Meet Nate Damm: the Man Who Walked Across America

Nate Damm on the Golden Gate Bridge.
Nate Damm on the Golden Gate Bridge. (click for larger)

From sea to shining sea. That’s where one man walked, departing from Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware and ending on Ocean Beach in San Francisco, CA. Nate Damm, a 23 year old from Maine, crossed the USA on foot, walking a total of 3400 miles in less than 8 months. He just finished on Saturday (Oct 15). I could blab on and on about what I think about such a grand adventure, but I’m going to let Nate do all the talking. It turns out that walking across America comes with a little bit of life wisdom, and Nate shares a wealth of it in this interview.

Just one thing to keep in mind: Nate offers up more than a dozen nuggets of wisdom in this interview (at least that I caught), and each one could have an entire book devoted to it. Actually, many books have been written on the subjects Nate touches on in both success and personal development literature. But Nate doesn’t beat around the bush and doesn’t need a whole volume to make his point. He just comes out and says what he’s learned in a very matter-of-fact style – sometimes in just one sentence. So, my advice to you is to take your time reading through his responses and pay attention to the way he speaks to better understand the transformation that has taken place in his life. The choice of his words will give you an inside peek into the mindset of a master.

OK, let’s dive into it!

John: Hi Nate, I’ve followed your journey since the beginning, but I still don’t feel like I know the Nate Damm from before your trip. You seem like a pretty normal guy, but how would you describe yourself before embarking on such a grand adventure? Where are you from and what was your life like before Feburary 26, 2011?

Nate: Great question! I wouldn’t say I changed too much over the course of the trip, but there are a couple things I’ve noticed. I’ve always been quiet and pretty low-key, but being on this walk really forced me to be more outgoing and get really good at talking with people I’m glad things happened this way! I definitely feel much more confident now, like I can do anything. I’m from Maine, and life before the walk was great. I went to school and was working at a job that I liked, had a girlfriend, apartment, car, all that good stuff. But the road kept calling so I gave it all up to walk across the U.S. And here I am now!

John: Why on Earth would you do something that most people would consider at best, inspirational, or at worst, completely crazy?

Nate: I’m really still trying to figure that out. I knew I wanted to see America in a slow way and really get a feel for how things are here and how people feel about this country. I wanted to see the West that I’d always dreamed about. I also just needed a change and this idea had just stuck for years and wouldn’t let go, so I had to do it.

John: What were your expectations going into this trip, and more specifically, what were you looking to get out of it?

Nate: My friend Jonathon, who walked across the U.S. last year gave me some great advice. He said to go into it without expectations. To just walk and see what happens. This was the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I just got up everyday and tried to enjoy myself as much as possible. Doing things this way left me open to changes (I never had a set route, it was constantly evolving) and I’m so glad I decided to do things that way. If I had to choose some things I was looking to get out of it I would say 1) to meet as many different kinds of people as I could, and 2) to see the beautiful American landscapes.

John: Tell me about the first few days and weeks.

Nate: The first few days were exciting and draining. I didn’t do much training at all and was horribly unprepared physically. But, it just made things really interesting. Blisters and pain were the theme of the first few weeks. I was excited though, as I was finally living my ultimate dream. I didn’t know what doing something you TRULY love was like before I started, and it just got more and more addicting by the day. I miss it now.

John: Did you ever doubt your decision to start walking and get tempted to quit early? And if so, how did you deal with those doubts and concerns?

Nate: For about one minute in West Virginia I felt like quitting, but that’s it. I remember actually thinking about it and then getting really mad at myself for even contemplating it. It was a pretty awful day, but things improved shortly after that and I never even thought about quitting again. I made sure that I was 100% on this idea before I left, thought about it for a couple of years, so I wouldn’t need to deal with a situation where I actually did quit and go home.

John: When you got the opportunity to share your story with people along the road, how did they usually react to it?

Nate: They were almost always surprised and very enthusiastic. They would then go out of their way to help me out with some food or a place to stay almost every time. I only had a few experiences where people told me it was stupid and that I was wasting my time. For the most part, people just like seeing other people go after their dreams, and they usually get very excited about it.

John: What physical changes did you notice in your body from such an exhaustive trip?

Nate: I lost a bit of weight. I’ve always been pretty skinny but I think I lost about 15 pounds. The biggest difference was in my leg muscles. Muscles were popping up that I didn’t even know existed, it was pretty funny.

John: I imagine that so much walking not only got you super-conditioned, but also resulted in some wear and tear. Were there any side effects from so much walking?

Nate: Nothing major. Aches and pains after a very long (25+ mile) day were common, but nothing that was too bad. I feel very fortunate that I didn’t experience any injuries along the way.

John: Can you give us a rough idea of what you ate throughout your trip, and how much food did you need every day to sustain your energy levels?

