed to me that in normal life we live somewhere in between these two extremes, almost in fog of insular familiarity. This trip has made me want to savor more fully times of aloneness and be more intentional and deep in my interactions with people.
Of course, the most profound interactions were with people that allowed me into their homes. I was truly overwhelmed with the hospitality shown to me. Before I began the trip I tried to plan out where I would stay each night, but because of the unpredictability of miles traveled or route taken, I ended up planning only the first night in advance!
This meant that lodging arrangements had to be made “on the fly”. This in itself was an exhilarating experience. For me, as a Christian man, it was a deep confirmation of Matthew 6:25-34, a part of the famous Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus ends by saying “do not be anxious about tomorrow”. That’s an easy thing to say, but when you don’t know where you will be staying at the end of the day, it becomes quite difficult to practice.
But each night I did have a place to stay. I camped three times and I stayed in a motel nine times, but on the other nights I was with other people in their homes. Each time this happened I was freshly grateful for the hospitality shown to me; I hope this came out in my blog. This was where I met so many wonderful people and made new friends. I thought of listing them all here with their pictures, but I would like the daily blog itself to be that testimonial to the unfailing generosity shown by these people.
My wife and I try hard to make our home a place of hospitality, but after this trip I’m more determined than ever that this shall be the case. And I really hope that I will have opportunities to open my home to strangers, like so many did for me. I have made a number of new friends and I hope that Fiona and I will be able, in the coming months, to travel by car this slow route between New Jersey and Toronto so that I may have the opportunity to introduce her to these new friends.
The end of my journey was very moving for me. Friends and relatives joined me as I got closer to my destination (including my friend Paul who had driven all the way from New Jersey with his wife Laura, to walk the last day with me), a cheering crowd met me a quarter mile from the finish line, my granddaughters gave me hugs, and in the evening my sons had arranged a surprise party attended by many wonderful friends and family members. It was held in the home of my dear friends Russ and Ali (Ali is Fiona’s sister), who themselves are the absolute model of hospitality, and who worked tirelessly the entire evening to make it a beautiful event. My brother Jonathan said some very kind words about me. It was the perfect end to the adventure of a lifetime.
Some people I met asked me if I would be walking home. I just had to smile at that. Some have asked if I will do another journey like this. I certainly feel no inclination at this point, but Ed Gringhuis (Days 27 and 28) thinks that after a few months I will start to get the itch — we shall see. For now, I look forward to driving back home in a few days, sleeping in my own bed, sitting in my own easy chair, and getting on with the normal activities of life. But I hope that I’m a changed man in the ways I’ve mentioned and I want to thank all the readers of this blog for helping to make that so.
Congratulations and thanks for the wonderful tour! It has been great to tag along on this trip with you, thanks for making this way for us to join in. Esther and I both immensely enjoyed your trip and blog. Many times during your trip we have been scheming about making a similar trip…perhaps from NJ to Pittsburgh, PA, my hometown.
You also reminded us of your Friday pizza night…amazing that you guys have kept it up for all of these years.
You should definitely do that trip Allen — it would be great doing it together with Esther. Thanks for being part of my “tour group”!
Thanks, Allen, for sharing your journey. Thanks also for insights that could only come from one who experienced so much. I am sure you have inspired many. Congratulations on the completion.
Thanks Jerry. Great to have you along for the “ride”.
Our dear brother,
Bev and I are just wrapping up our morning together, breakfast and coffee as we read this…
First of all I tried to just encourage you…. But in the process we learned something about ourselves from this. You are right.. We were there every step of the way…. Thats a given.. Not only emotionally, and in spirit but in prayer.. There were times when I just stopped and prayed for you.. I dont know why… Just a sense that I MUST pray at that moment.. I suspect it will be in eternity where we will find out why.
I also tried to hide how fearful I was for you… I know some of your other prayer partners especially Mark shared my deep concern. You were alone, on the back roads of NJ, PA and NY. And we were all so worried that some one would take full advantage of the situation and run you off the road.. I think we referred to that.. As I type this, I think thats one of the reasons of the moments intense prayer. The must pray at that moment kind of prayer. We all learned more about prayer. I for one along with several others dont think the great weather other then cold, and two days of rain, the weather almost perfect was by chance.
