Friday, September 7, 2012

In Review: A Walk Across America

At the age of 22, and already married at just 19 years of age, Peter Jenkins was lost.

Having grown up in a nice middle class family, in a nice middle class neighbourhood, and having been groomed and prepared for entry into a nice middle class college, his life seemed to be going in exactly the same direction as that of thousands of other young Americans.

As 1969′s ‘summer of love’ slowly but surely turned into the long winter of disillusionment that was the early 1970s, Peter did what many others have done before – he went looking for America.

There is a history of searching in America. Searching for new lands. Searching for wealth. Searching for minerals and resources – in particular, gold and oil. And then there is the search for Self. The search for meaning.

Ten years later, Peter Jenkins was able to write: “I started out searching for myself and my country, and found both.” While Peter’s 1979 book, A Walk Across America describes that quest, his personal ‘search for meaning’ had in fact begun over five years earlier, when, on the morning of October 15, 1973, he began his walk from the small upper New York state college town of Alfred, to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he arrived 18 months later in April, 1975.

So when Jenkins heads out on a cool autumn day towards New Orleans, his only goal appears to be to walk across the United States with the aim of deciding if he should stay and live in America, or whether he should move elsewhere.

Along the way he finds his answer.

Towards the end of the book Jenkins writes: “I had started out with a sense of bitterness about what my country appeared to be. But with every step I had learned otherwise. I had been turned on by America and its people in a thousand fantastic ways.”

His only companion for most of the journey was a huge dog called, Cooper.

You have to admire Jenkins’ desire and determination to not just embark on a journey of this magnitude, but the fortitude and strength of character he shows – often despite great challenges – to complete it.

A Walk Across America ends with Jenkins meeting Barbara, his future wife in New Orleans.

Eventually, they would head west together, and continue the walk from Louisiana, through Texas and New Mexico, across Colorado before finally completing this monumental journey in California.

This is a journey into the self. The journey of one young man trying to find himself, and his desire to rediscover his country. During this journey, Jenkins’ faith and pride in his country — and himself — were tested to the limit, and ultimately restored.

No comments:

Post a Comment