My friend Kevin is going on a hike. While Kevin and I have never actually met, I consider him a good friend. We've known each other for what seems like forever online; we used to go to the same places on the net and write about the same general topics. It's difficult to arrange a face-to-face meeting when I live in Illinois and Kevin lives in Alexandria, VA. It's even harder when he lives in Seoul, which he did until quite recently. But, it's his hike that I'd like to focus on. Like a few people before him, Kevin is attempting to walk across the United States. If everything has gone according to plan, he arrived in Vancouver yesterday and began walking this morning. His plans include stopping at a Sikh temple in Canada, so while the walk begins on Tuesday, he may not officially cross into the U.S. until later in the week. His modest goal is, over the next many months, to make it back home to Alexandria on foot. That in and of itself would be an impressive feat, but there's more, and the more is essential to understanding the man behind the mission. One of Kevin's great passions is, while not precisely religion, something akin to it. As he envisions the journey, he'll arrive at a destination and discuss matters of spirituality with any and all he meets along the way. He describes it as “an extended inquiry into my home country's religious diversity.” Kevin himself is a blend of such things, coming from Presbyterian background coupled with a personal interest in Zen Buddhism and a degree from Catholic University of America. He is himself an American mutt - half-Korean, half-everything else. For him, the idea of a journey of religious pilgrimage of this sort has little or no ulterior motive. For as long as he and I have been communicating, one of the topics that has genuinely interested him is the spirituality of others and in finding common ground between different sorts of beliefs. He's not a preacher and not the type to force his opinions on others. He just wants to see what people believe and why they believe it. Diversity is one of the key words of this journey. His stated goal is, when possible, to find different beliefs as often as possible, and he hopes to encounter people of all faiths (or no faith) along the route and talk with them. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit envious of him. The road he'll be on for however long it takes him will be an immeasurable experience. I don't envy the walking, the blisters, the heat, camping out in strange places, or much else. But I genuinely envy the opportunity he's taking to do something grand. I'm looking forward to following his progress, and I'm hoping that his path leads him through this area. Part of that is motivated by pure selfishness - I want the chance to finally meet him (and naturally to make an appearance in the book he'll certainly be writing about this experience). I'd love to be able to sit down and talk with him, not only about religion, but about everything. By all accounts, he's already lived a life many of us never will: he spent a year in Switzerland as a student and several years in Korea as a teacher. This latest idea is just another thing that Kevin will do that the vast majority of us would never even consider. It's perfectly him to do exactly this sort of thing, both grand in many different senses of the word, and crazy, and filled with the genuine belief that most people are good at heart. I hope he can make it. While the weather should be good in general for the first few months, he'll also be spending those first few months walking across some pretty deserted places in this country where there's still a lot of untamed nature. Six months from now, if he's not already pushed his way south, he'll have to contend with winter on the high plains, which is not something I'd want to do in a car, let alone on foot. But I have confidence in him. I'm not sure what he'll find out there, but I'm convinced he'll find something that will change him, and maybe change a lot of other people, too. Take a look at Kevin's musings and keep track of his progress at http://www.kevinswalk.blogspot.com. He'd love to have as much encouragement as you can give him. --- Steve Honeywell is a father and sometime stay-at-home dad. He teaches English composition at Kishwaukee College and is a freelance writer and proofreader.