Florida man makes pit stop in Bainbridge during his journey across U.S.

Published 5:29 pm Tuesday, August 21, 2018

William Smith has a new pin to put on his map. He is walking by foot from Lake County, Florida to California and his latest stop is Bainbridge.

Walking across the country has been Smith’s lifelong desire. The seed of the idea was planted in his head many years ago, when he read someone had done something similar in Reader’s Digest. He put the idea on hold and spent the last two decades raising his daughter. After his daughter left for school, Smith wanted a new challenge and he decided it was time to take on the big walk he had dreamed of. He contacted people who had done it before and began preparing.

“I wanted to see the country on foot,” Smith said. “I’ve driven across the United States in a vehicle, but this is a completely different perspective.”

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Seeing the country on foot allowed for Smith to document everything on ground level with photographs. He is a wildlife photographer, and the scenery he has captured thus far has been amazing, he said.

One of the most amazing things though has been the people Smith said. Smith takes pictures of the working class American when the opportunity presents itself. He will stop in for a bite to eat, and take pictures of the cooks or cashiers.

Taking pictures of average people helps him connect with the people who are following his journey Online. They feel like anyone, no matter their role, plays a part to how he is seeing America.

Smith has been especially thankful for law enforcement. He said they have been fantastic to him, especially the Grady County Sheriff’s Office. Smith laughs at the memory of his recent walk through their town. He was photographing pictures and a passerby reported him as waving a gun. Law enforcement soon arrived and realized what one thought was a gun was just a camera and spoke with Smith about his travels.

Smith has been traveling for five weeks on foot, so far. He has made a couple of rules throughout that time. His first rule is no hitchhiking. His second rule is no panhandling and his third rule is no trespassing.

Smith carries a tent, backpack, bug spray and other necessities with him, but he always ask permission before placing his tent on anyone’s property. He said churches have been outstanding about letting him place his tent on their property and most other people are understanding as well. He has stayed at motels a few times, but does not ever stay on the street.

During his five week travel, Smith has seen some beautiful places, but his favorite by far is Boston, Georgia.

“Boston easily swept me off my feet,” Smith said. “It’s a small town with a beautiful main street and dining opportunities. If I got stuck there, I would’ve been fine living there forever.”

Some of his other favorites included Jasper, Florida and Quitman, Georgia.

“They were a surprise to me,” he said. “I fell in love with those towns.”

Smith doesn’t have a time limit for his journey. He thinks it will take at least a year, if not longer with some of the stops he wants to make. However, he invites everyone to follow his journey on Facebook. He posts pictures in areas with WiFi, so people can see his location and how far he has made it. People interested can find him on Facebook under willswalkingwest.

He looks most forward to the day he can share a picture with his followers on the Santa Monica Pier and look back and say “I did this.”