One by one, the articles have come across my feed. I’m drawn to click on them all. They resonate and remind of how deep my love of walking lies. But it wasn’t until I read these words from Thoreau on Maria Popova’s beloved Brain Pickings site that I had an epiphany about why:
Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. – H.D. Thoreau
Equally at home everywhere. Yes.
Walking is a way to get out of yourself and into the world. To diminish the distance between here and elsewhere. To shed the confines of your own mind, home, circumstances, and explore what lies beyond. It’s like reading in this way, isn’t it? A way to see what’s possible. To acquaint yourself with the unknown. To learn more about the world and your place within it.
Walking is an adventure available to all, regardless of means or circumstance. No matter how tethered or tired. There is a distinct comfort in knowing accessible beauty and wonder await just beyond your front door.
Walking has indeed been a lifelong love affair for me—there were jaunts to the local convenience store in my childhood beach town to procure red hots for afternoon towel talks with a neighbor; strolls along the boardwalk to art school with a dear friend in the weak early morning sun—the going always more enjoyable than the getting there.
Strangers became forever friends along a swath of Appalachian Trail; connections were discovered and deepened on a winding, oppressively hot four-day stint in the Judean Desert.
As a young adult, alone yet surrounded by city, I’d walk my weekends away along the Hudson River, or spend a stretch of unscheduled Sunday meandering through an as-of-yet unexplored neighborhood, charting a path to nowhere, stopping as it suited me.
With children of my own, I’d set out for as long as I could to navigate town with my snap ‘n go and swaddled infant companions. As my children age, our walks now modified to accommodate bikes, scooters, speed, safety helmets.
Everywhere you roam, you leave something of yourself behind and gather something of the world to take with you. I keep shoes long past their prime because I know they’ve walked with me–their soles bearing bits of where I’ve been.
The steady sensation of earth underfoot, the limitless possibility of open sky above—here and everywhere, near and far, home and away, grounded and soaring all at once. A way to be in the world without going far. At home everywhere.
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Below, my favorite excerpts and articles on the reasons for and benefits of walking.
A collection of walking inspiration for you:
My favorite formula for a great walk is to give yourself a few days. Five is good. Choose one or two people you find fascinating as partners. Then move slowly through the countryside — notice and help notice. Be delighted by those you encounter — those beautiful or angry or lost or sad. Consider the hug. Ask those you meet to sing for a loved one if they tell you they once sang. Bring coffee. Share the coffee. Fall in love with a country. A person. A branch on a tree. Speak at length about lengthy topics. This is why you walk.
Walking intrigues us with its simplicity. Thomas Clark reminds us: “Early one morning, any morning, we can set out, with the least possible baggage, and discover the world.”
A Need to Walk by Craig Mod
That something exists outside ourselves and our preoccupations,
so near, so readily available, is our greatest blessing.
Walking is the human way of getting about.
There are walks in which we tread in the footsteps of others,
walks on which we strike out entirely for ourselves.
A journey implies a destination, so many miles to be consumed,
while a walk is its own measure, complete at every point along
There are things we will never see, unless we walk to them.
What I take with me, what I leave behind, are of less importance
than what I discover along the way.
To be completely lost is a good thing on a walk.
The most distant places seem most accessible once one is on
In the course of a walk, we usually find out something about our
companion, and this is true even when we travel alone.
In Praise of Walking by Thomas A. Clark
When we choose a path through a city or forest, our brain must survey the surrounding environment, construct a mental map of the world, settle on a way forward, and translate that plan into a series of footsteps. Likewise, writing forces the brain to review its own landscape, plot a course through that mental terrain, and transcribe the resulting trail of thoughts by guiding the hands. Walking organizes the world around us; writing organizes our thoughts.
Why Walking Helps Us Think by Ferris Jabr
Sometimes writers try so hard, strain to come up with the interesting and creative. But what if we simply stepped outside and took a walk around the block and recorded what we saw?
Hope that, 10 years from now, when the chalk and bubbles have long been put away, replaced by cell phones and homework and friends with parties, and all of the other things that little ones grow into, that we, too, might take walks. Mama and child. Hope that, in the quiet of the late afternoon, we’ll wander around our peaceful streets and we’ll talk. Connect. Continue building this relationship that I’ve been dreaming of since I first felt the pull towards motherhood.
I want them to live in the world. To be curious about other people. Who they are, where they’re going. I want them to experience true empathy and wonder. To understand what it looks like to take the bus to work. To appreciate the distinct people and paths in our surroundings. To not only be preoccupied with our own comings and goings; to be comfortable with themselves, wherever they are.
I want them to marvel at the commonplace, the everyday. To not need anything more. The landscape of our city street, these passers-by, this steady rhythm of life being lived. This is entertainment enough.
Even when the rain threatens, we walk. I will miss this city life, when the inevitable pull of convenience and circumstance takes us elsewhere. When the practical overshadows the ideal.
A Step Towards Community by Dina L. Relles
I always feel significantly closer to someone at the end of a walk than I did at the beginning…
I’d forgotten how easily a walk quiets my mind…
The Spirit of Sauntering: Thoreau on the Art of Walking and the Perils of a Sedentary Lifestyle by Maria Popova (quoted above)
Writing Prompt: For Your Journal by Amanda Jaros for Literary Mama (on the benefits of walking for creativity)
Do you have a favorite piece or poem on walking? A post of your own? Please feel free to link to it in the comments below.
Perhaps our paths will cross someday…