By Melissa Hoon
For the Daily Titan
At an elevation of 14,500 feet, Andrew Fu had made it to the top of Mount Whitney. As he gazed over the Sierra Nevadas, the 26-year-old software engineer thought, “Why canâ€™t I do this more often and follow my dreams?”
Fu, a Riverside native, graduated from University of California, San Diego in 2005 with a degree in computer science. He then became a software engineer in Milpitas but soon became restless working his nine-to-five job since he had always been interested in exploring other cultures and lifestyles.
â€œItâ€™s always been a dream of mine to hit the road,â€ Fu said.
About a year after his life-changing epiphany atop Mount Whitney, he did just that.
In February of this year, Fu quit his job, sold most of his belongings and set out on a 21,801-mile adventure across the lower 48 states for four-and-a-half months.
Fu said his parents tried everything in the books to keep him from going on his trip. His mother was worried about his safety, and his father didnâ€™t understand why he wanted to be homeless. With the recession on their minds, Fuâ€™s friends had mixed reactions about his journey.
â€œMy friends would tell me, â€˜You have a great job, Andrew, so why do you want to leave?â€™â€ Fu said.
Fuâ€™s free will and sense of adventure prevailed, and his parents and friends soon understood his yearning to gain worldly experience ? as long as he kept in contact daily. So Fu created a blog, WhereIsTheFu.com, and his trip began to gain national media attention.
With the support of his parents, Fu packed his 2005 Honda Element with camping supplies, a daypack, a weekâ€™s worth of clothes and pepper spray (and later a knife) and hit the road in late March.
Fu asked his friends what books had changed their lives ? “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau, “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller, “East of Eden” by John Steinbeck ? and kept his inspiration on the road ignited by reading them.
Fu kept his trip relatively inexpensive at under $4,000. When he wasnâ€™t staying with people he met at places along the way, like a fire station and a homeless shelter, he slept in his sleeping bag in the back of his Element on two pieces of foam taped together.
â€œIt wouldnâ€™t have been the same trip if I had stayed in hotels,â€ Fu said.
His trip wasnâ€™t meticulously planned. On the contrary, adrenaline pumped through his vagabond mind when he awoke each morning, pointing to a destination on his map then driving there.
Fuâ€™s adventures happened by sheer serendipity, he said. A fisherman in Florida taught him how to crab fish; a Kansas farmer put him to work; the founding father of the Baltimore graffiti scene showed him around town; he became friends with the homeless and New Orleans missionaries; and broke a world record with a group in San Francisco by helping make 80,000 pancakes in eight hours.
â€œI met people across the entire spectrum,â€ Fu said. â€œI learned something new from everyone.â€
Fu also faced some problems among his positive experiences on the road. In West Virginia, his Element was totaled when it flipped three times. He miraculously walked out uninjured and rented a car before purchasing a new Element to finish the trip.
Fu discovered his strengths and limitations on the road. He found that his carefree attitude, gratefulness and perkiness helped him build rapport when meeting new people.
â€œWhen youâ€™re on the road, you know no one and no one knows you,â€ Fu said. “There are no consequences, and youâ€™re free to do whatever you want. You get to the point where you stop caring what you look like and what people think about you.â€
Despite his glaringly open mind, positive personality and humbleness, Fu said that by experiencing parts of society heâ€™d only read about, he learned that he doesn’t have a terrible amount of patience and has room for a bigger heart.
His trip ended in late July, and he immediately began classes as a full-time graduate student at University of North Carolina. He said heâ€™ll most likely become an entrepreneur after graduation so he can help â€œadvance mankind,â€ probably by starting a non-profit organization. He enjoyed being a software engineer because he was always solving real-world problems and helping make life better for others.
Fu thinks everyone should have a similar experience to gain a broader perspective on cultures and life in general.
â€œIf you really want to be carefree, donâ€™t expect anything, donâ€™t plan much and stay away from the tourist mentality,â€ Fu said. â€œYouâ€™ll learn a lot about life if you keep an open mind.â€