Especially this time of year.. I watched several times where they were forecasting the snow machine that is lake effect, was going to get going, only to have it never materialize. We all have learned that prayer also is a daily thing… And thats incredible as well….
It has also spurred us individually to think about what kind of adventure we would all like to do. You know me well enough to know what I would like to do. Mark shared his as well.
Ok this has been long.. So I will close with this. I find it fascinating that those of us who followed you will all take something away from this… A deeper meaning of prayer, of family of friends, of the passionate desire to do something significant with our lives and then the deepening of our mutual faith in God. Also that there are still people out there who do care about others. Who are willing to share their homes , their lives their time. To make a fellow human feel welcome and loved. In that I think it also brings a renewed sense of hope. For us all…… Love ya brother… and THANK YOU!
For both of us, Jim and Bev Lamason..
Thanks so much for all your prayers, Jim and Bev, and your many comments on my blog.
“I wonder if people will ever say, “Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring.” And they’ll say, “Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was really courageous, wasn’t he, Dad?” “Yes, m’boy, the most famousest of hobbits. And that’s saying a lot.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers
Once again, Dave, you leave me speechless.
Since I’ve found this blog at day 8 or so, I’ve been keeping up with you every morning to read your thoughts of the day and see the pictures. Glad you made it to your destination safely. With all the hospitality you have been shown, I’m glad to know that this world is still full of good people.
Congratulations on your accomplishment!
Thank you Niki. Many people have made that same comment on the amount of love in the common man, in this age of so much political tension. I’m glad you stuck with me on the trip.
What a terrific journey! I am probably one of the 3000 unique visitors aside from your family. I saw your trip announced on your daughter Ali’s Mercy Ship Blog. As an Ontario resident I had to follow along and enjoy your journey with you. One of my highlights each day was to grab an early morning coffee and read of your travels. An author I’ve enjoyed recently, Donald Miller, talks about creating stories in your life. You just created a wonderful one. Thanks for taking us along via your blog.
Interesting — I didn’t intend to create a story when I started, but that certainly seems to have happened. I’m glad you enjoyed following it, Russ.
Allan, very few people in this modern day and age can say that they have embarked on great adventures. Now you’re one of them. I’m proud of you!
I’m certain that you will never regret having done it.
Yes, I certainly feel no regrets at this point. I did sometimes think of intrepid explorers like Scott and Amundsen and how very, very tame my little adventure was in comparison with theirs.
I enjoyed reading your daily blog and I’m going to miss it. Just wondering…did you lose any weight with all that exercise?
I shall measure myself when I get home.
Thanks for the post script. Lovely to read. Even more lovely to have celebrated with you, your family and friends on Saturday. I couldn’t help but think of this song from the movie The Lord of the Rings. This link will take you to it on You Tube:
Safe travels home,
How appropriate, Sharon — thanks!
Congratulations on the completed journey, I look forward to hearing many a story in the 2014 staff bible studies. Enjoy the break, Nano!
Thanks Stuart — see you next summer!
You have been such an inspiration to all of us as we have virtually followed your footsteps in your trek to Canada. “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell
Looking forward to your next open door journey!!
Great Bell quote, Irna — thanks! As for the next journey — I’m not so sure, but we shall see! See you soon.
Congratulations on achieving your goal and I’m so glad you traveled in safety all the way. (I found your blog through your daughter Ali’s blog.)
Thanks for following, Laura. Many prayers for safety were answered. Keep on reading Ali’s blog. I should have mentioned it earlier!
What a lovely finish, Allan, to a month of blogging, I am so proud of you in your amazing accomplishment. Many of us think we’d like to but few do!
Thanks, Mum, and thanks for being such a great support.
My uncle – my hero!
More persistent than heroic, Zach, but thanks!
You know you are going to be an even more popular guy around TRBC!! I am also glad you gave us the final stats on your accommodations each night. I was wondering about that. One can also see that there are still many great people out there willing to open up their home. What a special time that was for you and them. Looking forward to your return to Jersey!! Safe travels!! 🙂
Thanks Kate — very much looking forward to getting home.
