By Jonathon Stalls / 10-9-2013
When having ‘hard times’ conversation with friends, family members or new faces I so often feel compelled to convince them to drop everything – now – and find a way to walk to the state line. If they can’t manage to do that then I would convince them that they can walk to the nearest town (ex Boulder or Ft Collins for Colorado folk) from their home. Sure it might take a couple days, but I’ll help you plan the route and we’ll figure out what hostels or hotels are in-between for accommodation. Need to train? No problem, let’s start with a 5 mile loop around your home once or twice a week. I can join you? If they agree to this challenge and are still feeling the same way about love, work and hardship when they return then we can talk again.
“We’re engineered to travel this way”
“Our bodies are built to process stress and emotion this way”
“Our flow of blood and oxygen are trained to fuel our hearts and minds this way”
“True community and understanding of place is dependent on this form of transit”
I’m convinced my pitch for walking is like a broken record. I spin my hope and work to get people moving at 3MPH to fit almost every need and desire experienced in life. Am I off? Is it really that good for you? Consider Alfred Barron and his incredible reflections on walking from 1875’s Walking as a Fine Art. This book is full of colorful and meaningful language around the speed and growing dependency on horse and carriage from more than a century ago.
“I am, dear reader, a tramp. There is hardly a vestige of the chevalier left about me, and I experience a sort pity for those people who can’t go anywhere without a horse. When I travel I like to leave my beast behind… I am compelled to admit that pedestrianism is at present altogether too mannish. Our civilization in some respects is such a poor little mouse, that a free and simple companionship of men and women in excursions so dear to a walker, is a thing not to be thought of. In addition to this, women have not yet won a sensible working and walking dress.” – Alfred Barron, Walking as a Fine Art, 1875.
Many folks in the United States of America simply don’t have time or the experience to merit a weekly 5-10 mile walk (roughly 2-4 hours). We can change this. The art of sauntering, of wayfaring, or long-distance walking is a gift that’s inherent to our construction. Think of what’s possible if we actually used our body the way we’re meant to?
Yup, we don’t have sidewalks on every street, but we could. We don’t have crossing signals at every intersection, but we could. We don’t have public restrooms placed in appropriate distances for those traveling on-foot, but we could. We are missing many things in our modern cities, towns and neighborhoods that make this art form easy and accessible. This doesn’t mean we can’t do it. Today’s lightweight back pack, cell phone, public transit systems and map making options give us many tools to create unique long-distance walking experiences. Please just remember to wear bright colors if walking at night and make sure to walk on the opposite side of the street (against traffic) if there is no sidewalk.
I’m bold enough to say that our kids, brothers, sisters, mothers, father and elders need us to start walking more. Will you consider a good long walk the next time you’re feeling down, caught, unsure or stressed? Beyond the hundreds of vast and proven benefits, the most convincing is to simply know it and feel it yourself. Do try it. It’s why I’ve given my life to see that you do.