On June 8, 2019 Michael began his walk across America to raise money for homeless veterans. Now that he’s completed his walk, we asked what questions you had for Michael about his journey. Check out the questions and his answers below!
How long did you serve in the Marines?
I was in the Marine Corps for 4.5 years. I was an Electrical Engineer stationed in North Carolina, Okinawa, and Camp Pendleton. I also spent a month in Korea and nine months in Afghanistan with Special Forces. Those guys are amazing.
Does anyone donate? How does it all work?
During my walk anyone was able to donate. I collected donations through GoFundMe for the most part, but people were giving me so much cash to help me on my journey that I started adding that to the donation money. The GoFundMe is closing, but the third way is through purchasing one of my T-Shirts which can be found at OwnYourGangster.com. All of the proceeds during my walk went to homeless veterans and now that the walk is over, proceeds are split between homeless veterans and other homeless organizations.
How many miles did you walk?
Total miles on the trail, as in point to point, I walked 3,333. Total from the time I started walking, including zero days, I was probably closer to 3,400.
How long did it take you to finish the walk?
It took me 166 days to walk from the Atlantic Ocean in Portland, Maine to the edge of the sidewalk and the sand in Oceanside, California. I didn’t actually hop into the ocean for another 3 days because I wanted to give people who had supported me a chance to see me finish. So, the technical end was 169 days.
Would you do it again?
I would, but I don’t plan to. Walking on some of those highways was crazy dangerous. I’ve had a chance to drive along some of my route and all that comes to mind is what the hell were you thinking? I fully plan to do the PCT this year or next and I’m hoping Topo can help me out again.
What’s the funniest/weirdest thing you saw while on the road?
I was always amazed with how curious cows were. They would come to the gate when they saw me and walk with me until a gate stopped them. My friend said it’s because they thought I had food, but whenever I walked closer to them, they would run around and jump and play and it was such a magical experience. Because of that, I’ve gone back to being a vegetarian. After you see cows play and see how miserable they are in feed lots, the thought of eating them just seems horrible. Also, I saw thousands of dead animals in the form of roadkill. Even an otter in Massachusetts, which was pretty crazy.
What was your go-to shoe?
I started with Chaco sandals and the Topo Terraventure 2s. I walked about 300 miles in those sandals, but after about 80 miles I would get blisters and that’s about as fun as walking on thorns with bare feet. The shoes I wore for the other over 3,000 miles were the Topos. They were recommended to me by a guy at REI named Walker. Talk about destiny. I loved them and still do. They were comfortable out of the gate, but I ended up throwing Dr. Scholl’s in them for a little extra padding because a marathon plus a day is a lot for your feet to handle. Also, even though they were comfortable at the beginning, I have to say they almost felt like slippers at the 500-mile mark.
How many pairs of Topos did you have to rotate through for your walk?
Four all together. I would wear one pair until they tread was gone and then move on to the next pair. I was always sad to retire a pair and also relieved. Sad because it was like saying goodbye to a friend. When you have so few possessions it’s like you’re giving a piece of your soul away when you send them on. I actually still have all of my shoes because I’m doing a photo gallery and I’m going to display the shoes, but after that I will be saying goodbye to them. As for the relief, when you’re pushing everything, it’s always nice to have one less thing and I carried all the new shoes with me. Plus, putting on a new pair of shoes was a small milestone of the distance I’d already walked.
How may shoes did you go through?
All in all, I went through four pairs of Topo’s and 1/3 pair sandals. I say 1/3 because they still have some tread on them and let me say that I put those Topo’s to the test. I walked in rain, mud, sand, the heat, all of it and they held up beautifully.
What was the worst part of the journey? The best?
I want to give you a definitive answer and the first thing that pops into my mind was walking through Pennsylvania. It was the middle of summer with record breaking heat reaching 103+, with 50%+ humidity. On top of that I was pushing Bernadine (my cart) who weighed 100 pounds up and down mountains and hills with grades as steep as 9%. If you’re not sure how steep that is, it’s steep enough for semis to barely be passing me. I walked against traffic and I remember wanting to get closer and closer to the semis going downhill so I would be in their shadow for 1/2 a second and cooled by the air they were moving. I looked like I jumped into a pool with all of my clothes on. Even my shoes had puddles. On top of that, I was putting in 30 plus mile days. But besides that, I had to tell myself to keep going when I just wanted to stop for the day. I had to force myself to ask for help which may have been the most difficult part and I had to keep pushing even though my legs and feet were screaming in pain.
The best part was how kind people were to me. I had people pulling up to me on the side of the road and not only offering me a place to stay, but they would let me keep walking, pick me up 12 miles down the road and then drop me off at that same point the next day. Experiencing kindness like that is truly magical. It’s also a reminder that most people want to help and there are good people everywhere.
What did you miss most towards the end of your journey?
Well, if you mean from the road, I knew I was going to miss walking every day and being so free. There’s nothing like waking up in a desolate valley or desert or mountain top and knowing that you’re the only one there and that few people have ever walked down the road you’re on. I knew I would also miss the random places I found myself when people invited me into their homes.
Were you inspired by someone/specific incident on your walk?
I was inspired by several people on my walk. I had a buddy Patrick who was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail at the same time as me and I remember thinking damn that’s so cool. I’ve always wanted to do that and there he is doing it. I was also inspired by Colin O’Brady. I remember tagging him in one of my Instagram stories and he responded. I thought that was so kind of him. I’m also inspired by my mom on a daily basis. she’s been through more hard times than anybody I know, but she has never once let it stop her from looking forward to tomorrow. She will forever be my hero.
What’s next for you?
I’m writing a book about my walk and the things that lead me to it. My family went through a lot of tragedy over the last few years and I carried a lot of the weight, so I want to tell that story and then turn it into a screen play. I would also like to host a travel show in the vein of Huell Hauser’s California Gold. If you haven’t seen it, google it. It’s wonderful.
My ultimate goal in life is to leave this world better than I found it. I started acting because I wanted to make lots of money so I could help feed and house people. Though I made a living, I was not making millions. Outside of that I want to continue to travel and wander through cities, trails and anywhere that seems interesting. I’ve always been a nomadic wandering hippie. Even as a child I was barely home and it’s not because I had a bad home life, I was simply interested in what was over the next hill.
To keep up with Michael and his future ventures, follow him on Instagram and check his YouTube for updates!