A man walks cross-country giving $100 bills to Good Samaritans (Photo: GoFundMe)
If you bump into Tommy Lukrich, it pays to be kind. Literally.
The recent college grad is giving away $100 bills to generous strangers he encounters while walking — yes, walking — across the country.
The 23-year-old spoke to Yahoo Travel as he completes a journey that began in Seattle in late May. Averaging 18 to 23 miles per day, he plans to arrive in New York City within the month.
Lukrich says rewarding Good Samaritans along his cross-country trek is his way of paying it forward.
“I’ve had a lot of people who’ve helped me out in times of need, and I wanted to give back,” he says. “My idea is to give back to people who are willing to be kind and generous.”
Tommy Lukrich, on the right, gave this man $100 after he gave Tommy a place to stay for the night. (Photo: Tumblr)
The trip also fulfills a long-simmering wanderlust.
“I grew up in Idaho my whole life,” Lukrich says. “I haven’t really gotten to travel a lot. I wanted to see what the rest of the country was like.”
Lukrich has so far raised $6,000 through an online crowdfunding campaign. All of that money is being distributed to strangers who show him kindness.
“There are things I don’t turn down: food, showers and places to stay,” Lukrich says.
Why is his token of appreciation a $100 bill instead of a clever business card with a Mother Theresa-like quote about generosity?
“There’s something about a $100 bill that really shocks people,” Lukrich says. “It’s enough money to be significant, but it’s not too excessive.”
“It also makes for a great story for them in their life,” he adds.
Another of Lukrich’s $100 recipients. Thinking Lukrich was homeless, Chris and Tonya had bought him a coffee. Then they turned around and gave him $10. (Photo: Tumblr)
Lukrich does not walk around with a sign, never tells kind strangers ahead of time about the $100 gift and does not seek out publicity. (Yahoo Travel contacted him for this interview.)
While he certainly isn’t hiding in the shadows of anonymity — his public GoFundMe and Tumblr pages feature many photos of him on his journey — he avoids telling people where he is at any given time in his journey so as not to attract people who want to take advantage of him.
“I’m purposely vague,” he says. “There have been other people who’ve interviewed me where I wish I would have been more clear about, ‘Hey I’m not carrying all the money on me.’”
Oh, yes — the money. Lukrich never keeps more than $100 on him. While traveling through Helena, Mont., however, a local newspaper published a story about his mission on its front page, complete with his picture, that failed to specify that fact. Adding insult to injury, it was published while Lukrich was still in town. Lukrich laughs off the experience now, recalling how concerned locals helped “escort” him out of town safely.
Still, Lukrich has managed to keep relatively anonymous while on the road.
“Most of the time, people think I’m homeless,” says Lukrich, who has grown a beard since beginning the trek and carries a small pack with minimal clothing and a tent.
Lukrich’s tent on a bad day. (Photo: Tumblr)
Still, each day, perfect strangers reveal kindness that continues to wow him.
“It’s so exciting to think that I’ve met someone so deserving and they have no idea that I’m going to share with them something that can improve their life,” he says.
For instance, there was Stacy from Washington state. She gave Lukrich some protein bars and $10 — despite recently losing her job, her fiancé and learning that she’d need costly surgery.
“I gave her $100, and she started crying,” he says. “That’s when I learned about her. It was just priceless. She needed that money, but she still gave me $10.”
Lukrich gave Stacy $100. Despite having lost her job, she’d given him $10 and some food. (Photo: Tumblr)
Then there was Justin from North Dakota. He offered Lukrich a shower, a meal and a bed.
“In the morning, he treated me to breakfast and told me he’d taken in 15 other people that month because a lot of hitchhikers come through there,” he said. “The person before me had robbed him. Yet he still took me in.”
Moments such as these reaffirm Lukrich’s belief that people are, at their core, good. It’s a belief that hasn’t wavered, even after his phone and wallet were stolen during a food stop in Ohio.
Jack — who’d stopped Lukrich while walking to offer him a place to stay and a shower — tried to turn down the money. He eventually took it, and said he’s donating it to an animal shelter. (Photo: Tumblr)
“It might seem to some people, ‘Oh, well there goes your kindness and generosity theory.’ But right after that happened, a lady gave me 20 bucks. It’s been incredible, the support I’ve received.”
The cross-country journey hasn’t been without its share of other hiccups. Wildlife encounters, including two run-ins with rattlesnakes, have put him on edge.
“There was one night where some wild creature came to my tent and sniffed it,” he recalls. “I had bear spray and was clutching it, like, ‘Don’t eat me.’”
Lukrich says his journey has allowed him to experience parts of the country most don’t ever see, or think to visit. His favorite parts of the trip so far include walking through the Badlands on the eastern edge of Montana; coming into Wisconsin as leaves were changing along the Mississippi River; and trekking across Steven’s Pass in Washington.
This Good Samaritan turned her car around when she saw Lukrich walking alongside the road. She started to cry after he told her why he’s giving her $100; she stopped the car to hug him. (Photo: Tumblr)
“Coming up through Steven’s Pass and through the rainforest was just beautiful,” he recalls. “It was spring, it was crisp. [There were] all sorts of deciduous trees surrounded by beautiful mountains and vistas and wildlife.”
Lukrich says he’s had a lot of time to think during the course of his five-month odyssey, and that the characters he’s met along the way are already providing inspiration for a career in theater.
“I’d like to turn this adventure I’ve had into a play,” he muses.
When asked how his adventure compares to the fictional cross-country odyssey featured in the film Forrest Gump, he laughs. Ironically, it’s a movie that he hasn’t seen. He plans to watch it when he arrives in New York City.