Walking is one of the most significant things of my life.
I have only realised this in the last six months or so, but I have always enjoyed walking. I can now think back to different times in my life, and a walk is often at the centre of things whether it be weekend walks with my parents…right through to walks with my own family. In between these I have had many significant walks whether in the countryside or across cities.
I love walking on my own, and I love walking with others. There is something about the sort of companionship that you can have on a walk, something about the way that you can spend the whole time talking, or can be silent without it being awkward.
As Rebecca Solnit remarks in her book Wanderlust (a book about the history and culture of walking that has been very influential for me since I read it earlier this year), walking is really the only form of transport in which we go at our own speed, there is then something natural and authentic about the pace of walking. When I read this it was a complete revelation to me. Not only did I realise that I was always at my happiest when I walked, but that when I did not walk it was a sign that I was trying to prove something.
Like many of us I got scooped up by the fast pace of life. I equated busyness and speed with some sort of worthiness, as if I was only doing things of value if I was trying to do lots of things at once and balance many different roles. If I had time on my hands there was somehow something wrong, and I certainly did not have time to walk.
Since the turn of this year, however, I have realised not only that I like to walk, but also whyI like to walk. I like it because it forces me to slow down, it somehow brings my body down to a pace that seems to be much more natural for my mind to work. In other words it promotes a creativity that is somehow absent with other activities (or lack of activity).
The pace of walking also enables me to notice things. As I said earlier I like to walk both in urban and rural areas, and both settings provide a huge number of sensations and details that I would miss even when cycling. It also enables me to engage in another of my passions, photography, some of the fruits I share on this site. But it also help me notice what is going on for me: what I am thinking and, more importantly why I am thinking it. In other words it helps me to learn more about myself.
It is this enjoyment of the very act of walking that also helps me describe something else that for me the journey is somehow more important than the destination. This is something that I am more and more coming to realise in terms of my own learning. True we can get a great sense of accomplishment when we have achieved something, but for me it is the manner in which that achievement is made that is the ultimate test.
Walking, then, is something I began to do with real passion again as part of my desire to get fit and lose weight. In doing so I have found something that has enabled me to re-connect with myself, and others, in a profound way and is something that is at least as good for my mental health as my physical health.
For me it is the ultimate win-win.