People often think that I am strange for what I consider to be a very normal reason. I am a walker. Always have been, hopefully always will be. If it is practical to do so, I will always choose my shoes or my bike over a car. I’m not exactly sure how I got started – probably a combination of boy scout slogs and exploring around my family cottage – but whatever the cause, walking has become one of the simple joys of my life.
Part of the appeal, at least for me, is that when you are walking somewhere you are resigned to the fact that it is going to take some time. There is no illusion that the trip will be instantaneous, like what happens when you drive a car. Behind the wheel, it doesn’t matter how much ground I’ve covered or how much time I have shaved off my GPS’s ETA, I am always frustrated when I end up behind someone driving slower than I want to. I have even caught myself in fits of irrational rage and had to remind myself “Man, you don’t have anywhere to be.”
That doesn’t happen when I walk places. I can always go at my own pace, albeit a slow one. I know that walking the kilometer to the grocery store is probably going to take me at least 15 minutes, so I don’t worry about it. There is no stress involved. I can take the time to enjoy the breeze. I can actually see the groundhogs scurrying into their burrows at the novel site of a human on foot. It’s nice. It’s an escape from the never-ending quest for efficiency that we choose to trap ourselves in.
The other thing about walking is that it let’s you build a relationship with the place you are in. You can’t really grasp the distance between places until you tackle it on foot. A 3 kilometer trip takes some serious foresight when you’re walking. It’s not just a matter of jumping in the car and coasting to the movie theatre. If the trip will take you the better part of an hour you need to plan ahead unless you want to be stuck in the front row. That may not sound like a perk, but it actually lets you appreciate the place you live in. You come to know the trees and ponds and hills as landmarks. It provides you with a connection that most people simply don’t have. Call me crazy, but maybe if more people really knew and valued the places they lived, there wouldn’t be so much depression, detachment, and environmental degradation in the world.
So please, I implore you, take a walk. Do it regularly. Maybe even get used to it. It may seem like you’re sacrificing more of your time at first, but eventually you will realize the truth: you’ve regained a part of your day that can make a real difference in your quality of life.