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{walking story} a walk from LAX to Santa Monica

I slowly made my way onto Venice Beach. I wanted to get to Santa Monica before dark, but the coastal setting sun was too compelling. I had to go. I craved to be held by nature's beauty. The ocean recalibrates my system. It always has. The sound of coastal birds, the crashing/rolling waves, the forgiving sand under my feet, and the shared/public communion of it all.

The roads I had been walking on for hours took me right to the #VenicePride lifeguard stand. I smiled and ran my hand along its colorful paint for every LGBTQIA2S+ being who aches to be seen, loved, witnessed, and held. As I neared the beach, I noticed I was feeling more open and alive after 10 miles on-foot. Walking for hours is always profound medicine for me. As soon as I sat down (you might see it on my face), waves of grief rushed to the surface. So much death and destruction. So. Much. Pain. Whether it is thousands of people continuing to flee genocidal violence in Palestine, waves of people grieving lost family members in Tigray, waves of people struggling to get their basic needs met in the U.S., families migrating for safer places to call home, or the suppressed hurt that lives in so many of us, it all came spilling out.

Soon after the middle photo was taken, I observed individuals, couples, and groups of people - all ages and backgrounds - making their way to the edges of sand and water for sunset. Some fell on their knees with their headphones in. Some took deep breaths with their hands on their heart. Some found cozy sandy spots to drape legs, arms, and blankets around one another. Some had their phones out to live stream (with laughing and joy) the magic of it all.

Binaries have always felt toxic to me. How can "this or that" live in moments when we fall in humble awe to a sunset? How can "in or out" make any sense at all when your joy, dreams, pain, and lived experience meets mine under such a big and mysterious sky? As the piercing red, orange, and pink colors reached and reached, the knots in my stomach loosened. I smiled. I cried. I wrote for a good hour on the aches of humility that continue showing up for me. 

Left: zero accessibility with a too skinny sidewalk on the skybridge into airport. There is another far-from-good option across W Century. Middle: Sepulveda Blvd (bus route corridor) next to airport. Northbound - unsafe, stressful, partially inaccessible. Southbound - nearly impossible. Right: So many intersections in Los Angeles area are like this - "allowing" - pedestrians to cross on just one side.

The photos above are from my first hour walking from the Los Angeles airport (LAX) to Santa Monica. This was the start of a 5-day (1/2 work, 1/2 personal) trip. It is endlessly astounding to me how difficult we make walking, moving on a wheelchair, biking, and taking transit on everyday, practical corridors.

My 11-mile route from LAX to Santa Monica, CA

As I share often, none of my creative work with Pedestrian Dignity is "car-shaming". I ride in and borrow a car all the time. And. It constantly breaks my heart to deeply know the vast benefits of moving more the way we're made to (at whatever pace) while our built environments neglect making this experience safe, accessible, comfortable and even enjoyable.

As I continued making my way northbound from LAX, I am falling in love with the huge, wise trees while also documenting endless pedestrian disconnection. This extremely unsafe and disconnected area (for people who walk, use a wheelchair, bike, and take the bus) surrounds Otis College of Art and Design, a shopping center (see pedestrian darting near Ralphs grocery), a senior center, a large park and a public library. During my time in Los Angeles county, I supported and cross-posted/shared media in support of their measure for safe streets (#YESonHLA). Check out this photo post I created alongside their efforts.

I continued northbound and soon after passing Loyola Marymount University and several apartment buildings, the sidewalk ends. Note the dirt path or what is often called a necessity/desire line (center photo). This is not uncommon. We privatize pedestrian mobility. There is really no one system responsible for a complete, connected network for those who don't or aren't driving.

I was making my way to Ballona Creek Bike Path and Marina Del Rey. The bridge over the creek is life-threatening in every way for anyone outside of a car. While there was a peaceful wood chip path (left photo) next to some of this area, it was inaccessible and solely for recreation. Once on the Ballona Creek Path, I saw so many bikers, pelicans, and this beautiful egret. I created a video story (on TikTok and Instagram) on this portion if you want to see more.

Do you see the pelican on top of the roof? I swore it was fake. It slowly turned and watched me walk under it. It was fun walking Fisherman's Village. I watched the barking/itch scratching seals for a good 10-15 minutes.

Trees always inspire me. Their texture. The way they reach. The way they reveal their wounds and how non-linear healing is. I am so grateful for how they keep me connected to things far beyond my thoughts and imperfections. Have you seen or listened to my breathing with trees invitation on Insight Timer?  

Lastly, it was encouraging to see a couple corridors throughout my trip that have either removed cars or de-centered them alongside other modes. The center photo shows some of this. This video (on TikTok and Instagram) also shows this on Santa Barbara's State Street later in the trip. I pulled out WALK book, took a photo of it, and dropped it off in a little free library. I continue to feel utmost gratitude for all that moving in an unhurried way teaches me.

A walk from LAX to Santa Monica by Jonathon Stalls, Walking Artist with Intrinsic Paths


I have shared a new pen art piece, "resting seals", below connected to coastal walking. Thank you for coming with me as I experiment with sharing more walking stories.


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