I really enjoyed the entire blog. It spoke to the importance of community and our need to rely on the Lord in EVERY step of our life, as you literally demonstrated. I’m sure my nephew Ben will have more questions (in person) when you’re back at TRBC. Barbar would’ve certainly cheered you on as well and I thought of how I would’ve enjoyed calling her to read your posts.
I would love it if Barbar could have followed along — she would have had some choice comments. I’ll be happy to commiserate with Ben for as long as he wants!
aww its over? It was so interesting Allan. Appreciated some of your reflections in this posting. Curious as to how you treated your feet each day before getting started. Did you bandage them or something… or apply some kind of cream. I kind of remember you mentioning something…
I put vaseline, lambs wool and a bandage on one blister, lambs wool between two toes and vaseline on both feet. Then liner socks and outer, wool socks. I had no problems after I started this regime.
Again, congratulations on a wonderful adventure, and many, many thanks for sharing it with us. I found myself (and my boys) checking on your ‘sighting’ tab through the day to see how you were progressing, and scanning the map ahead – wondering where you would stop for the night. You did a great job of “taking us along with you”, so to speak. And you’ve been ever so faithful about responding to your visitors – even the ones you’ve never met. (I too found you through Alis’ blog.) Thank you!
I’m glad you followed along Julie. I often wondered how many people were looking at the SIGHTINGS tab. I did try to create a little tension about where I would stay, even though I generally knew once I started in the morning where it would. As to responses, I tried very hard to answer nearly everything, as I found those comments so valuable to me, as I mentioned today. Thanks so much for your part in this Julie!
Congratulations, Allan – what a tremendous feat!
I certainly admire you for doing this.
It has helped me to get out of bed and onto the treadmill for a bit!!
Wow — great stuff! I’ll have to figure out some way to be as active once I get home. Thanks for following, Ernie!
I am so happy for you Allan. You’ve been able to combine two common human activities: walking and hospitality and ponder both of them deeply for over a month. It’s very helpful in considering the big questions and issues of life with a lens or helpful metaphors. We live in the day of meta-narrative; searching for a bigger story among the noise of the ordinary and commonplace. Mining structure and meaning from Terabytes of “big data”.
You’ve helped us all by letting us walk with you, so that in some virtual way, we were with you along the way. Given current technology, that interface was as visceral and palpable as any time in history. I learned that walking, given the time and resources, is good. In fact it’s often better than the other time constrained means of getting from A to B.
I think we have all marvelled at the broad hospitality you received, and inwardly quite jealous of the new and old relationships you were able to forge. I am close to crying, thinking of this concept. Many of us long for a sense of belonging, in particular when it is offered by complete strangers. You’ve experimented in this area and come out the better for it. In so many ways, the ancient text has set the bar, and we as modern men and women are catching up:
Carry on with your life and keep learning. As an old friend once told me way back in 1976:
You’re the best, Russ. Thanks for your amazing, enthusiastic support for my entire trip. You are the bomb!
I LOVE to hear of people giving hospitality to strangers…when you first started out I was a little apprehensive about how vulnerable you would be or who might harm you or take advantage of you … but then as I read of the wonderful people you met up with each and every day I was excited to hear that our news casts are unbalanced. The bad guys are far out weighed by the good guys!!! Thanks for unexpectedly proving this to us!!
It was a most delighful aspect of the trip, Alison. You and Russ topped it all at the end.
I have greatly enjoyed you sharing the journey with you and the insight. As a man of few words myself, the last thing I want to do is talk to someone new. However, as you have discovered, there are many generous and gracious people to be encountered and engaged each day.
I’m with you, Joe — I don’t like meeting new people. I think this experience really helped me in that regard.
You have done what many of us do not — you have walked into the aloneness and come out the other side aware of its many joys and sorrows. It’s inspiring. That more than anything about this walk is what has touched so many people. Thank you for taking it.
Nicely put, Audrey.
I have followed your whole trip from Italy, also thanks to Ali. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your adventure, you have inspired me to want to someday try a similar adventure.
I really hope you do, Anne. Thanks for being along with me for the adventure.
