Standing in the Pacific Ocean at the Santa Monica Pier at the end of my walk, not even bothering to take off my shoes. © 2012 Jennifer E. Cooper
Never when I began my journey of 3,000 miles did I ever think I would truly walk across the United States. It was an impossible task. I was completely in over my head and had no idea what laid ahead.
Yet, just as the sun was setting on Aug. 20, I was walking into the Pacific Ocean at Santa Monica. It was the end of an amazing journey, and a serenely surreal moment. I was proud and amazed I’d finished my walk, but found myself deeply sad the journey was over. In all, it took me six months of walking over four years of my life (and six pairs of shoes) to complete my 3,000 mile walk.
That final day of walking from Los Angeles to Santa Monica I found myself dragging my feet. I was not ready for my walking days to be over, perhaps because really it was never about reaching my destination. As the old saying goes, it was always about the journey.
But once I began walking–along Sunset Boulevard and then Santa Monica Boulevard from Hollywood to Beverly Hills, and then into Santa Monica, the final 15 miles, I couldn’t walk fast enough. At times I was on the verge of running. Unlike other days where my progress was slowed by the many, many people I chatted with and swapped a story or two, on that last day I talked to no one. I was a woman on a mission, and that mission was to walk right on into the sea, shoes and all.
As I neared Santa Monica my sadness at coming to the end of end of a journey melted away. I found myself beaming with excitement, and not entirely believing what was about to happen. That I had to struggle and suffer and make sacrifices to find the time, money and energy to complete my journey made reaching the goal so much sweeter.
In no way am I an athlete. That is not to say I’m not in reasonably good shape, but there is no question that it was not my athletic abilities that enabled me to walk the distance. I found myself standing in the Pacific Ocean because I just kept going. I could have given up when I broke my leg, but I kept going. I could have quit when years passed and I hadn’t even completed half of the 3,00 miles, but I kept going. I could have quit when I began to run out of money and enthusiasm, but I kept going. I kept going until one day I found myself standing in the Pacific Ocean.
The closer I got to the sea, the more I wanted to jump up and shout, “take that Goliath.” Though, to be honest, never did I encounter someone who told me I wouldn’t reach my gigantic goal. My friends and family, and pretty much everyone I met on the road, were helpful, friendly, and supportive. There is no doubt in my mind that without such amazing support I’d never have reached my goal. I have been touched by the overwhelming support, but in some ways it makes me sad that we don’t all join together on a consistent basis. If we all took a little time more time to support each other who knows what could be possible. I do not know what lies ahead. But I know I will never stop walking…
–by Jennifer E. Cooper