Posted by: hollywtd | June 10, 2011

Still amazing

It’s still amazing to me that we accomplished what we did. There were so many odds stacked against us. Hottest summer on record, clashing personalities, poor economy, two walkers having asthma, and a million other reasons why it shouldn’t have worked. But I think there were just the right combination of other factors that made it possible, and if even a couple of those other factors were off, we wouldn’t have made it to California or even started the walk. For example, Blake’s level-headedness was important to tempering heated situations, unless, of course, he was choosing to make it heated for his own enjoyment! And he has this natural leadership quality that he resented at times but really helped us all feel secure in such an uncertain time. Tim is fearless when it comes to navigating uncharted territory in terms of talking to absolutely anyone on the phone and figuring out ways to get whatever needs to be done, done. Sara and Dan are both exceptionally talented artists, and I can’t believe how lucky we were to have them. I’m not being overly generous with my praise of their talent–I truly believe they’re very gifted in their respective fields, particularly considering how young we all are. I’m not sure what to say about myself…maybe my nurturing qualities were one of the things I brought to the table? Although I’m not entirely sure that the walkers would say I was nurturing, because I held myself back a lot so I wouldn’t be “babying” them or feeling like their mothers! Actually, maybe I do know, because Blake said once to a mutual friend, I’m really good at keeping track of what everyone’s supposed to be doing and making sure things get done. The ironic thing is that it’s a challenge for me to make sure I get my own stuff done sometimes!

There were so many points at which other people would have quit or just decided it wasn’t worth the sacrifice, but I guess each of us have some very steely resolve inside. I can trace mine back to childhood, when I wouldn’t give up until I succeeded at whatever I really wanted to do: learning how to cartwheel or dive into a pool come to mind 🙂

I’ve written before about how we were able to succeed because of the help from so many other people, but I tend to forget that we also couldn’t have succeeded without ourselves, if that makes any sense!

I had such a great image in my head this afternoon…I use the Movies app on my Android phone, and I was looking at the list of upcoming releases, picturing “Walk the Dream” among them. I know it’s not very realistic to dream of a wide national theatrical release like a new Will Ferrell comedy gets, but we could certainly be listed on the showtimes for art house theaters!

Well, that’s just what I’ve been reflecting on lately, and I thought I’d share 🙂

Posted by: hollywtd | February 15, 2011

Inside Walk the Dream: Vol 6

The Walk Is Over!
The team reached the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica Beach on October 21, 2010, exactly six months after touching the Atlantic Ocean and beginning the walk. Seeing the Pacific come into view was an incredibly emotional moment, and actually touching it was unbelievable. We were lucky enough to have a camera operator friend of Dan’s come out and film the last day of walking, so all three walkers were able to be in the shots. Dan also had a friend who met up with us just for the touching of the ocean, and she took some pictures for us using Sara’s camera, showing the whole team during that emotional time. We are so grateful for Dan’s friends’ help. You can see photos taken at the ocean on our Facebook page in the album “The Last Chapter.” As for the footage, we’re saving that for the film!

We left Los Angeles at 8 AM the morning after touching the ocean and drove almost non-stop back to Rochester. Besides food and bathroom breaks, the only time we weren’t driving was when we stopped in St. Louis for a donated dinner. Everyone was just so ready to see their families and to be home! It took us 54 hours to get home. We rotated drivers and did 6-hour shifts. It was crazy, but it worked out really well, and the bus took it like a champ!

Now that we’re home, everyone is working paying jobs at least part-time to make ends meet. Dan and Blake spend several days a week together editing the film, and it’s coming along nicely. We still have some interviews with ourselves and with others to do to fill in gaps, and the rough cut won’t be ready until spring. Then we need to find a way to get the film to audiences, whether it is through an art-house theater release, DVD distribution, or a less conventional method, and that process can be long and complicated. We still welcome donations (see our website for an easy online method), which will be used for expenses such as entry fees to film festivals that will give the movie a greater chance of being picked up by a distributor.

