JetHiking Gypsy visits area

WILLIAMSTOWN – A few days’ stop in Wood County to visit tourist destinations in Parkersburg and Williamstown allowed the JetHiking Gypsy a chance to see West Virginia.

Amber Nolan, 28, is a veteran travel writer who, with the help of a roommate who worked at a small regional airport, came up with the idea to “jethike” her way across the country.

The unusual idea came about when the two friends asked if it would be possible to hitchhike across the country using general aviation planes and private jets; how she would find her way around the country; and what would she do with her time.

“Those questions really got to me and I decided that I had to try it and it has been fantastic,” Nolan said.

West Virginia is the 36th state she has visited since she started the journey last July.

“I know there are some cool things in Marietta that I could see, but I’ve already been to Ohio, so I will stay in West Virginia to sightsee,” Nolan, a Florida resident, said.

The self-proclaimed gypsy rested at the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Airport, then went into Parkersburg to sightsee.

“I’ve been told of some great things to see here and can’t wait to be a tourist,” Nolan said. “I have met so many great people on this adventure and West Virginia is no different than anywhere else I’ve been; they will give me the shirt off their backs if I asked for it.”

The goals of her jethiking plan include seeing if it is possible to visit all 50 state by “hitching” rides with pilots; increasing the public awareness of smaller areas of the air industry while combating common misconceptions and getting more people involved; sharing information, photos and stories about the people and individual culture of the areas visited with a focus on under-the-radar cities and towns; educating the public about budget travel and seeing the country on limited funds; and eventually expanding jethiking to an international scale and developing a community to aid pilots and passengers cut costs.

“This experiment has a lot of different angles and goals,” Nolan said. “I don’t just want one thing to come of this trip, but many things.”

Since setting off on her adventure, Nolan has traveled the West Coast, including Oregon, California and Washington, and the majority of the East Coast, including Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Florida.

“I have pretty much done a loop around the U.S. and am now starting to visit the Midwest and other landlocked states,” Nolan said.

One of the states she hopes to reach is Wisconsin sometime this week, as one of the goals of her experiment is to attend one of the largest general aviation conventions in the country. The annual Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Convention, which is held in Oshkosh, ends today.

“It is one of the largest international airplane conventions and I think it would be really great to be a part of it,” Nolan said.

To fund her travels, not only has Nolan received help from family, friends and new friends she made along the way, but has also taken small jobs in the places she has stopped.

“How long I stay somewhere depends on the money I have available,” she said. “If I need funds, I will stay a few weeks and get a job; so far I have worked in a restaurant in San Francisco, sailed a boat in Fort Lauderdale and several other little jobs to help cover costs.”

Nolan hopes to visit her 50th state by November, so she can have a more relaxed and pleasurable Thanksgiving.

“Every single day of this trip is a learning experience,” Nolan said. “This project brings back the journey being the experience, not the destination.”