Bus, bike, train, car, tram, plane. We get to places by many means. The seasons pass, and sometimes it feels that we don’t take notice of the small changes around us. The bright skies burn into dark winters as we rush around it all. We often exist in a perpetual state of overwhelm, neglecting the simple pleasures offered to us. All we need is our feet, and a pair of shoes.
As a society, we often talk about running, about going to the gym, about sports from their basic states to their extreme versions. Iron mans and ultra marathons, CrossFit gyms and free solo climbing. It’s less common that we talk about one of the most common pastimes, forms of exercise, and mode of transport: walking.
Why do we not talk about walking more often? Perhaps we think that it’s too simple, that it’s simply a means to an end. Many of us may not even think of walking as transport; some of us, perhaps, even think of it only as a burden, rather than as any kind of enjoyable activity. After all, walking is something which can be done by so many of us, it’s something most of us do all of the time without even thinking about it. It’s not hiking, or trail running, it’s movement at one of it’s simplest forms.
Walking provides us many opportunities which other forms of exercise don’t. Walking allows us to see the world as we travel through it. It allows us to get the most from our bodies, to use only what we have to get to new places, to see new sights. Even when we’re on a daily commute, seeing old sights, we still gain from walking rather than taking a bike or car. We get to see the changes in seasons slowly creep in; we are the first to watch the leaves turn orange and fall from the trees, and we are the first to feel the frost under the sole of our shoe. Unlike taking transport, walking allows us the time to experience these things.
Some of the most powerful travel books centre around walking. As both, an unconventional mode of travel and a path to self-development, there is something about walking which compels most of us- even if we struggle to remember this when we have to make the long walks from car parks or train stations into city centres. From Levison Wood’s Walking the Nile, to Henry David Thoreau’s classic, Walking, there are plenty of people out there who have written on walking as an art, as a passage to exploration, as a mode of finding peace.
We could all benefit from walking a little more often; from taking the time to feel the ground and to be with the space around us. Walking brings us into ourselves, makes us present, and enables us to capture pieces of the world which we would otherwise miss. Walking is a gift, and those of us who can walk should use that gift at every chance we get.
Do you like to walk? How does walking impact your life?
Featured image: Annie Spratt via Unsplash.