Settling back into regular life was an adjustment process. At first, I felt lost without the structure of life on the road, strange as it was; for example, I used to set aside 10-11 AM and 2-4 PM every day for calling restaurants to find meal donations because they were off-peak hours, and Tim and I rarely went much more than three hours without catching up to the walkers to give them food or water. And for a couple of months, it was kind of hard on some of us to not have the others around every day. I would say that we’ve all gotten past that initial difficulty, but we do still have days where we miss each other and give the others a call or a text saying so (well, Sara and I are usually the ones who express it that way). We’ve managed to get most of the group together a few times, and different combinations of the group members see each other frequently. All in all, now that we’ve been back for three months, I think we’re well-adjusted.

Thank you so much!
We can’t express how grateful we are to everyone who helped us on our journey. From big checks to the change in someone’s pocket, every dollar made a difference. We made it back to Rochester with less than a hundred dollars left, so this trip was a wonderful example of every individual making an impact with their choice to give. The meals that were donated from restaurants and churches and individuals were so important as well; not only did that save us from spending the little money we had, but it also was a continual reminder of how generous mankind is and there was no way we could have prepared most of those meals ourselves with our limited resources and time. Thank you to those who gave us beds or a floor to sleep on; having a roof over our heads was so important after a long day of traveling and being out in the elements. Thanks to those who gave us a bag or two of ice for our cooler, to those who stopped the walkers and gave them bottles of water, to those who pulled over to find out if we needed help. Thanks to those who shared their stories with us, on camera and off; thanks also to those who gave us a little taste of home through their hugs or words of encouragement. Thank you to everyone who followed us on facebook—it was absolutely wonderful to know we had so many people interested in what we were doing. I’m sure that at the moment I’m forgetting a million other ways in which people helped us out, but I want you all to know that you made a difference in our lives. I hope we made a little bit of an impact on yours as well.

Stay tuned.
We will post clips and a trailer on when they’re ready, and I have some snapshots I took of life on the road that I will be adding as well. We’ll update you on significant progress in the editing and distribution process that way, too. As soon as we can tell you exactly how you can see the film (and buy Sara’s photo book!), we’ll send out another newsletter. Again, thank you all so much for being a part of our journey!

Holly Nickeson
“Walk the Dream”

Posted by: hollywtd | January 10, 2011

it’s over! mission: accomplished

Wow, I just realized that in 6 months of cross-country journeying, I only found the time and energy to write about 11 blogs. I’ve certainly experienced a heck of a lot more than 11 blogs’ worth of events! But as I tell everyone when they say how much they wish we had blogged more, conditions were just so counterproductive to blogging. At the end of a long hard day, all we wanted to do was forget how difficult life was, not contemplate it further, and that was assuming there was even time to sit down and write. It often seemed like more trouble than it was worth to bring my laptop into the hotel/church/wherever, because it’s ridiculously prone to freezing and crashing so I’d probably spend a chunk of time with it in the process of starting and restarting. And some days it meant one less trip from the bus without my computer bag to carry 🙂

I’m just thinking about all this because I watched “Julie and Julia” tonight with my mom. It’s about a writer who blogs for a year about cooking each of Julia Child’s 500+ recipes from “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. What incredible discipline. Even if she didn’t blog every day, she certainly did more than 11 blogs.

I hope I don’t forget the little things about the trip and life on the road. I started a Word document with “Quotes From the Trip” to try to prevent forgetting that part of things. I should really just start jotting down things when they occur to me.

So I suppose most of you know that Walk the Dream did successfully make it across America! We touched the Pacific Ocean on October 21, 2010, exactly 6 months after the walk began. And boy, were we ready for it to be over. We met so many great people and had a lot of great experiences but you can only live like we did for so long before it just wears you down to the bone, and we were just kind of done. I’m really glad I felt that way, actually, because I was scared that I was going to be devastated when it ended. But I was just as ready as everyone else was to get back home!

I found a job only a few weeks after getting home, although it didn’t start until last Monday. I’m nannying about 24 hours a week for a family with two elementary-school-aged girls. It should last for about 6 months, so this isn’t a long-term plan for my life, and I still have to figure out what I’m going to do when it ends. Go back to school? For what? Get a job? Where? I’m not any closer to figuring that out than I was at the beginning of the trip, sadly. I hoped somehow it would become clearer during the journey but it hasn’t.

