Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012
On April 10, 2012, a visitor from Manchester, UK visited Ellis Island. It doesn’t seem like an unusual event, but it was. This particular visitor had walked to Battery Park from San Francisco, Calif., in order to visit this icon symbol of immigration.
Twenty-six year-old Alan Slater had spent the previous 234 days walking the United States in order to raise money and awareness for Cancer Research UK. For Slater, whose life was affected when his grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the adventure was a way to honor his grandfather, get inspired in his life, and see the United States. He traveled California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington DC, Pennsylvania and finally New York, where he ended his long journey at Ellis Island.
“I’m a lot like the people that first came to Ellis Island,” he said. “I’m looking forward to what the future will bring now that my walk is over, but still a little anxious about it. I don’t know what this new chapter has in store for me.”
He began and ended his trip in national parks, starting in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and along the way he visited Zion NP, Mesa Verde NP, Bryce Canyon NP, Glen Canyon- Escalante NRA, and Shiloh NMP. “The United States is incredibly diverse, crossing over into every new state is like crossing over in to a new world,” Slater said.
While he found the grand western parks beautiful, he was most struck by how peaceful and beautiful Shiloh was in light of the bloody battle that took place there in 1862. He mentioned that the interpretive waysides installed at Shiloh went a long way in helping him visualize the battle.
This epic walk was the first time Slater visited the United States. He walked at least 20 miles every day, destroying 2 pairs of sneakers, 2 pairs of boots, and whittling 28 pounds off his frame in the process. He met a remarkable assortment of people while he traveled the United States as well, many opening up their homes and cupboards to him.
“The people I met along the way, I’m going to have a bond with for life. This [walk] brought out the optimist in me, and makes me want to help other people realize they are much more amazing than they think,” Slater said. “There are more good than bad in this world. I’m honored and lucky to have met every one of the people I encountered.”
The only form of transport Slater used were ferries -- one at the very beginning of his trip, and one at the very end, when he took a Statue Cruises boat to Ellis Island. He mentioned that while he was walking around Ellis Island he could not believe that his trek was over. But, on his trip here, he was glad he decided to leave his rucksack elsewhere -- “I’ve been floating around the city because a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders,” he noted -- and marveled at the beauty of Central Park.
What did he learn along the way?
“You don’t have to be Bear Grylls to do this,” Slater said. “I’m an average guy. I took a chance and I went for it. Everyone has great potential in themselves, they just need a believe it to achieve their potential. I don’t see problems anymore, I see opportunities.”
“Also”, he quipped, “The United States looks at LOT smaller on a map.”
If you'd like to read more about his trip across the US, check out www.alanwalksamerica.com .