Left: A GSU alumni’s journey on foot from Tybee Island Georgia to Sanfran Calif.

Kenneth Lee

Most people here in Georgia have probably dreamed about visiting California and other places within the United States, and for Shane Nelson, a Georgia Southern University graduate of Fall 2014, he’ll be able to do just that. It’ll just take a little longer than usual though since he’ll be traveling the whole way on foot.

This May, Nelson will start walking across the country from Tybee Island, Georgia to San Francisco, California, filming the many experiences he’ll have on the way and creating a documentary from the footage for his first independent film, aptly called “Left.”

“Essentially if you look at the map, I’m going from right to left. Also, people are like ‘well why are you doing this?’ And I’ll say, ‘I’m going left until I get things right.’ There’s just a lot of puns to go with that,” Nelson said. “This is the first full-length film that I will have done. I’ve done a lot of amateur stuff, and studying here at Southern, I’ve done short films and narratives, but nothing of this proportion.”

Nelson graduated with a degree in Multimedia Communications with an emphasis on digital filmmaking. His interest in the film industry can be dated back to his childhood, when he made homemade videos with his neighborhood friends.

“We’ve made up to hours and hours of videos, but really, it was just like a fight scene to the first song of Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory” then a little bit of dialogue, then the next song and onward until the CD ran out,” Nelson said.

The origins of Nelson’s decision and his passion for his coast-to-coast journey can be traced back to his sophomore year of high school, when he and one of his friends found out that they had both had the same dream, two days apart, of them walking from Savannah to Tybee Island.

Without hesitation or doubt, but with plenty of determination and unbreakable enthusiasm, they packed their bags and left that night, reaching their destination and resting at a friend’s house nearby.

“[Savannah to Tybee Island] was around 15 miles give or take. The whole way we were jokingly talking about trying to be homeless for a year and seeing what that experience would be like after high school. We talked about how Highway 80 used to stretch from Tybee Island to California, so we talked about taking that road. It seemed all in jest, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought that this would be a good idea,” Nelson said.

Nelson has raised money through Kickstarter in order to fund for the necessary supplies and equipment for him to make his 3,300 mile journey, which he estimates will take up to eight to twelve months.

“As I progressed into college, I realized that I didn’t have any big plans or any direction, so as soon as I made this commitment in my mind, I just started crying. It overwhelmed me emotionally when I knew that this is what I wanted to do. I like to tell people that I had no direction until I chose “Left”.”

Nelson’s route will take him to various music festivals such as Counterpoint Music Festival in Atlanta, Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, and the Grateful Dead Reunion Show in Chicago, Illinois.

“It’s a lot of shorter if I just go straight, but one of the huge themes of this project is live music and human interaction. There’s a huge barrier when it comes to communication between people, because they’re so involved with their phones and social media, and nobody wants to be there in the moment, Nelson said. “Something I found with seeing music live is that everyone comes together as one cohesive unit. It’s like the outside world is forgotten,” Nelson said. “Music is a way of communicating. Even if you don’t have lyrics to a song, you can communicate emotions, or something that’s bothering you or in your head without ever saying a word and people understand. Music is going to be a huge theme throughout and along the way I would love to meet the smaller-capacity musicians as well.”

In addition, since human interaction is also a big theme, Nelson will try to meet and talk to as many people as he can on his trip, asking questions about their views on humanity or what makes them happy, as a way to see the world through other people’s eyes.

Because he’s certain filming a documentary about driving coast to coast would be far less interesting than walking, Nelson will attempt to avoid hitchhiking on his trip, except for three specific conditions: not being able to reach one of the big music festivals in time, being extremely ill or being under extremely unsafe weather.

Despite some natural anxiety and cautiousness, Nelson is confident in his upcoming expedition that he’ll be able to tackle any challenges that might arise.

“I like to say that I’ll have a huge mapped out collection of really cheap hotels, but that’s not the case. Many nights I’m going to have to scurry and look for a place in the darkness and shadows, wait it out until sunrise, wakeup, then pack up and go,” Nelson said. “What I’m most nervous of is the desert. It’s going to get colder once I get to that area and I’m not looking forward to those long expanses of open road and being in the cold. That’s sort of my biggest fear, the elements down the road. But as far as the beginning of the trip, I’m pretty confident in my pacing. I shoot for 15 to 20 miles a day.”

Nelson has been appreciative of the support he has seen from his friends and family, since the announcement of his project.

“My dad’s been really supportive. From the first day he’s already donated a fair amount to my Kickstarter. He’s suggested readings to me and different things like that. He’s been a lot more supportive than I thought he would be, especially since he thought it was a joke to begin with,” Nelson said. “I’ve also had a couple friends volunteer to drive and pick me up once I reach San Francisco. Hopefully that’ll work out. I much rather ride back than walk, but who knows, maybe I’ll become one with the road at that point and will want to go a different route. We’ll see.”