Journey of faith: Adventurer stops in Carson during odyssey across the U.S. | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Journey of faith: Adventurer stops in Carson during odyssey across the U.S.

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
NEVADA APPEAL | NEVADA APPEAL

CARSON CITY, Nev. – What she couldn’t use from a donation from a Reno food bank, Shay Kelley donated to Friends in Service Helping in Carson City on Wednesday.

“I truly believe what you give you will get back,” she said.

That motto is the driving force behind a 50-week journey across the United States where Kelley is living off the kindness of others and doing volunteer work and collecting food for the hungry.

“I’m not here to change anything,” she said. “That’s God’s job. He changes things. He just does it through people.”

The 24-year-old lost her marketing job in Mississippi last year. Two weeks later, her electricity was cut off. In another month she lost her apartment, then her car got stolen.

Still, she refused to go home to her mom in Illinois.

“I wanted to figure it out on my own,” she said.

The more she thought about her options, the more outlandish her thoughts became, until she settled on the plan to travel all 50 states in 50 weeks, documenting her experiences through photos and journals.

She started out with $83, and relies on donations and service from others to survive.

“This is a journey of faith,” she said. “I just don’t worry about it because I know when it comes time to put gas in the tank, God will make sure I have what I need.”

In return, she has pledged to volunteer 10 hours a week and collect 200 cans of food in each state for local charities.

“Two hundred cans doesn’t sound like much, but 10,000 by the end, that’s a good chunk of canned food,” Kelley said.

She started 14 weeks ago in Illinois and has traveled through that many states with her border collie Zuzu in the Ford truck she calls Bubba that doubles as her home on the road. Her next stops include Las Vegas and Utah.

“There are things I miss sometimes that I sacrificed to do this,” she said. “Of course I’d like to take an hour-long hot shower every day. But I’ve never once said to myself, ‘What have I done?’ Almost every day I am reassured this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”

Although part of her objective for her journey, she said, was to gather information about herself, she’s more focused now on helping others.

“I set out with the intent to see miracles – to see God’s love demonstrated. To see people give even when they have nothing,” she said. “All of those goals were accomplished within the first five weeks. All of my personal goals have already been met. The rest is icing.”

She often goes door-to-door collecting canned food but also donates her talents. As a photographer, she shoots photos and videos for organizations then gives them the images.

She documents a broad spectrum of society from the homeless to scenery to “beautiful people.”

“Along the way, I’ve seen people living lives of hopelessness and loneliness,” she said. “On the other hand, you see people who are so full of hope and love, they’re sharing it with everyone around them. I call them the beautiful people.”

At the conclusion of her journey, she plans to write a book about her experiences, giving readers a guide to how they can find similar fulfillment.

Beyond that, she can’t foresee her future.

“Ultimately it is going to be something I can’t even imagine,” she said. “Although I have a million ideas, I’ve kind of decided it’s not my job to try to imagine what my future will look like. My job is just to be present and living my life every moment it happens.”


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