The Kindness of Strangers… Penniless Across America

Is it possible to travel from California to North Carolina without a penny to your name, simply relying on the kindness of strangers for your food, shelter and transportation?

That’s the question Mike McIntyre asked himself. 

kindness of strangers penniless across americaMike was a guy with a great job as a journalist, a nice place to live, and a loving girlfriend. Problem was… he was afraid. All.the.time. He’d let fear control his life and decided it was time to snap out of it. Afraid of the dark. Afraid of the woods. Afraid of people. He decided to take on an epic quest.

He decided to travel across the United States. Alone. On foot. Penniless. He packed his backpack with some clothes, a piece of cardboard, paper and a marker to write the name of his next destination as he stood on the side of the road, waiting for the kindness of strangers.

As someone in the middle of an epic quest, I totally GET the urge, the desire, the need to shake free from the everyday, purge your fears, and go for it.

While it was interesting to read about his journey, it really fell flat for me. I think because Mike is a journalist, that’s what we got. A complete play by play of the trip. Who picked him up. Their name, rank and serial number, and a brief description of their interaction. He ended the book with the numbers: how many miles, rides, people, days the trip took. This book is kind of like reading the stats sheet for a vision quest. Yeah, those two things don’t really go together.

This book was not easy to “fall into”, it was kind of like reading an extended newspaper article. Just the facts ma’am. However, as a writer, it became an amazingly clear example of how facts tell, stories sell. This is something I’ve heard over and over again, and yet couldn’t quite see for myself. It’s something I’ve always struggled with, and reading this book, the difference became incredibly clear, especially since I recently finished Kitchen Confidential which could have been “just the facts” but because of the way it was written, read more like fiction.

The story of Mike’s journey across America was interesting, I was truly surprised by the amount of kindness he found across the US. I am stunned by how many people were willing to pick up a stranger on the road, and let him stay in their homes. I was surprised by the types of people who picked him up, and who passed him by. However, for me, it would have been a much better memoir if he’d shared more of his internal journey, the transformation he went through, because I am certain there is no way one can make that type of journey and not be changed. I wish he’d shared more of his feelings, emotions, contemplations along the way. He frequently mentions writing in his journal… that’s what I would like to read… the journal.

I don’t know if I recommend this book. In some ways it was worth the read, to catch a snapshot of the people in America, however, if you’re expecting a memoir of personal transformation, that’s not what you’ll find. I guess I’ll let you decide. If you’ve got Amazon unlimited… you can borrow it for free. If not, you can get it on Kindle or Paperback:)

Jackie Lee Zen Wahm


PS. You may notice the look and feel of this site has changed a little bit. These changes are a direct result of reading this book. You see, I started this website when I decided to take my own epic journey. In the time since finishing this book and writing the review I realized I’d set this site up to share “just the facts” of my journey. It’s what I know how to do, it’s what I’ve been writing for the last eight years, and quite honestly it keeps me insulated from being vulnerable.

The line from this post though, it kept ringing through my head.  “He frequently mentions writing in his journal… that’s what I would like to read… the journal.” The nitty, gritty, behind the scenes, what’s happening inside YOU stuff, the transformation… that’s really what I want. It’s also what I want to share with you, on this site. You see, one of my core desired feelings is deeply moved. I want to feel deeply moved, and I also want my readers to feel deeply moved. One does not feel deeply moved by the facts. So… I sat quietly with myself. Took a nap, and woke up with a new tagline in my head and it was perfect. I sat down and the perfect image showed up for me. It all came together quickly and easily and now this site feels like a perfect home for all the things I really want to write! So… please, make sure you join the journey… enter your details below so you never miss a post or any of the insights I send to just my email subscribers. :)

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memoir challenge

Kindness of Strangers Penniless Across America is memoir 2 in the 25/25 challenge. The challenge is to read 25 memoir, and 25 works of fiction in the year 2015. You can read all the who, whats and whys here. All the links in this posts are affiliate links. You’re welcome to pick up the books I’m reading and read them yourself. I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you use the links in these posts. If you read the books, make sure you come back and let me know what you thought! Also, if you have suggestions for memoir or fiction I should read this year, absolutely, leave me a comment… recommendations from friends are my favorite way to choose new books! 

Make sure you join the journey… fill in your name and email address below and I’ll send you a quick email when I publish new content and book reviews. ;) 


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