A Walk Across America
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4.04 / 5

"A Walk Across America" Summary

By Peter Jenkins

travel | 320 pages | Published in NaN

Twenty-five years ago, a disillusioned young man set out on a walk across America. This is the book he wrote about that journey -- a classic account of the reawakening of his faith in himself and his country."I started out searching for myself and my country," Peter Jenkins writes, "and found both." In this timeless classic, Jenkins describes how disillusionment with society in the 1970s drove him out onto the road on a walk across America. His experiences remain as sharp and telling today as they were twenty-five years ago -- from the timeless secrets of life, learned from a mountain-dwelling hermit, to the stir he caused by staying with a black family in North Carolina, to his hours of intense labor in Southern mills. Many, many miles later, he learned lessons about his country and himself that resonate to this day -- and will inspire a new generation to get out, hit the road and explore.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A man embarks on a transformative journey across America to discover the true meaning of life.

A Walk Across America: Embarking on a Journey of Discovery


In the captivating memoir "A Walk Across America," Peter Jenkins takes readers on an extraordinary adventure as he sets out on foot to explore the vast landscapes and diverse cultures of America. Through his vivid storytelling, Jenkins shares his experiences, encounters, and personal growth during his journey, creating a thought-provoking narrative that resonates with readers.

Brief Synopsis

The book begins in 1973 when Peter Jenkins, a young man disillusioned with society, decides to leave his comfortable life behind and embark on a cross-country journey by foot. Setting out from Alfred, New York, Jenkins aims to discover the real America, away from the confines of mainstream society.

As he walks across the country, Jenkins encounters a myriad of characters and experiences that shape his perspective on America. From hitchhiking with truckers to meeting Native American tribes, Jenkins immerses himself in the rich tapestry of American culture and landscapes. Along the way, he confronts personal challenges and discovers profound insights about himself and the world around him.

Main Characters

Character NameDescription
Peter JenkinsThe protagonist and author of the memoir. A young man in search of adventure, self-discovery, and a deeper understanding of America.
CooperPeter's loyal and adventurous dog who accompanies him on his journey.
Various charactersThroughout his journey, Jenkins encounters a wide array of individuals who contribute to his growth and understanding of America. These include truckers, Native Americans, fellow travelers, and people from various walks of life.

Summary of Story Points over Chapters

Chapter 1: The Decision

Jenkins makes the life-altering decision to leave his comfortable life behind and embark on a journey across America. He reflects on his motivations and desires for this adventure.

Chapter 2: The Beginning

Jenkins sets off from Alfred, New York, with his faithful dog, Cooper. He faces the challenges of walking long distances and encounters his first taste of the kindness of strangers.

Chapter 3: Pennsylvania

Jenkins reaches Pennsylvania and experiences the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains. He meets various individuals who challenge his perceptions of America.

Chapter 4: Ohio

Jenkins continues his journey through Ohio, encountering both friendly and hostile locals. He reflects on the racial tensions present in the country.

Chapter 5: Kentucky

In Kentucky, Jenkins immerses himself in the Appalachian culture and learns about the struggles faced by coal miners. He forms deep connections with the locals.

Chapter 6: Tennessee

Jenkins crosses into Tennessee and spends time with Native American tribes, gaining insights into their culture and spirituality. He reflects on the impact of colonization on Native communities.

Chapter 7: Arkansas

Jenkins navigates the Ozark Mountains and encounters poverty and racial tensions. He witnesses the effects of environmental degradation on rural communities.

Chapter 8: Texas

In Texas, Jenkins explores the vast landscapes and encounters the hardworking individuals who define the state's identity. He reflects on the concept of freedom.

Chapter 9: New Mexico

Jenkins reaches New Mexico and delves into the complexities of border issues and immigration. He learns about the rich cultural heritage of the region.

Chapter 10: Arizona

In Arizona, Jenkins explores the stark beauty of the desert and encounters Native American tribes. He reflects on the importance of preserving indigenous cultures.

Chapter 11: Utah

Jenkins hikes through the breathtaking canyons of Utah and reflects on the impact of tourism on the environment. He contemplates the balance between exploration and preservation.

Chapter 12: Nevada and California

Jenkins reaches the final leg of his journey, walking through the vast expanses of Nevada and California. He grapples with the transition back to civilization and contemplates the lessons learned throughout his journey.

Main Events

  • Jenkins encounters the kindness of strangers who offer him shelter, food, and companionship along his journey.
  • He forms deep connections with various individuals, including truckers, Native Americans, and fellow travelers, who broaden his perspective on America.
  • Jenkins confronts racial tensions, poverty, and environmental degradation, which challenge his notions of the American dream.
  • He discovers the resilience and strength of marginalized communities, particularly Native Americans and coal miners.
  • Jenkins reflects on the impact of colonization, immigration, and tourism on American society and the importance of preserving cultural heritage and the environment.

Themes and Insights

  • The exploration of America's diverse cultures and landscapes.
  • The contrast between the idealized American dream and the realities faced by marginalized communities.
  • The importance of human connection and kindness in an increasingly disconnected society.
  • The impact of colonization, racial tensions, and environmental degradation on American society.
  • The significance of cultural preservation and understanding in a globalized world.

Reader's Takeaway

"A Walk Across America" offers readers a captivating journey of self-discovery, cultural exploration, and personal growth. Through Jenkins' immersive storytelling, readers gain insights into the complexities of American society and reflect on their own place within it. The memoir reminds us of the power of human connection, the importance of preserving cultural heritage, and the need for empathy and understanding in an increasingly divided world.


In "A Walk Across America," Peter Jenkins takes readers on an extraordinary journey filled with adventure, self-discovery, and profound insights. This captivating memoir serves as a reminder of the beauty and diversity of America and encourages readers to seek understanding, connection, and preservation in an ever-changing world.

A Walk Across America FAQ

  1. What is 'A Walk Across America' about?

    A Walk Across America is a memoir written by Peter Jenkins about his journey walking from New York to New Orleans, spanning over five years.

  2. When was 'A Walk Across America' published?

    'A Walk Across America' was first published in 1979.

  3. Is 'A Walk Across America' a true story?

    Yes, 'A Walk Across America' is a true story based on the author's own experiences.

  4. What inspired Peter Jenkins to embark on this journey?

    Peter Jenkins was inspired by a desire for adventure and a curiosity about the people and places of America.

  5. How long did it take Peter Jenkins to complete his walk?

    Peter Jenkins spent five years completing his walk from New York to New Orleans.

  6. What challenges did Peter Jenkins face during his journey?

    Peter Jenkins faced various challenges, including harsh weather conditions, encounters with dangerous animals, and personal struggles.

  7. Did Peter Jenkins meet interesting people during his walk?

    Yes, Peter Jenkins met a wide range of interesting people along his journey, each with their own unique stories and perspectives.

  8. What are the major themes explored in 'A Walk Across America'?

    Some major themes explored in 'A Walk Across America' include adventure, self-discovery, human connection, and the diversity of American culture.

  9. Is 'A Walk Across America' suitable for all ages?

    Yes, 'A Walk Across America' is generally suitable for readers of all ages, though younger readers may require some guidance to fully understand the content.

  10. Are there any sequels or follow-up books to 'A Walk Across America'?

    Yes, Peter Jenkins wrote a sequel to 'A Walk Across America' titled 'The Walk West', which chronicles his journey from New Orleans to Oregon.