I feel as if I’ve just watched a great family movie on the Hallmark channel! I looked forward every evening to the next part of your adventure. It was exciting to pray for you as The Lord brought you to mind so frequently. He indeed answered so many of your followers prayers by keeping you safe and healthy. It has been my privilege to be part of your wonderful journey and thank you for the excellent narrative. It just drew me in so often feeling like I even met some of the wonderful people you came in contact with. Looking forward to your return to NJ and seeing your face around CMML. We’ve missed you these past 32plus days my dear friend. As Nate Bramsen would say, “Be Encouraged” because you have encouraged so many of us this past month.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing all you guys again, Tom. I am encouraged!
Congratulations! Though I have to admit, I’m a bit sorry to see your journey come to an end. I’ll miss your daily blog entries and the great pictures. Thanks for sharing the adventure.
And thank you, Muriel, for being one of those I was speaking to as I walked the trail.
Congratulations! What an amazing trip!
Thanks for the blog posts and the pictures.
All the best to you and your family.
Thanks Parni. And give my regards to your family too!
Beautiful post, Allan! Are you on facebook? Because I’d bet that a lot of the blog readers (myself included!) would LOVE to keep in touch and get to know you that way. I loved reading that you felt your readers were travelling with you. Many times over the past month, I’d find myself driving to a home visit and wondering where you were at in your journey. Enjoy your drive home and be careful and be safe!
I am on facebook, Tracy, but I actually use it very little; I’m a terrible facebook communicator, and I rarely make posts there. But you are welcome to friend me!
Congratulations Allan. I enjoyed following along and taking the trip with you via your pictures. If you ever feel like doing it on a bicycle, contact me via Jon B. I think you’d find it very similar to your walking trip, but with even more sights along the way. I’ll be doing the Pacific coast in 2014.
Nice offer, John! I’ve not really contemplated a bicycle trip, but I may feel differently after a few months. I’m humbled that you followed my trip, given your own extensive experience — thanks!
Thank you so much for sharing this very special journey with us. We watched the transformation take place from the detached observer to the “living the adventure fully ” guy that meet his cheering family at the end of the road. You have done something not many will do but I pray each one of us will be inspired to “step” out in faith on the road the Lord leads us to and be open to his teachings along the way. I pray our paths will cross again some day. You are always welcome to stop at day number 21 (? I think?) house again!! Congrats and may God continue to inspire you to get action!
I do very much hope to bring Fiona by your home to meet you and Don, Kathy. That was a great evening. The LCN article appeared online today and I enjoyed reading it.
In our world today, for us time is our most precious commodity. Many might question the time spent on such a walk. I suspect we will all be sharing in the dividends of your investment for quite sometime to come. Blessings on you dear friend. And of course congratulations, I for one am looking forward to your homecoming.
Me too, Paul. Pizza this Friday? Thanks again a bazillion for walking that last day with me!
Marnie, my sister in law, introduced me to your blog a while back. I sincerely want to thank you for taking the time and putting the effort in sharing your experience with us. Everyday, I looked forward to reading a resume of your travels. Your pictures captured the vibrance of the season’s colours and offered interesting glimpses of the people, country side, city and events encountered on your journey. I particularly enjoyed your talent of finding/seeing beauty in the simple things…
Congratulations on reaching your goal!! And thank you once again!!
And thank you, Anne-Marie, for following. It was a wonderful surprise when Marnie caught up with me on Day 30.
I just want to let you know that I have been following your blog since I first heard about your adventure on Day 3. I have been encouraged by your strength and dedication. Though I’m not walking such a great distance (nor do I ever plan to) literally, the experiences you’ve shared have been my motivation to continue doing the difficult things in my daily life.
I’ll be honest and say that I thought you were absolutely mad when I heard about this. I think I was more concerned for you to maintain good health than I was about you being “out there” alone for so long. And I’ll admit that I had a brief moment of envy for your incredible adventure. Fortunately, this envy fled quickly when I decided to take the elevator instead of the stairs to my English class on the third floor at school.
Though I’ve been a silent follower until now, I need to thank you for posting your blog. I have looked forward to reading it every evening, and travelled vicariously through your pictures.
I hope to one day have to opportunity to be half of the inspiration to someone that you’ve been to me.
