British men walk across U.S. to dispel stereotypes

Dave Toolan, Brighton, England, left, and Stuart Hamilton, Copenhagen, Denmark, watch the European Champions League game between AC-Milan and Liverpool on Wednesday afternoon at the Red Lyon Tavern downtown. The men are walking across the U.S. documenting America and seeking opinions on the war in Iraq, the Bush administration and other topics of interest.

Two British men are walking across the United States in hopes of dispelling European stereotypes of Americans.

Dave Toolan, a former account manager from Brighton, England, and Stuart Hamilton, a professional librarian in Copenhagen, Denmark, quit their jobs and then began the walk about a year ago in Delaware.

“America’s reputation foreign policywise is extremely low in Europe, and we love a lot of American things,” Hamilton said. “So we decided to come here and see the truth of what was going on here.”

Last year, the duo made it 2,000 miles, to Kansas City. But it was November and getting cold. So they returned to England for a few months.

And now, they’ve resumed their trek and this week made a stop in Lawrence.

“The people here have been incredibly open and very nice,” Toolan said.

They have camped or stayed at different places in the area. One night they stayed in the yard of a Baptist church and the following night they stayed with a person they met at a diner in De Soto.

During the trek, Hamilton and Toolan mostly talk to Americans about the war in Iraq. They both said the perception of the war is more favorable here than in England.

“When England entered the war, 2 million people went to the streets,” Toolan said. “There’s a lot of discourse in England; I don’t really get that here.”

At the end of last year’s trip, Hamilton was shocked to discover he had testicular cancer. He checked into a Washington, D.C., hospital and immediately had surgery.

“I was given a close-up view of the American health system and the insurance system, which was very interesting,” he said.

Hamilton now has to have his condition checked every month for the next two years.

“It adds a certain level of uncertainty to the walk,” he said.

The pair will conclude the upcoming 3,000-mile trek in San Francisco. The route they are following is known as the American Discovery Trail, which stretches 6,500 miles from Delaware to California. One complication along the trail will be water access in the deserts of Utah and Nevada, they said. Before the trip, though, they drove the trail and buried and marked water bottles.

Even though they’re only halfway through their journey, the pair have learned much about the culture and politics of the United States.

“You can’t just make sweeping generalizations about people here,” Hamilton said, “because everyone you talk to is so nice.”

After they finish, Hamilton and Toolan plan to write a humorous book and assemble a documentary.

For more information about the walk and to follow Hamilton and Toolan’s journey, visit