University Park Man Walks Across the Country

Holden Ringer’s trek from Washington state will top 4,000 miles

Holden Ringer is making the trek from Washington state to Washington, D.C., on foot.

The 25-year-old is from University Park, where his parents still live, but is walking across the country with the help of an inheritance from his grandparents.

He’s also raising money and awareness for America Walks — an organization devoted to advancing walkable, equitable, connected, and accessible communities nationwide.

“For me, obviously, walking isn’t the most efficient mode of transportation, but if it’s something you want to do, I think you should be able to do it in a safe and pleasant way,” Ringer said.

The walk started March 8, 2023, but has included some breaks. The plan is to arrive in Washington, D.C., sometime this spring.

The idea for the walk came when Ringer was at Emory University in the spring of 2021, studying for a final exam but fantasizing about taking a walk. While that wasn’t an option due to his pending exam, the thought, “What would it be like to walk across the country?” dawned on him.

Ringer keeps his belongings by pushing them in a stroller that holds a tarp, sleeping pad, tent, GPS tracker, backpack, headlamp, knife, bike pump, water, spare tires, food, Chacos, bear spray, battery packs, sunscreen, first aid supplies, toilet paper, books, and clothes.

When bedtime comes, he pitches a tent wherever he can find a willing host, such as people’s backyards, churches, city parks, or under bridges.

Some of his favorite moments have been when strangers showed him kindness.

An example he cites is when his stroller broke down 16 miles into a 33-mile day. He was on the side of U.S. Route 40 with bad traffic, a thunderstorm, and no water. A couple he had previously met on his route came to his rescue.

“Part of the framing of the walk was just to be more appreciative of everything around me, and it’s like, how can I be bitter or not want to show other people kindness when I have done absolutely nothing and people (have) shown me so much kindness,” Ringer said. “It’s definitely a perspective-altering experience.”

When he gets rides from locals, he ensures he’s dropped off at the same location to continue the route on foot.

Ringer trained before the walk and has a history of running cross country. He also gives credit to his high energy levels.

He describes the walk as an authoritarian presence that keeps him moving. 

“A huge part of the walk is this balance between self-sufficiency and vulnerability, where it’s like, I have to know that I’m able to do the entire walk by myself,” Ringer said. “At the same time, when you ask for help and when you ask for the support of others, it makes the walk and journey so much easier.”

While Ringer says he doesn’t necessarily recommend others to walk across the country, he encourages them to “find their walk” — whether starting a business, pursuing graduate school, or another endeavor.

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