I’m delighted that you followed me on my walk, Julia. To be honest, I myself thought I was mad from time to time! I’m glad I was an inspiration to you and I do hope you will consider taking the steps next time. 🙂
It seems like it was a couple of weeks ago that I was at your house delivering your mail when your invited me in to show me how you were preparing for your journey. Too bad it’s all over! I enjoyed every bit of it and to that I say CONGRATULATIONS on the completion of a great milestone. Thanks for taking us with you and hope to see you soon. Alex.
Thanks, Alex. I have a deeper respect now for what you do — thank you for so faithfully delivering my mail each day!
Well dear friend,
We are all looking forward to seeing you again…. Cant wait for your return to our Thursday morning prayer time…. I suspect though, you return as a changed man…. Looking forward to seeing and praying IN PERSON once again,
See you soon, Jim.
Loved your postscript. I felt as I was on your tri just by following. Thank you for taking me, and so many others, along with you.
As always, I have enjoyed your unique view on things you see and do. Your life experiences have added to my own and I truly appreciate all that you do.
Thanks for that, Bill. I’m happy you were able to experience my trip in this way; it seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime trip for me.
Yay! So glad you made it! Praise the Lord! Congratulations and glad that you had a crowd to finish with! And you made the news=) What an awesome adventure!
Awesome indeed. And you were part of it, Meg!
You made the news!! Thats fun. =) It was moving on this end too to view the pictures of your final day and to see all the family and friends waiting for you near the end…heart warming. So blessed Allen to have joined you on this journey. Love you bro… John Bosse =)
And you made the news too, John! Thanks again for connecting me with your aunt and uncle; I had such a great time with them. See you soon in NJ!
Thanks for your final thoughts, what great reflections. For me as a reader, the personal element of your narrative and individual responses to our comments also became an important part of the journey. It exemplified the value of the individual and the kindness as you reached out to us just as you were also experiencing as people reached out to you. Thanks again, and God bless!
I hadn’t really thought of that aspect of the blogging, Julie — thanks for pointing it out. And thanks again for all your interactions during the trip!
I have enjoyed following your walk, the blog was great!
I will think of you, when I travel Route 171. That was where I first saw you walking on Day 10 and wondered what the hex you were doing. Then meeting you and getting your website card on Day 11; I have followed you all the way.
Your adventure has shown the goodness in people. Thanks for letting me follow along!
Meeting you was memorable, Gary, not least because of the slightly embarrassing circumstances (I think it was actually Day 12 that we met). Thanks again for the offer of a place to stay. And thanks for sticking with me for the rest of the journey. Perhaps when my wife and I drive my walking route I shall knock on your door to see if you are there and say hello.
Loved reading your final entry. Many times as I was reading your blog entries I always wondered what was going on in your heart. Thanks so much for sharing that….very moving. So proud of you uncle barge….. You sure did live up to your nickname! 🙂
There were really times I was barging, for sure. Thanks for your support, dear niece.
Congratulations Allan on finishing your adventure! I am so glad that you arrived safely to your destination. I too was praying for safety for you each day and I enjoyed reading your daily detailed blogs and seeing all of your beautiful pictures! I felt like I was there with you too! Thanks for sharing your experiences with everyone and enjoy your drive back home!
Thanks Nancy, for your prayers and congratulations, and for being with me virtually during the walk. I’m back home now; nice to sleep in my own bed!
Glad to read you completed the trip nicely. I’ll go back and read your daily trips from where i left off, all sorts of things prevented me from continuing to follow you while you were working but thank God for the blog that allows us to share in the events even after it’s over.
I have been a guest in many homes for a long while and so your lesson on hospitality touches me deeply. I hope to be able to share my home with many too who pass my way.
God bless you and keep you and thank you for sharing your walk on the road with us!
I hope you enjoy the rest of the trip as much as I did, Tomi. Ali is with us now in our home for a visit!
Glad to know Ali made it home for Thanksgiving. I have been going to her website since November 15 to check for updates. But nothing…guess she is busy with the baby. Hope baby Zoe is doing fine as well…she looked down in the last pictures. I do hope Ali and her husband with Zoe get back to the Mercy Ships far away from the winter, at least after the New Year. That is where they all belong..that is their home..no doubt about it!! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Washington DC to you and all your family including Ali, her husband and baby Zoe!!
We’ve been having a great time with Ali, Phil and Zoe, George. I just read your comment to her and she says she expects to blog soon, probably in the next few days.