I just want to give a heads up, this post mentions suicide and loss and the story of someone impacted by it.
Little known fact about me: If given the opportunity, I would love to hike across the United States. I LOVE walking (this love pre-dates my fitbit obsession) and there’s something about the freedom of being un-tethered to a J-O-B, put one foot in front of the other and see the country. I may not be a fast walker, but I believe, like a lot of things in my life, if I’m not timed, I can get the job done beautifully. I’ve read A Walk in the Woods , Wild and even Into the Wild, while walking a trail (and off) seems dreamy, I don’t know if I’m cut out for carrying a HEAVY pack, getting lost, frustrated and fearing for my life daily, so walking on sidewalks and through an occasional park seems more my speed. Plus staying in hotels, or a camper, that sounds nice too! (don’t get me wrong, I love camping and can rough it, but I’ve also read those previously mentioned books and their experiences kind of terrify me, lol)
Someone who loves thru-hiking, AND has combined it with his passion for wanting everyone to love life, is Steve Fugate.
I first heard Steve Fugate’s story around 10 years ago on the radio while Matt and I were driving somewhere. It moved me and left enough of an impact that I’ve followed Steve on facebook ever since. While hiking through the Appalachian trail, Steve received devastating news that his son had died by suicide. Shortly thereafter, his daughter also passed away too young. Changed forever by these events, Steve has walked across the country EIGHT times, all the while carrying a sign overhead that simply says “LOVE LIFE”, hoping to heal his own heart and then spread a positive message of hope and love “mending the broken heart while it is yet beating”. Steve has had many personal encounters along the way and has written a book about all of it, Love, Life, Walk, available on amazon.
The 73 year old will be embarking on his next walk on Valentines Day, 2020, leaving from Sebastian, Florida and heading to Oregon and then back again. A friend of his set up a gofund me page to help him along the way https://www.gofundme.com/f/steve-fugate-walk.
I donated towards his goal of $2,500 and he sent me a personal thank you message via facebook. Since I had his ear, it gave me the perfect opportunity to offer further assistance. I’ve had the idea for a couple years ago but he was currently not on any walks, but I have a pin-back button maker and I thought it would be so awesome to make him some buttons that he could carry in his pocket (or sell to raise funds) to help spread the message. He said he’d love them. I just sent them in the mail today and I can’t wait until he receives them.
As someone who has also been impacted by suicide and people passing away too young, too many times, his message feels so important to me. I am grateful for someone so dedicated to spreading his message. I recently re-listened to the radio interview and a couple things stuck out to me.
He said “You do not have the right to take your life. It does not belong to just you, it belongs to the people that love you.” This may not be a popular opinion, but it is one that I wholehearted agree with. It reminded me of a lecture I attended by Maya Angelou, who talked about living your life to the fullest and how it is not yours to throw away. Every single person in your life has invested their love, their time and energy into you and so you owe it to them to take that life and make the best of it.
Also, he introduced me to the American Discovery Trail, a trail that goes across the United States. I think he said it is ill marked and you need to refer to maps online to find out where to go, so he doesn’t use it. But, it got me looking it up and what do you know? It crosses through the state of Illinois twice! That totally seems doable and maybe, just maybe someday I might dip my toe into hiking by crossing my state (fingers crossed).
Edit to add a few links that I have found interesting since sharing this post: