Arlington High School alum walks across America
August 27, 2008 · Updated 5:13 PM
ARLINGTON Alborz Monjazeb has come a long way since he graduated from Arlington High School, but he has further still left to go.
Monjazeb began walking across the country April 14, and after his first 40 days on the road, hed walked from Newport, Ore., to Boise, Idaho. He doesnt plan to stop walking until he reaches Boston, Mass., a total of 3,365 miles on Highway 20, the longest U.S. route from coast to coast.
Monjazeb is a 23-year-old with bachelors and masters degrees in international relations from the Universities of Washington and Southern California, respectively. He expects his walk will give him a better perspective on his own country, as well as himself.
The walk itself is like a moving meditation, said Monjazeb, whos been sticking to his goal of walking at least 20 miles each day. Theres been stretches of nothing but sagebrush for days, between signs of civilization, when Ive been able to refocus my head every time my walking stick hits the ground.
Monjazeb is using his journey to figure out how he relates to society, by meeting as many people as he can and taking snapshots to capture moments of his travels.
If you put enough positive energy out there, it will manifest and come back to you, Monjazeb said. People have said I should be careful and watch out for danger, but Ive only been met with affirmation from good people. Ranchers and farmers have invited me into their homes to share their familys meals and stay for the night. I feel blessed that so many people have come out of the woodwork to show me some of the best that humanity has to offer.
In all the communities hes visited so far, Monjazeb has picked up on a thread that he believes might be common to much of America.
All these towns seem to be going through transitions, Monjazeb said. A lot of them had lumber-based economies and theyre searching for new identities now. Theres a big move toward becoming lifestyle communities, oriented around recreation and healthy living.
When he hasnt been able to sleep in motels or the homes of newfound friends, Monjazeb has pitched his tent in campgrounds or simply on the side of the road, albeit out of sight. His tent, sleeping bag and supplies add up to a 55-pound backpack, the weight of which was one of many physical burdens hes overcome on the road.
The first two weeks, every day was a different pain, said Monjazeb, who ran into a stroke of good luck on his journey when he met a dealer of Z-Coil shoes, which have spring coils at the heels to relieve pain. They took away 50 percent of the impact of walking and changed the way I walk. The past three to four weeks, Ive been feeling tiptop, with no pain anywhere.
Monjazeb has still had to endure temperatures ranging from more than 100 degrees during the day to 20 degrees at night, as well as rain and hail. However, even the frequent sight of dried-up riverbeds in desert areas has caused him to reconsider how hes looked at travel.
When you drive or fly, you get so accustomed to everything blowing by so fast, Monjazeb said. Each community is its own small world, but there are close links between them. Information travels quick, and news about me traveled faster than I did.
Monjazebs typical day on the road starts with him setting off after 10 a.m. and setting back down for the day as late as 8 p.m. At an average rate of just over three miles an hour, he estimated that his actual walk time is seven hours a day, since he takes time to greet people and dine in restaurants, or simply replenish his supplies. He keeps his camel pack full of water and stocks up on snacks.
I carry fruit and carrots, Monjazeb said. Avocados have lots of fatty proteins. If all I get is a gas station, I buy lots of bean dip.
Monjazeb aims to complete his walk before the start of winter, by the middle to end of October. After that, he intends to use the insights hes gained into America to benefit his own community.
Ive spent so much time studying the macro that I want to grasp how to handle the local level, Monjazeb said. Im already excited to come back, with a better sense of what works out there, and implement those ideas here. Im learning to see the similarities. I want to give something back to Arlington, for all that its given me.
In the meantime, Monjazeb is accepting donations not only to help defray the costs of his journey, but also to contribute to community-oriented projects that he encounters along the way, supporting health, heritage preservation, education and the arts.
You can learn more about Monjazebs progress by logging onto www.walkforprogress.org.
Walk For Progress: Flash Facts
Start date of Alborz Monjazebs cross-country walk: April 14.
Estimated completion date of walk: Mid-to late October.
Route of walk: Highway 20, from Newport, Ore., to Boston, Mass.
Total distance of walk: 3,365 miles.
Distance reached after 40 days: 536 miles, to Boise, Idaho.
Average distance walked per day: 20 miles.
Amount of time spent walking per day: Seven hours.
Average rate of walk: More than three miles per hour.
Monjazebs weight at start of walk: 160 pounds.
Weight of Monjazebs backpack: 55 pounds.
Weight lost by Monjazeb after first six days of walk: Five pounds.
Web site: www.walkforprogress.org.