Two summers ago, Isaiah Glen Shields was working as a corporate finance analyst. He had a spreadsheet opened on the computer screen in front of him one day. Then, the thought came: “Wouldn’t it be cool if I walked for a really, really long time?”
He didn’t realize at the time that the question would turn into a journey of a lifetime.
Last week, the 28-year-old walked through the streets and neighborhoods of Colorado Springs and other parts of the Pikes Peak region as he attempts to walk across America.
“I have always been that guy who wanted to get out there and see a lot of stuff firsthand,” Shields said. “It sounds like a cliché, but it was a really strong impulse, strong enough for me to quit my job, leave my house and start walking. I haven’t stopped for months.”
He started in Provo, Utah, where he graduated from Brigham Young University. He walked toward Washington to reach the most western point in the United States — on a cape. Then, he came this way.
Before this week, he had logged nearly 3,400 miles with his belongings riding alongside him — including a tent, sleeping bag and clothes — in a converted dog stroller. Most of the miles he walked alone, but last week, he met with another “long walker” in Ben Clagett, a Colorado Springs resident who has walked across America several times.
Clagett hosted Shields at his home. The next morning, Clagett walked a few miles with the journeyman. They shared stories. They talked about the nuances of doing such a task, like walking into wind for miles and miles and getting hit in the face by a flap of a jacket over and over again.
“Right when you meet someone that’s doing a similar thing that you’ve done, there’s like this automatic bond that’s formed because you can relate to one another’s experiences,” Clagett said. “To some degree, I’m watching him push this stroller and I’m getting the perspective of what other people saw when they walked with me during my walks. It’s sort of cool being on the outside looking in for a change.”
Shields has endured miles and miles of loneliness. During one 100-mile stretch, he saw just a couple homes. So when Clagett offered to walk with him a bit to see him off from the Springs, he welcomed that.
But Shields also knows there’ll be more stretches where it’s just him and a long dirt or asphalt road. Sometimes in complete darkness. So he likes to think about life and listen to audiobooks. In between, he’ll stop in a town or city to post on Instagram or edit a video for his YouTube channel.
He thinks he’ll walk another six or seven months before he reaches his end: a lighthouse in Maine, which is the most eastern point in the U.S., he said. Until then, he will continue to document and enjoy the people and places he comes across.
He wouldn’t want it any other way, even though he has to find a place to sleep every night and gotten pulled over by police nearly 100 times because, he said, someone likely was concerned about a man pushing a stroller through their neighborhood.
“As long as it’s not illegal or immoral or hurting someone else,” Shields said, “do the things that have always spoken to you.”