I’ve gone to probably 4 or so days of editing with Blake and Dan. They edit about 2 days a week, in between the paying jobs they’ve taken to cover the bills. Editing the film is a monstrous process and I don’t envy them. This is very different from editing a short film for a bunch of reasons, and maybe one of them will blog about those reasons. (LOL yeah right. Neither of them have ever cared much for blogging.) I’ve really enjoyed watching footage with them. I desperately want to see and have the footage I shot on Blake’s little camcorder but it’s in a format that my computer can’t use and Dan’s been too busy to convert it for me. Someday, though, I hope to put up some little behind-the-scenes videos for you all to see. I know everyone is antsy for trailers, etc but believe me, Blake and Dan have their hands full right now, so I thought maybe some stuff that I filmed would keep you all satisfied enough for awhile.

I don’t know when I’ll be posting another blog–now that the trip’s over and I’ve filled you guys in on the basics of life post-WTD, there aren’t regular updates to do, but I hope inspiration strikes! Thanks for reading this post and reading in the past. Make sure to check out all of Sara’s beautiful pictures on our Facebook page at, and hopefully we’ll “see” you all in the theaters!


Posted by: hollywtd | October 29, 2010

from October 4

A blog from Oct 4 or thereabouts that I never posted…

2 weeks left. So hard to believe. Honestly, the period of post-production has never been in the forefront of my mind at all, so I feel completely unprepared for the trip to be over. When Blake had the idea in late August last year, we jumped into planning headfirst, with so much time and energy put into figuring out what we would need for the journey and how to pay for it. We researched the route, sought sponsors and donors and interview subjects, and had meeting after meeting. But I didn’t give any thought to life after the trip was over because if we didn’t take care of pre-production and production correctly, there wouldn’t BE any post-production. Things looked really bad right before the trip started—we barely had any money and we were trying to adapt to the idea of struggling along as far as we could. I almost didn’t believe we were actually going to go, no matter how much I tried to keep a positive attitude about it to friends and family. I spent lots of time in April planning what we needed to pack and what I would do to prepare food for everyone. (We started preproduction believing we would purchase food from restaurants, and then I volunteered to cook on a camp stove and in people’s kitchens when we realized our budget was going to be miniscule. We only realized that many restaurants were willing to donate meals after we had been on the road for a couple of weeks.) There were just so many things to think about that needed to be done in the short-term that there was no time to think about the long-term.

I can’t really imagine what it will feel like to be home. This is the longest I’ve ever been away from home, and I’ve definitely grown a lot during this time. But how much will I feel like I’ve grown up when I’m back to living with my parents, depending on them for everything until I figure out my next step and make some money? I’m envious of Dan and Sara because they both have marketable skills and they can immediately be self-employed. (Dan does videography and Sara was starting her own photography business before the trip. Also, Sara can always fall back on bartending when times are tough.) They also know exactly what they want to do. I’m still totally confused. I know I’m only 21, as Tim and Sara have both reminded me, but most people my age are in their senior year of college and are therefore well on their way to a career. By taking a semester off after my freshman year in college and then this spring and fall (and probably next spring too), I’ll be older than most people in whatever degree program I choose will be (if I go that route). That’s really frustrating because I’ll be at a different point in my life than they are.

Let’s switch gears a little and talk about things that I’m excited about. For one, sleeping in my own clean bed, not a dusty sleeping bag! Also:

  • Having a fridge and stove at my disposal and a grocery store a mile away
  • Consistent cell phone coverage and internet access
  • Hugs from my mom
  • Laughing at my dad and my brother
  • Shopping!!!! (But with what money?)
  • Having drawers and a closet full of clothes and shoes
  • The freedom to be alone in the house to sing without anyone hearing me
  • Knowing where I’m going when I drive
  • Having the time and energy and facilities to put make-up on and look nice
  • Listening to the radio
  • Not having to pack up my life every morning…I’ll be able to leave my shampoo in the shower!

There’s probably lots of other things that I’m missing on this list…life at Walk the Dream is so drastically different from “regular” life that there must be a million. I hope getting back to normal is more good than bad. I’ll let you all know….

