University of South Florida student completes walk across the country

ASSOCIATED PRESSAugust 12, 2013 

TAMPA -- A University of South Florida student has completed a walk across the country in a personal quest he hopes will inspire others to become active.

Harrison Milanian walked from Tallahassee to Laguna Beach, Calif., in a little over 11 weeks, The Tampa Tribune reported.

"I wanted to do something challenging," Milanian said.

Milanian, 22, got the idea for the walk after he started going on 20-mile walks with his golden retriever, Captain.

He then began training to walk across the country, even though friends and family urged him not to.

It was a personal challenge but also part of a larger mission to raise awareness about fitness.

"This country has such a sedentary lifestyle," he said. "We are indoors, we are docile in front of our computers."

Milanian began walking on May 7 with a sign on his back that read: "America on Foot."

He took no cash or computer and pushed a gutted baby stroller with snacks, a tent, clothes and 50 pounds of water.

He walked about 30 to 40 miles over 14 hours a day, without breaks.

"It was a test for myself," he said. "This was like a rite of passage for me. It was a challenge for me and it was a challenge for my countrymen. I was walking across America and I didn't bring anything with me."

The hardest part, he said, was dealing with the loneliness.

"I would be by myself for a week at a time," he said.

Along the way, there were many uplifting moments, he said. He met strangers who became friends and offered him food and shelter. He saw beautiful vistas of deserts and mountains.

In Giddings, Texas, he was escorted through town by police officers who formed a "V" around him with their cars.

"It was the neatest thing," he said. "I felt like a superstar."

There were also difficult experiences, including being shackled by officers in one Texas town who thought he was a "sketchy, vagabond character," he said. They eventually let him go. He was also confronted by members of a street gang in Albuquerque, N.M., who were angry he was walking on a sidewalk they considered theirs.

Finally, Milanian arrived at Laguna Beach on July 28.

"I did it faster than anyone and I'm the youngest, as far as I know," he said.

Milanian is now back in Tampa and has given the stroller he used to a young mom in St. Petersburg.

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