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What Am I?

by Rachel Hultin  9/30/2013

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If you look up the word “pedestrian” in the dictionary, you’ll find something along these lines:

pe·des·tri·an [pəˈdestrēən]

  1. [noun] a person walking along a road or in a developed area.
  2. [adjective] lacking inspiration or excitement; dull.

Whoa. Both definitions strike me as problematic need a little exploring so this is the first of two blog posts prodding the word “Pedestrian”. We’ll start with definition #1…

Okay, let’s say I’m the Energizer Bunny or I’m one of the 75ish known people who have walked across the United States. When I’m walking through your town or down County Road 32, we can all agree I’m a pedestrian (even if some city planners would rather I was a motorist). But what changes when I chose to walk along the lovely dirt path along the river between Owensville and Rawlings? Am I no longer a pedestrian? Perhaps I become a “rambler” but that term is a bit problematic too. The verb “ramble” means to “walk aimlessly or idly through”. So I’m a pedestrian when walking in a man-made environment and when I go off the grid, I become aimless? Can’t I walk along a dirt path with intention? Can I wander through a developed neighborhood without purpose? Because that’s how I stroll and I know I’m not alone.

We need a new word here. Something that honors walking as a meaningful choice. A word that gives a nod to the innumerable benefits of traveling by foot including personal, social and communal wellness. A term that’s both hip AND transcends contemporary culture, like “Namaste” or “aloha”.

I suggest we look to our European counterparts since they embrace walking as a lifestyle choice more readily and broadly than Americans. England publishes “Walk” magazine filled with suggested routes and gear for the vibrant culture of walkers; the ancient Camino de Santiago is a vast network of trails originating in Germany, France and Portugal, all coming together in Santiago de Compostela Spain; we’ve all seen the yodeling Swiss as they travel from mountaintop to mountaintop. I’m partial to the French term “a pied” [“on foot”] but I’m sure there are more imaginative minds than mine who can craft a catchier term. Let me know if you think of one and together, we can start using it to let others know why and how and where we chose to walk. Until then, I’m going to call myself an “a pied” and hope that someone asks me what it means so I can share the joy of walking.

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4 Responses to “What Am I?”

  1. Well, it’s kind of old-fashionedy, but I know some people who, when heading out for a walk, like to say they’re going for a “constitutional.”

    • I know of such people and of the non-bipedal company they keep and how the use of such fancy terminology succeeds at confusing those with lesser vocabularies. I suppose our government has gone for a constitutional as well right now…

  2. Rachel,

    This is great news that you have teamed up with Jonathon at Walk2cconnect. it is interesting to think about how to define ourselves, we who walk. This last summer I walked 65 miles on the Appalachian Trail with my sisters and sister-in-law and then I went to Glacier National Park and hiked 45 miles. We call ourselves “long distance walkers”.
    I like identifying my self as a “long distance walker.” A big turning point came at the end of July. I had a Cerebrl Hemorage from which I am, thankfully, recovering well. However, I have now become a “short distance walker”. I am walking 1 mile a day in 25 minutes. Of course my goal is to build my strengh and distance gradually, week by week. I will again be a “long distance walker”.

    • Hi Pat ~ How wonderful to hear from you although I’m sorry to hear about your difficulties in July. I am sending you big, juicy healing thoughts so that we can walk together again soon and you can share more about your experiences on the AT. I really enjoyed our time together; our conversations planted so many seeds and I’d love to continue those threads. Until then, take lots of good care and hope to see you soon!

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