When Noah Rattler reaches the ocean in Santa Monica the last thing he wants to do is walk.
The Santa Monica shore will be the end of a very long journey for Rattler. Not so much in terms of mileage but of the toll it has taken on his body.
The 29-year-old Houston native has spent the last four months on a trip from his hometown to California walking — yes walking, the entire 1,800 miles.
So, as one can see, a nice stroll along the Santa Monica coast will be pretty low on his list of priorities once he reaches the city.
Asked what he is looking forward to most in reaching the ocean, Rattler simply said, “Not walking anymore.”
The trek from Texas to California, which Rattler calls “A Walk in Their Shoes,” is not about achieving a physical goal as much as it is about him helping to spread awareness about the plight of the homeless.
Rattler began the journey March 24th and after averaging about 20 miles a day, six days a week, he has made it through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona into the Los Angeles City limits.
But Rattler said making it to Los Angeles was not enough — he wants to go all the way to the ocean.
“I won’t stop walking until I get to the ocean,” he said.
He is aiming to complete his four-month walk at the beach in Santa Monica at about noon Saturday, August 4th, when he might just savor the moment by relaxing on the sand. To make the finish even more significant, Rattler hopes to have up to 100 people accompany him as he reaches the ocean.
“I think it will send a powerful message,” Rattler said of the end to his journey.
Information on how to join Rattler on the last leg of his journey, awalkintheirshoes@gmail .com.
A graduate of Prairie View A&M University in Texas, Rattler earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2004 and a bachelor’s degree in physics in 2006. He has not yet decided on a career but he knows he wants to use his education to help people.
“I just want to help people who need it,” he said.
Rattler says he was first exposed to the struggles of the homeless while volunteering at SEARCH, a Houston agency dedicated to getting people off the streets and helping them become productive citizens.
In working with the homeless, Rattler knew he wanted to do more to bring awareness to the issues they face.
Walking to the Grand Canyon had been a personal goal of Rattler’s since he finished college, but the ambition took on a new purpose once he got involved with the homeless.
Knowing that Los Angeles, considered the homeless capital of the U.S., is only a state away from Arizona, Rattler said he decided to extend his trek from the Grand Canyon and make it a walk for awareness.
In Los Angeles Rattler will visit homeless shelters and meet with the people for whom he is trying to raise awareness.
Taking his cause a step further, Rattler hopes efforts like his walk will lead to the creation of a National Homeless Awareness Week.
He admits that walking half-way across the nation might be an “unorthodox” method of raising awareness, but he says that’s what it takes to get his message across.
“You have to step outside the box if you want people to think outside the box,” Rattler said.
For someone who was not a competitive athlete growing up, Rattler also acknowledges that choosing to walk 1,800 miles for a cause is a bit out of the ordinary.
“This is quite out of my box,” he said.
But by pursuing such a challenging task, Rattler hopes to convince the nonbelievers to “take me seriously.”
The news of Rattler’s walk for the homeless received nothing but support from his friends and family, but there was also a sense of concern for his well-being, he said.
Rattler says he has embarked on the journey to make others more aware of the difficulties homeless people face everyday and their need for assistance. Of the homeless population, 39 percent are children, he noted.
“I want people to understand that just because someone is homeless doesn’t mean they are worthless,” he said. “A lot of people who are homeless don’t want to be.”
McKinley Williams, development director for OPCC in Santa Monica, an organization that provides shelters and services to the homeless, called Rattler’s effort to spread awareness for homelessness “admirable.”
“Creating and sustaining homeless awareness is difficult,” Williams said. “We need all the awareness building we can get.
“If his walk can bring attention to the homeless issue, I think it’s very beneficial.”
Along the way, Rattler wears a sign saying “Walking for the Homeless” and he is followed in a support vehicle driven by his friend Jari Fuller.
He walked along the Interstates for most of the trip, until he got to California, where he began walking on streets near the Interstate. When the walk is finally completed, Rattler will have gone through three pairs of sneakers.
With plenty of time to kill during his daily walks, Rattler either sings a favorite tune or thinks about his future, loved ones and helping people.
He makes sure not to listen to music while walking along the roads, as he says that can be dangerous.
Rattler certainly didn’t pick the most comfortable route in terms of weather, having to trek through Arizona and the Mojave Desert in the summertime. Getting through the desert has helped him overcome his fear of spiders, however.
“I’ve walked halfway across the country through the desert — I can’t be afraid of spiders anymore,” Rattler said.
The Houston native figured that planning a 20-mile walk each day would be manageable but little did he know how difficult that schedule would be. On top of the physical tests has been the mental struggle to fight the urge to quit, he said.
“I’ve told myself I have to keep going,” Rattler said.
As Rattler has entered the last stretch of his momentous walk and can virtually feel the end within his grasp, he knows one thing for sure — he won’t be the same once it’s done.
“The way I look at life has changed,” he said. “I have a different perspective on everything.”
After completing his awareness walk, Rattler will have an easier trip home by riding in the support van along the same route he crossed on foot. He wants to get a perspective of the miles he traveled — but this time through a window.
Walking across parts of the country is a great way to see the land, he said, and if time weren’t an issue, he might do it more often.
“It’s the best way to travel,” Rattler said. “It just takes so freaking long.”