Ryan Ray passed through Clarksville on Wednesday, Aug. 19, during his three-thousand-mile journey across the U.S.
Ray’s website describes him as a speaker, explorer and writer. In his current exploration, he started out in Los Angeles and will finish up in New York City. Ray said his intent is to pursue his passions and inspire others to do what they love by following in his footsteps.
“That’s what is important to me: inspiring people, showing people you can do what you love and make money,” Ray said.
According to Ray, an average day’s walk on his adventure is 23 miles. On the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 19, he started in Big Rock, Tenn. and made his way to Clarksville along Highway 79, already over two thousand miles into his trip. It was a rainy day, but that did not stop Ray or the locals in Clarksville and Dover who drove out to see him.
For shelter, Ray relies on host families along the way, and despite some cleanliness issues, his biggest hurdle has been nature. Ray described an experience in Laughlin, Nev. when he took a shortcut down a steep ravine involving much climbing. During the descent, he saw a half-eaten carcass of a sheep, which brought the possibility of predators to Ray’s mind. He sped up, resulting in injuries to his hand and his ankle.
“Fear is what caused that to happen, not an actual mountain lion,” Ray said. “Fear is not helpful. Fear is a hindrance. Awareness, on the other hand … is very powerful.”
This isn’t Ray’s first miles-long hike. In 2012, Ray walked one thousand miles across France and Spain, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. Ray said the purpose behind the journey was to figure out his life and what direction he should take his career.
“There’s a two-thousand-year-old set of trails called the Camino Santiago, and all of these trails lead to one city on the Atlantic Coast of Spain,” Ray said. “People go there in search of things … maybe someone loses a loved one or has a major life change, they go there. So that’s where I went.”
During the trip, Ray discovered three things were central to his life: speaking to people, writing and traveling. These are the passions he incorporated into his walk across the U.S. His three-thousand-mile walk is also a speaking tour, and he stops at different cities along the way to share his experiences.
Prior to his hike in Spain, Ray pursued a career in computer animation, but was left unsatisfied. Travel had always been important to him, he said, so he sold everything he owned, quit his job and bought a one-way ticket to the Czech Republic.
Ray lived in Spain for a year teaching English as a foreign language and said it was “the most rewarding year” of his life. After that, he worked on a cruise ship in Alaska and then returned to Los Angeles.
Ray’s next adventure was to start a TV show, which he had no prior experience with. Ray started out in his living room with just a webcam and one viewer, but his goal was to reach one million.
“If you tell yourself you can’t because you don’t know how, that’s it,” Ray said. “Game over. But if you tell yourself I don’t know how … but I believe there’s a way, you will find that way.”
Ray broadcast his show for a full season at a local TV studio and reached 1.2 million views every day. The show was about teaching people how others turned their passions into real professions.
When asked what he would like to say to APSU students, Ray said, “There’s so much pressure to know what you’re doing with your life. You’re told you must choose a major, and it’s just heavy, and it’s scary, and you’re spending all this money. But at the end of the day, nothing matters more than every one of our individual happiness. It’s your happiness that matters.”
To track his progress across America, go to Ryan Ray’s website. After ending his trip in New York, Ray has plans to publish books and take a break from traveling.