That’s some hike!
Daniel Finnegan, a 23-year-old Rockville Centre native, and a companion are currently walking across the United States in hopes of meeting people and exchanging stories while raising money for JOIN, a charity that focuses on helping the homeless.
Accompanying Finnegan on his trip is 24-year-old Abby Bongaarts of St. Louis Park, Minn. The two became friends when they lived as community mates in Gresham, Ore. They volunteered at AmeriCorps and Jesuit Volunteer Corps NW before working at JOIN. Finnegan moved to Gresham after graduating from Fordham University in 2015 with a degree in English and film studies, but eventually returned to Rockville Centre for six months.
One day, Bongaarts told Finnegan about her dream to walk across America after finishing her time at Americorps. Finnegan agreed to join her and, with the blessing of their parents, began planning their journey a little over a year ago.
“Abby had been planning it since her freshman year in college,” he said. “She had fallen in love with walking across the country and experience it in a slower, more meditative pace. For her, it’s therapeutic.”
Finnegan said it will take about seven to eight months to walk across the country. When they arrive at their final destination of San Francisco, he plans to settle into a job or go to graduate school.
Finnegan and Bongaarts are not traveling light. They are pushing around a makeshift cart with all kinds of camping and survival supplies, including sleeping pads and beds, different types of sprays and lotions, tents, a first-aid kit, a tarp, ponchos, safety vests, a fire starter and water filter, head lamps, a shovel and toiletries. They since named the cart “Caddy” and have a “Walking Across America” sign adorning the front of it.
The entire trip is self-funded. Finnegan got a job after coming home and saved about $5,000. They budget about $13 per day for food and also keep an emergency fund in case they need to stay at a motel due to inclement weather. So far, they have been able to stay with friends and family during the first 15 days of the trip, but will try to use camping sites later on.
The walk began in Long Beach on March 1. They took Sunrise Highway into North Conduit Avenue in Queens before finishing the day in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. From there, they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and traveled up the West Side Highway in Manhattan before going over the George Washington Bridge.
“Crossing the G.W. was probably the most fun I’ve had on the trip,” he said. “It was freezing cold, it was incredibly windy and it was kind of an invigorating experience.”
People have begun to notice them too. While walking through Princeton, N.J. on March 8, they were stopped by a woman and two boys whom they passed at a pizzeria a mile earlier. After talking to them about the trip, the boys began asking the woman if they could walk across the country too.
“She goes, ‘Yeah, you can do anything,” Finnegan said of being an inspiration. “It was really a cool experience.”
An average walking distance per day is about 20 to 25 miles. Finnegan said they eat about twice a day, usually when they begin to feel weaker, and take a break every two to three hours.
As of press time, they were staying in Coatesville, Pa., and waiting out a snowstorm before resuming their trip. The Herald will provide weekly updates on Finnegan’s travels in upcoming issues.