Posted by: hollywtd | September 8, 2010

looking towards the future and reflecting on the past

Believe it or not, the trip is winding down. Tim has been encouraging me to think about what I’m going to do after it’s over, because I don’t want to be caught unprepared. But I don’t know what my plans are, or even really my hopes. I went to college for a year and a half at Bluffton University, where my major was interior design and fashion design and merchandising (a mouthful), but the only classes they offered while I was there were in fashion merchandising, so I never got a very good taste there for interior design, even though that was what I was most interested in. I took Interior Design I at the community college in Rochester, and that didn’t give me a good taste either because so much of it was history and basic theory that I had learned in junior high art class (like the color wheel). It didn’t tell me if I really have an aptitude for it or would enjoy making a career of it.
I don’t know that I want to stick with film. In fact, I wouldn’t even say I’m leaning towards it. I do know that the first time I tried to leave film, film didn’t leave me—I was really unhappy without it. But being immersed in it for the last year (yes, it’s been a year since Walk the Dream was thought up) hasn’t convinced me that I’m really happy WITH it.
Transitioning back into normal life is going to be weird. We’re so used to being with the same set of people all day every day that we’re probably going to go into a bit of withdrawal from each other, even though it’s not like we’re the best of friends. In fact, the strain of being together is showing more than ever. Tempers are short, homesickness is creeping in for some of us, and we’re just tired. But that doesn’t change the fact that we’re used to being with each other. Actually, once in awhile we have the opportunity to split up among 3 hotel rooms, and other people take turns being the odd one out and getting their own room to themselves. I take myself out of the running, though, because I don’t like to be alone anymore! I think part of it stems from being in an unfamiliar place at night, but there’s definitely a part of it that’s from an addiction to the social interaction and the familiar dynamics.
Another thing that’s going to be weird is going back to being polite. We burp in front of each other all the time without saying “excuse me” because manners have just gone out the window, and most of the time we don’t say “God bless you” after someone sneezes because it’s such a frequent occurrence with 5 people.
My vocabulary will also change a bit. I realized the other day that it’s going to be SO SO SO weird when “walkers” isn’t a word that I say a million times a day. For example, on the trip, Tim and I are constantly referring to “the walkers” being a certain number of “miles out,” whether it’s to each other or to people we’re staying with. Or I’m asked “So who are the walkers?” Etc. It might not be as weird for the walkers (there we go again) because they’ll still have producers in their lives for as long as they work on movies, so they’ll keep that equivalent term in their vocabulary. I also imagine that they say the word “producers” much less than we use “walkers” because they can almost as easily say our actual names.
And driving a normal car, and cooking my own food, and paying for things with money instead of publicity…not being a spectacle most places I go…being familiar with an area…so much that we don’t have right now. It’s going to be maybe a bit of a letdown to not be constantly meeting new people, but also a relief because you can get to make connections that last longer than a day.
This trip has afforded me the incredible privilege of getting to see so much of the country. My family has never had the vacation time or the money to go much of anywhere besides to visit relatives, and I had never even stayed in a hotel until I was sixteen. Now I’ve stayed in the most upscale Chicago suites, the cutest historical bed and breakfasts, the dumpiest little motels, and countless other places. I’ve eaten at more restaurants on this trip than all the others years of my life put together. I’m driving through the Rocky Mountains and seeing the most beautiful views of the Arkansas River, and I’ve been through impoverished Gary, Indiana, as well. Waded in picturesque creeks (Jim Thorpe, PA, and Camp Whitewood in Ohio come to mind); taken the New York City subway alone and gotten lost but making my way to where I needed t o be! I drove through Newark at 10 PM in bumper-to-bumper traffic; had a spectacular view of the Peoria skyline from a paddleboat and then watched fireworks from a great vantage point. Rode a motorcycle with a pastor who blasted Christian music as we went; visited with old friends that I hadn’t seen in years; discovered a love of Dairy Queen. So many wonderful things that I would never have gotten to do otherwise, or if I would have gotten the chance, it would have taken me my whole lifetime to do them and I wouldn’t have the advantage of being well-traveled at a young age. (Can I say I’m well-traveled when I still haven’t been out of North America?)
There’s probably many other things that I could list, but I’ve got to end this long blog! 🙂

