As college students, we hear an awful lot about adventure. People are always telling us of all the fun experiences we will have in college, and how many opportunities we have for exciting journeys. For some, adventure has become something we hope to embark on one day. For others, it has already become a reality.
This summer, junior social work major Jace Darcangelo hitchhiked from New York City to Napa Valley. He carried with him a backpack, which held a sleeping bag, a toothbrush and a change of clothes. No food. No money. No idea where he was going or who he was going with. Just a man, his neck-beard and the open road.
Darcangelo studied abroad in South Africa in the spring of 2012. As part of the program, he had a plane ticket back to Los Angeles with a layover in New York. He decided not to board his plane in New York, and instead chose to hitch hike the rest of the way home. Darcangelo had never been to New York and was stranded there with absolutely no cash. After praying for money, he was picked up from the airport by a lady who was traveling with a baby and her mother, and they gave him $100 completely unsolicited.
He spent the next 30 hours exploring New York. He hung out with the Occupy Wall Street people, met Matthew Broderick and managed to find a free boat ride to see the Statue of Liberty before asking for a ride to New Jersey from a man he found “being really terrible and yelling at people on the streets.”
The man dropped Darcangelo off on the side of the freeway in New Jersey at around 6 a.m., and after receiving a few more rides, he found himself in Newark, Ohio where he stayed with a friend for two nights. He then attempted to make his way to Chicago, but only made it to Indianapolis when it started getting dark. While he was there, he got picked up by fellow APU student Maddie Sheets who did not know him very well, but recognized his unmistakable beard and let him stay at her house for two nights. From there he caught a ride to Chicago and stayed with some friends who invited him to come to Detroit to help lead a mission trip for a week.
Colorado was his next destination of choice, but he was forced to take a detour in Nebraska when a lady picked him up before changing her plans and going home for the night. She told him to sleep on the couch. He spent the night awake, listening to the screams of a very unhappy baby and watching fleas jump around on the carpet, all the while wondering when the lady was going to come back to murder him.
In the morning, they drove to Sterling, Colo. where he struggled to find a ride because there was an insane asylum nearby and numerous signs warning against picking up hitchhikers. He walked to a rest stop and got a ride to Denver before making his way about an hour south to Monument, Colo.
He stayed with a friend there for a few days and met up with fellow APU student Whitney Wright, who had decided to hitchhike the rest of the way to California with him. For safety’s sake, they took down the license plate number of every car they got into, and texted it to their families. Together, they headed west, riding with all sorts of interesting characters – from a Hispanic family that spoke virtually no English, to an old-time metal head named Odin who let them stay at his house. Eventually, they arrived in Napa Valley where Darcangelo’s mom lives before heading back to APU to start the school year.
Over the course of his trip, Darcangelo never asked for anything but a ride, yet he received nearly $250 and had every single one of his meals paid for by others. He explained that, contrary to popular belief, people who pick up hitchhikers are not all serial killers. They are usually just looking to help somebody out and have a good conversation.
He loves talking to people about their lives and “really opening my ears to their issues and if they’re willing, praying with them and bringing God into the conversation.”
Darcangelo sees hitchhiking as a way to truly worship.
“You can go to chapel and everyone can sing the same songs, and that’s cool. I’m glad the school comes together and does that, but for me, this is actually going out and taking action,” Darcangelo said.