Nate: I ate a lot of typical hiking or backpacker food. Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, bagels, trail mix, pop tarts, pasta, canned and dried fruit, jerky, and whatever junk food I felt like getting. For some reason I craved sugar uncontrollably, resulting in a huge soda addiction, as well as anything with a Little Debbie label. Bad, I know :-)

Quick Trivia:

J: What’s your daily record for total mileage?

N: 40 miles one day in Colorado! Was absolutely brutal.

J: What’s your number one favorite place you traveled through and why?

N: All of Utah and Nevada, just stunning.

J: Favorite small town?

N: French Lick, Indiana.

J: Favorite city?

N: None, I didn’t really like any of them that much. Didn’t hate them, but didn’t love them.

J: Best place for food?

N: Middlegate Station on Highway 50 in Nevada (the Loneliest Road In America) – best burger I’ve ever had in my life. Truly remarkable.

J: Friendliest people?

N: In the Midwest. No question.

John: Did your perspective of America, as a nation, change throughout this trip?

Nate: It changed completely. I didn’t know how I felt about this country before I started, now I’m proud to be from here and call it home.

John: No doubt, this trip has changed so much about who you are, and you’ve picked up a lot of lessons along the way. If you could pick just one life lesson that you learned from this trip and share it with the world, what would it be?

Nate: Planning is overrated. Just do what you like every day and good things will happen.

John: How has committing to a monstrous goal like this changed you as a person over the last eight months?

Nate: In so many ways. I’m more confident, happy, MUCH less stressed in even the craziest situations. I feel like I have a good handle on what I want to spend my time doing.

John: You’ve spent 8 months on the road, away from modern luxuries. What did you miss the most while traveling, and is there any thing that you won’t go back to using (i.e morning cup of coffee, alarm clock, toilet paper)?

Nate: Honestly, I didn’t miss anything about home besides seeing friends and family. I loved roughing it out there. My close friends will tell you that I often complained while staying in hotels and couldn’t wait to get back out on the road.

John: If someone is thinking about a major life goal, whether walking across the country or something else entirely, what advice would you give them?

Nate: Do not make excuses and find a way. There were a million reasons why I shouldn’t have done this, but you just have to take responsibility for your own destiny. Take actions toward what you want to do every day, even if they are small. You’ll get there. If I can do it anyone can.

John: If you were going to do it all again, what would you do differently?

Nate: Absolutely nothing.

John: What advice would you give to someone thinking about walking across America or some similar excursion on foot?

Nate: You’re in for one hell of an adventure. It will be tough but more rewarding than anything you’ve ever done. Soak it all in and enjoy it, even the miserable moments.

John: Where can my readers find more information about you and what you’re doing these days?

Nate: I’ll be doing a lot of writing from now on at www.NateDamm.com.

John: OK, I have to ask… Would you do it all again, Nate?

Nate: Yes, and probably will.

Wrap-Up

Well, I want to say a big thanks to Nate for agreeing to this interview and for doing it so soon after his trip. I know that what he’s shared here will inspire and teach many, and I think he’s just getting warmed up! Please join me in congratulating him for his accomplishment and wishing him well in his future endeavors.

Now, I have just one more question, Nate. I live just a hop, skip, and a throw away in New Hampshire. I know you’ve probably done enough walking for awhile, but would you be interested in meeting up for a hike sometime in the future?

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CST Coach, CST-KS
Health-First Fitness Coach

7 Responses

  1. Thanks so much, John!

    After reading through, one thing I would change is that I did LOVE San Francisco. It was the only city I liked, somehow while answering that questions I forgot about it. Doh.

    And a hike is definitely in our future buddy. Would be great.

    Thanks again!

    • Awesome – looking forward to it! And yes, San Francisco is a pretty cool place. I grew up in the Bay Area. If I was crazy enough to move back to CA, it would probably be there :)

  2. Awesome interview!
    Very inspiring and thought-provoking.

  3. Great interview. Thanks for posting it!

  4. Brad Knowles

    What an adventure! If you consider everything that is going on at the moment, both in the U.S. and the world; if you consider how much we gripe and moan about inconsequential things each and every day; if you consider how much time, energy and passion we invest in planning for the future, worrying about the future, regretting the past, neglecting the present – then you will realize just how much of an heroic achievement Nate’s “hike” really is. His willingness to just let go of all the things that fritter away our valuable time and thrust himself into this epic adventure, garnering so much joy and gratitude from the experience is inspiring. All of the books that we buy, the programmes we commit to in our efforts to become “better selves” – all pale into insignificance when compared with the simplicity of putting on the shoes/tennis, shouldering the back-pack, taking that first deep breath and then walking out the front door.
    Good on you, Nate!

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