2012 is nearing its end and while we’re anxiously awaiting the adventure that 2013 holds in store for us, this is the time of year that we like to pause and reflect on the many 2012 experiences for which we will be forever thankful.
While we truly are thankful for so many moments throughout this past year, our reflections are burdened by a heavy heart. Senseless violence is an unfortunate reality, a reality that weighs heavy on our hearts this holiday season. Our deepest sympathy goes out to all those who have been impacted by the needless and unexplainable acts of evil that have filled the headlines recently.
We’ve all seen the headlines, the newspaper’s front page and the nightly news top stories. Stories that could easily cause us to question the world we live in. Stories that could cause us to question the intentions of others and cause us to challenge our trust in the people we know as neighbors and friends.
It’s the reality of those headlines and the questions and challenges that they present that has inspired us to want to share a story of our own.
Our story doesn’t sell newspapers and it’s a story that is harder and harder to find on television, but it’s also a story that is told again and again in the actions of the everyday people we’ve met all across the country. It’s a story told in the hearts of people like you and people like me. It’s a story of giving, it’s a story of caring, it’s a story of concern. It’s a story that could be a headline in every paper in every town, and be the top story on every national television broadcast, because it is a story that can be found all across this country, because everywhere we’ve looked we’ve found people who are being kind. We feel like it’s time to tell a different story with a new headline, a headline that reads, “PEOPLE ARE KIND”.
This is our people are kind story….
Our first year as “nomads” we went for a walkabout. We walked from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean on a 4,000+ mile thru-hike of the American Discovery Trail (ADT). At the completion of our walk we sent over 100 thank you cards to perfect strangers who were kind enough to help us along the way. Some people offered a cold drink of water, some offered a spot in their yard to camp and some invited us in their homes to spend time with their families. Sometimes we were in small towns, sometimes in big cities, sometimes in the middle of the desert. None of those who helped us were asked, forced or told to – they acted purely out of kindness.
We found our experience on the ADT to be similar to that which we enjoyed on the Appalachian Trail during our Georgia to Maine thru-hike, an experience many of you may know as “Trail Magic”.
After our coast to coast hike we took on the role of Ambassadors for BACKPACKER Magazine. For the last six years we’ve traveled the country in a Subaru Outback outfitted with the outdoor industry’s latest and greatest backpacking and camping gear making our way from campground to campground exploring the country with a “walk the walk” mentality so that we can “talk the talk” as outdoor experts with an authentic and inspiring educational message promoting an active outdoor lifestyle. Our unique lifestyle allows us to live our passion, a passion for backpacking, hiking and camping, and a passion for sharing our experiences with others.
While our mode of travel has changed and our needs are different, the kindness we’ve received has never wavered. All over this country, whether we are in Tampa, Florida or Tampa, Kansas, rarely a day goes by when someone doesn’t offer an act of random kindness. Whether it’s “magic” on trail or on the road, it is overwhelming how much kindness we’ve witnessed. We’ve witness so much kindness that we feel as though our cup is overflowing and we can’t help but to want to pass on kindness to others. Our experience has led us to believe that kindness is contagious.
One aspect of living such a unique “nomadic” lifestyle is the opportunity (or the challenge) to meet new people (or perfect strangers) on a daily basis.
We don’t find ourselves in any one place for any extended period of time, so we find ourselves experiencing a continuous run of first impressions. On a nine month road trip throughout the United States lower 48 you will encounter thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, or maybe even millions of people. You will meet people from small towns, from big cities, from crowded places and wide open spaces. You will share the open road with perfect strangers, you will share a secluded trail with perfect strangers, you will sleep under the stars in a remote forest with perfect strangers, and if your experience is anything like ours, you will learn that this country is full of wonderful, trustworthy, giving, caring, and kind perfect strangers. You will find perfect strangers who may offer you kindness and you will find perfect strangers who may benefit from your act of kindness.
We’re overwhelmed to have had the opportunity to explore and experience this country on such an extended and intimate level and as we dig through the mountains of memories created throughout our time with BACKPACKER Magazine and the Get Out More Tour, all the highs and lows, summits and valleys, we are not at all surprised to come away from touring the United States knowing that the moments we cherish the most, the peaks of our experience, are created by the kind-hearted perfect strangers we meet along the way.
Sure, many of our highlights are moments of complete isolation, moments when we feel a genuine connection with nature.
As backpackers we are constantly searching for the intimate connection with ourselves, with each other, and with the world around us that can only be provided by an escape into nature. Our connection with nature brings about memories of unique landscapes and rare wildlife encounters (hard to forget Raining Bears). Each year we find ourselves in awe of the natural beauty found in this country.
Some moments will surely stay with us forever.
We couldn’t possibly forget witnessing the day’s first rays as an orange glow crept over the Atlantic Ocean painting the exposed mountaintop rocks in Maine’s Acadia National Park, or watching the shifting shadows turn pinks to reds and then reds to maroons as the sun crawled high over Utah’s Zion Canyon, and being mesmerized by the shimmer of competing light as the day’s last rays were chased by the moon in a race to see which could slowly fall into the glassy surface of the Pacific Ocean first off the coast of California’s Half Moon Bay.
The natural wonders we’ve enjoyed while discovering the wild places this country has to offer are certainly highlights of our travels, but in our opinion it is without a doubt the people who call this country home, the kind-hearted perfect strangers we’ve encountered who deserve the headlines in our story.
People like Tom Johnson, people who give themselves, their time and their energy to their community without asking for anything in return. People like Ross Hayduk, people who not only overcome personal challenges, but along the way they inspire others to overcome challenges in their own lives. People like Beaty Jackson, people who open and close every conversation by asking “what can I do for you”. People who we knew as perfect strangers who we now consider wonderful friends and wonderful examples of the incredibly kind people that can be found all over this country.
They’re people just like your neighbors, people just like your friends, people just like your family, people just like you. People who when faced with the reality of senseless violence, when faced with the need to question the world we live in, question the intentions of others, and question whether or not they can trust anyone, decide that their only option is kindness. This country is full of people who believe that kindness is contagious, that giving is better than receiving, and that the world is a better place when we share it with each other.
Regardless of whether or not it will ever make the headlines, one random act at a time, kindness can make a difference. In our experience kindness is alive and well in this country, but right now sure would be a great time to bring it to the front page.
Thank you to everyone who helped to make the 2012 Get Out More Tour a tremendous success, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all. Be kind to each other!
Sheri and Randy Propster