Guatemalan-born Constantino Diaz-Duran is celebrating his process of becoming a U.S. citizen by hiking across the country, starting in Manhattan and ending in California.

“I want to go from one end to the other, and really get to know it,” said Diaz-Duran, 31, 12 days into the effort, as he trekked across the Delaware River from New Jersey into Pennsylvania.

With his backpack, a tent, provisions and maps, he overnights out in the open, or with friends. He also has a letter from his priest, which he hopes will open doors along the way.

Diaz-Duran came to the U.S. as a political refugee when he was 21, he said. Before he left Guatemala, he worked as the opinion editor at a newspaper there. He began receiving death threats after readers didn’t agree with his comments on corruption.

He’s a permanent resident of the United States now and will apply for full citizenship when he returns from his hike.

“It may sound like a cliche, but really, what I love most about America is the freedom,” said Diaz-Duran. “To do the work I want, to write what I wish, express any opinion I hold, and not have to worry about who I will upset."

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