TRAVEL

Hitchhiker Travels 5,000 Miles, Meets 930 People, Across US (VIDEO)

09/21/2011 04:13 pm ET | Updated Nov 21, 2011

Benjamin Jenks was burnt out on his job and looking for an adventure to recharge. After reading a book by Steven Newman — the first person to walk solo around the world — and thinking back on his limited experiences with hitchhiking, Jenks set off on a journey from Venice, Calif. to Portland, Maine.

On his three-month odyssey, Jenks met and photographed nearly 1,000 people who helped him along the way, including comedian Tom Green, the guys from the TV show "Pawn Stars" and a group of fearless skinny-dippers. (That's them, modestly covered with black censor boxes, at the 2:21 mark.)

Shot with a fisheye lens, flash and Nikon D70 camera, the resulting 2-minute, 42-second film comprises 3,000 images and took more than 80 hours of editing work.

HuffPost Travel caught up with Jenks to get more details on his epic trek.

HuffPost Travel: Why exactly did you set out on this adventure?

Benjamin Jenks: I had finished up a stressful and draining job helping troubled teens and I was ready to do whatever I wanted to do. When I read Kerouac and Kesey in college and heard a quote in "Pulp Fiction" by Samuel L. Jackson's character, "I just want to walk the earth." I wanted to do that. I also read a book by Steven Newman about him walking around the world because he thought people were not as they were depicted in the media.

HPT: You weren't worried about relying on strangers for rides then?

BJ: I had hitchhiked out of necessity a few times and every time things just seemed to go a lot better and were more interesting than if my car hadn't broken down. I really loved it. I figured that I had all the social skills to deal with difficult people (after years of working with at-risk teens) and I wanted to give it a shot.

HPT: What route did you take, and what were some of the cities you visited over the three-month trip?

BJ: I started in Venice Beach then headed to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Las Vegas, The Hoover Dam, Phoenix, Tucson, Amarillo, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Mississippi, Memphis, Knoxville (where a lady I met bought me a Greyhound ticket to DC, which I classify as hitchhiking), Washington, DC, Pennsylvania, Oneonta, Vermont, and Portland. With numerous tiny towns in between.

HPT: Can you tell us about some of the characters you met along the way?

BJ: To name a few, the Buddhist priest and Tantric healer who invited me to stay at his off-grid "dream house" on the border of New Mexico. Tom Green, the comedian, as he walked by a bar I was at in Phoenix. The artist, Julianne, who was doing an art show naked in Austin. (She's the naked girl dancing around me at 1:47.) And the five women who tentatively agreed to skinny dip with me in Portland. Up until we got naked it was not a sure thing.

HPT: How exactly did you make the video?

BJ: I got a fisheye lens and flash in California. I had a Nikon D70 I was using already. Then wherever I went, I would wear that same sport coat I bought at a second hand store and a head band I got off Ebay and ask people to take a photograph with me. When I was inspired, I'd ask them to do something. Most people were pretty receptive.

HPT: Any particularly interesting stunts you can describe?

BJ: To make the New Orleans scene, I recruited some couchsurfers, asking for help walking down Bourbon Street. I took pictures with new people every step that we went, probably around 200 steps in all. In Portland, Maine, I wanted hundreds of people for the final shot, so I was handing out flyers trying to convince people to skinny dip with me. I ended up with five. I had wanted more people, but this was perfect. I really admire them for having the courage to do that.

Suggest a correction