TRAVEL
09/21/2011 04:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

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

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.)

Jump to the video

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.