Is there a simpler pleasure than ‘the noble art’ of going for a walk? You need no special equipment, no plan or goal to go for a stroll.
I’m not talking about a jog or a power walk – I mean a saunter; a luxurious, languid wander. Sometimes you might have a destination, sometimes you don’t. You might be walking in the woods, or pounding the concrete in the beating heart of the city. Either way, it’s the walk that’s important.
I love to walk. If I had a choice I’d walk everywhere. Well, perhaps not to France, I’d probably drown. Let’s just say I’d walk everywhere that’s humanly practicable. I’ll set the alarm extra early, just so I can walk to an appointment rather than train or cab it. I walk in rain, in snow, in sticky hot heat.
Everything is within walking distance if you have the time.
Comedian and writer Steven Wright apparently said this. It gets to the crux of why walking is such a pleasure. For most of us time is a luxury, a commodity in high demand, and walking says loud and clear ‘I have time!’ (Or perhaps more accurately ‘I will make time, damn it!’).
Walking slows you down (even if you’re a fast walker, like me). It makes you pay attention to the journey, the little things along the way.
Like nothing else, walking puts you in touch with your surroundings. It’s one of those rare acts that lets your mind wander freely whilst still connecting you to the outside world. While you mull over whatever it is that you mull over while you walk, you’re at once aware and not aware of all the sights and sounds and smells around you.
The other thing I’ve found is that you can’t stay angry while you walk (and if you think you can, you haven’t walked for long enough). Try walking when you’re angry and you’ll find that the world has a way of intruding in on you to say ‘hey, snap out of it buddy’.
The other day I was walking away from some scene that made me feel like I was an awkward teenage clown again* and as I was cursing those involved for making me feel like a fool, an elderly Korean man came up to me and said with a big smile ‘Welcome to Korea! Have fun! Good luck!’ Who can be angry or upset when there is such warmth and happiness as that in the world?
You might see two birds tending each other or a moment between father and son that melts your heart. You might nearly get run over by a crazed cyclist, or do that funny dance with a stranger as you take turns stepping out of each others way. You might see someone who in an instant makes you grateful for your mental and physical health, your friends and family, the roof over your head. Or you might just see a guy in a dog costume, doing disco moves. (All true stories, by the way.)
I think The Oatmeal summed up the civilising effect of walking quite nicely, in this hilarious cartoon (which comes with a language and taste warning – please don’t click over if you are offended by that kind of thing!).
For me, walking is like a cup of chamomile tea and a jolt of espresso in one. It calms and soothes and frees my mind. But it also heightens my senses and lets inspiration flood in. And I mean flood in. My best blog posts, my craziest craft ideas, my solutions to intractable life problems? All conceived whilst going for a stroll!
So – grab your camera if you’re that way inclined (but leave you iPod behind please), make the time and just head out the door. See what the world has to show you.
*Note: I wasn’t actually a clown in my youth. I just felt like one for a large part of the time.
Is walking one of your Simple Pleasures?
Guest post by Emily Orpin