Post by: Lean Gwin.
On July 17, 2013, I sat down at a small diner in Nashville for a first date with a musician I had met a month earlier. We participated in the usual small talk like,”What are you majoring in?”, “What brought you to Nashville?”, and “Where are you from?”. When I asked, “What are your future plans?”, I expected to hear an answer like, “Oh, I think I’ll be an accountant while trying to do music on the side.” Instead he responded with, “I am going to walk across the country while playing music along the way.” *Cue jaw drop*
Almost two years later on July 8, 2015, I stood in Portland, Maine saying goodbye to this crazy guy I call my boyfriend while he started his journey of walking 1,600 miles back home to Nashville.
Months previous to the start of the walk, my boyfriend, Benjamin Hoefling, had planned on doing this crazy adventure by himself. At the time, he believed there would be no way other people would be crazy enough to join him for this four-month-long walk. However, after posting on a Nashville Musicians’ Facebook page, Christopher Kessenich replied saying he was interested in learning more about this “unusual music tour” Benjamin had mentioned. Two weeks later, Will Stevens, a guy Benjamin met while hiking the Appalachian, called and said he was interested in joining as well. Only a week after that, Riley Moore, a friend Benjamin had interned with, also contacted Benjamin about his interest. In just a month, the three other crazy guys committed to spending four months of their lives walking back to Nashville while playing music.
Now the guys spend their time walking between 15 and 23 miles a day on the side of the road, pushing two strollers filled with gear, and carrying a large, white sign that says, “The Walking Guys. GOOGLE US!“. They’ve walked through large cities like Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia but they have spent the majority of their time passing through small towns most people have never heard of.
While passing through small towns, the guys will usually be stopped by curious drivers or business owners stopping to say hi, ask questions, or drop snacks off for them. Many times while chatting on the phone with Benjamin, I will hear multiple honks and also people shouting, “Good luck! Be safe out there!”
One unforeseen part of the tour (that has actually turned out being the one of the best parts), has been the kindness and hospitality of strangers along the way. I was able to spend seven days walking with the Guys through Pennsylvania and Maryland and was blown away by how many people opened up their homes, bought meals, and shared laughs with us over that short week. Every night I was with the Guys, we did not know where we would rest our heads at night. However, the kindness of strangers came through every night, and we ended up sleeping on couches at an adventurous, sky-diving bachelor’s apartment, crashing on the floor of two sweet girls’ row house in Philadelphia, and staying with a loving family in a small township. Each of these people we met impacted me in the most powerful ways, and my hope in humanity was restored due to their kindness towards us!
Numerous times the Guys have been asked how many nights they’ve had to camp. To many people’s surprise, the Guys’ answer is that out of about 123 nights, they’ve only had to camp 15 nights! The Guys haven’t paid for any hotels; they have been housed usually by strangers or friends of a friend. Most of us wouldn’t consider letting four, smelly, grown (scary-looking, homeless) men stay in our homes, however over 80 people have warmly opened their doors for these Guys.
I would have never imagined how incredible this walking tour would turn out when Benjamin mentioned his dream of it on our first date. Its been a surreal experience, even for me on the outside, to watch the ups and downs the Guys have been through. They’ve had a fun, yet grueling trip of a life-time spreading their music down 1,600 miles of the East Coast.
On Saturday, the Walking Guys finished their tour by walking home to Nashville. Family, friends, and people they have met on the tour all congregated in Nashville to welcome the Guys back home and literally walk a mile in their shoes.
We were so excited to join a group of nearly 40 people (and one dog!) on the last leg of their journey. We met tons of the Guys’ awesome supporters, all eager to know how we were connected with the Guys.
The Guys weren’t lying about one thing- they get honked at a LOT. And not because we were in the middle of the road or getting in cars’ way. I think people were genuinely saying “Hello! Good luck on your journey!” Or at least that’s how I interpreted the honks.
Saturday night, the Guys played their final homecoming show at local Nashville venue The Anchor. We had an awesome time listing to the guys showcase their melodious tunes and share stories from their adventure. It was so cool to see how far they had come as a group and how well they synced. When we attended their farewell show in Nashville back in June, Chris, Riley and Benjamin were performing as three separate acts. They still mostly perform their own solo songs, but now they all sit on stage supporting each other, both emotionally and with some killer harmonies.
All four of the guys were so ecstatic to be home in Nashville and so thankful to all of their support. Several members of the audience had met the Guys on the tour and traveled from as far as Philadelphia to see them perform.
It was so cool to follow the guys on their journey from day one. We are so excited to see where each of their musical careers go from here, but to us, they will always be The Walking Guys!