Posted by: hollywtd | August 18, 2010

If I were in their shoes…

I’m very curious as to the effect the Walk the Dream team has on other people. It would be so great to be able to step outside myself and observe the people we meet just before and for awhile after we meet them, and maybe get inside their heads a little. For example, we’ve collected a lot of wonderful “moms”–great women who worry about us after we’re gone and many who keep in touch with us. If I were in their shoes, would I have been as interested in helping Walk the Dream when they came through my town? Would I become so attached to them as to worry after they leave? Would I bother to call or e-mail periodically, after only spending a day with them? What is it about Walk the Dream that makes people attached to us?

We also have pastors that call and e-mail. I think Tim is a big reason for this–he has meaningful conversations with many of them because he is the most spiritual of all of us and really loves to talk about religion and God. He spends hours talking to some of the pastors and those conversations, along with the books they’re giving him to read, are really helping him grow. Yesterday he told me, “I had to throw out a water bottle to make room for more books.” I thought that was really interesting, even after he told me it was leaky. I think that he was kind of rationalizing his actions 😉

All of those people, as well as countless others, are so genuinely kind and caring. They’ve opened up their hearts to us and are “loving on us,” as Pastor Aaron of Mt. Sterling likes to say. But with some other people, and not exactly anyone in particular, sometimes I wonder if they like us because we’re very vaguely glamorous. The idea of filmmaking is a shiny one, one that intrigues and attracts others because it seems cool and full of opportunities for fame and fortune. Well, let me tell you…it’s not very glamorous when some of the boys don’t shower for five days 🙂 Haha I rarely notice that any of us smell, although collectively we and our belongings do smell musty or moldy. We used to notice it coming back into our hotel rooms after leaving for awhile–we’d be really grossed out by the smell of the room, after it had been fine when we walked in for the first time! And our laundry is disgusting…there have been numerous occasions that I have to lean away from the washing machine as I dump the dirty clothes in from the garbage bags we use for hampers, and I literally almost throw up from the smell. People we’ve met on the road–comment on my blog and let me know if we stink 🙂 It might be helpful to know, although I don’t know what we can do about it…

At the moment I can’t think of anyone who really gives me that vibe, but it’s something I have occasionally wondered about. It’s mostly because I can’t imagine being that generous and open to strangers, which is a shame. There was one woman recently who was the elderly mother of a restaurant owner who had donated lunch to us. The old woman was very hard of hearing and we waved to her from across the restaurant but didn’t actually meet her; her daughter merely relayed some of her mom’s questions to us as we ate and went back to her mom’s table to tell her the answers. As we finished lunch, the daughter brought us an envelope and said, “This is from my mother.” Inside was a hundred dollars. Can you believe it? We hadn’t even introduced ourselves to her and she was still kind enough to give us a significant amount of money. We have many, many other people who give us money even before they know what we’re doing, and a good number of them don’t even stick around to find out. Some just see the walkers and offer them water or cash, and then drive off or go back into their homes without asking what they’re doing. There is absolutely no ulterior motive, not even a subconscious desire to be involved with a film. It’s absolutely mind-boggling.

Blake and Tim, in particular, say that when they return to Rochester, there is no way they can ever turn down anyone who needs help. I think they mostly mean needs a place to stay, but I’m not actually totally sure. I, on the other hand, don’t think that I’m that big of a person. I’d be cautious about letting a stranger into my home, and possibly too busy to want to disrupt my schedule on very short notice to play host to people I know very little about. I’m pretty sure most travelers don’t have websites with biographies and photos and what amount to references from people they’ve stayed with before like we do 🙂 I don’t know, maybe that’s part of why some of these people ARE so comfortable with us. But that’s not the case with people like Marvin from Millbury, Ohio. He offered us a place to stay within 30 seconds of meeting the walkers after seeing them walk past his house.

I probably have more I could say on this topic, but it’s almost 5 AM and I got up to have some cookies about an hour ago, so I’ve lost a good chunk of sleep already. Maybe I’ll have some more reflections, and more internet access, soon. Thanks for reading 🙂


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