CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
Walk Like An American

Changes

Taking a New Approach to the Open Road

Constantino Diaz-Duran is a fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University. He is chronicling his walk from New York to Los Angeles to celebrate his eligibility for American citizenship. Follow Constantino’s progress.

I was never particularly spontaneous. If I made a plan, I stuck to it come rain or come shine. There’s something to be said for that, but I have been reminded that vice is found in the extremes. I have become, in the last year, much more willing to change plans-to explore possibilities I would have previously discarded. Last week I made a decision that makes perfect sense from a practical point of view, even if it goes against my romantic vision for this journey.

I can’t walk through the Southwest in the middle of summer. I tried it in Texas and almost passed out from the heat. I had to call for help. And when it’s not hot as Hades, there are storms of the kind most of us only see in the news. Last week in Oklahoma City I saw my first-ever baseball-sized hail stones. I was glad to be safe in my host’s house because getting hit by one of those while walking would not be fun.

I received a generous gift from a family in Texas who were concerned about my safety. It allowed me to purchase a 60-day unlimited ride Greyhound pass. I will use this to finish making my way out to California. I will then ride the bus up the West Coast to Seattle, and back East to New York along the Northern and Midwestern states. I’m excited about the opportunity to see even more of this beautiful country. Walking across the country is romantic; riding Greyhound is, well, different. But what I’m losing in romanticism I’m gaining in experience.

Walking is a lonely venture, and I will always look back on the solitude of the past year with gratitude and awe. Wounds that I forgot were there resurfaced, and most importantly, healed. My mind was cleared, and I now feel more confident than ever in my own decisions. I will be a better father thanks to this walk, and maybe, if the right guy comes along, a good husband. I will be a better friend to those close to me, and a better citizen of this inspiring, beautiful nation.


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It is with the clarity of mind that this journey has given me that I see the sense in no longer walking. What is the point, now, of spending three or four weeks by myself in the middle of Texas or Arizona? The marginal utility of solitude, for me, has reached its tipping point. I must now go back to my original mission, which was to meet Americans from across the country, and hear their stories-I, and my readers, have probably had enough of mine for the time being.

Traveling by bus will allow me to not only see more of the U.S.A., but also to meet more people. Greyhound passengers are an interesting lot. I look forward to befriending some of these often smelly, usually loud, and always interesting characters. A faster means of transportation also means that I will be able to spend more time in each town I visit and meet more of the locals. This, right now, makes more sense to me than walking by myself in high heat and dangerous storms.

Some of you might be disappointed with this decision, but I trust that you will understand that it is the most rational course of action. I suppose that if you’re angry, you could blame it on Alabama-my five months working as a roofer there changed everything by landing me here in the middle of summer. But the sojourn in that beautiful state was worth it. I needed the money, and the friendships I made there will last a lifetime. So I don’t regret it. And according to many people I’ve met throughout this trip, only now will I be living up to the title of this project. “If you’re gonna walk like an American,” I’ve heard over and over again, “you should be driving.” Well, sorry I’m not driving, but the bus is close enough.

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*Photo by Luis Saenz.