Nicole Huguenin is a founding member-owner of the Walk2Connect Cooperative. Here, she shares her experience of deepening her own intuition and empathy through walking, and how that brought her to Walk2Connect. Read more about Nicole’s faith in walking as a way to realize our human potential on Walk2Connect Stories.
Walking has always had its place in my life. At times, walking has given me the quietest place to reflect and get lost in my own fantasies; at others, it has provided a means to bring awareness to a cause I support. Mostly, the act of walking has always been my most trusted friend, providing the space to wonder and play when for one reason or another I was feeling disconnected, stuck, or frustrated. You could say that since I was 10, walking has unknowingly been my daily practice of inner transformation, much like yoga and meditation are for others.
Recently, walking has assumed a much bigger role in my life. Several years ago, after 13 years as a teacher and educator, I abruptly took a month off. Disappearing from my hometown of San Francisco, I traveled to a city where I knew no one and had no other means of transportation beyond my own two feet. For most of the month, I walked 4 to 5 miles a day, in stark contrast to 60-hour work weeks and sitting in many hours of congested traffic back home. My days during that month were spent walking for hours on end, contemplating anything from quantum physics to squirrel mating patterns. Slowing down like this served to reconnect me, as walking has always done, to my creativity, imagination, and deep love for nature and other people. However, my original plan was for a month off and as I hit my last days of that month I could feel the world starting to speed up again, with my thoughts returning to the quickness of a transactional world, fueled even more by the return of my daily coffee run habit.
On one such run, I grabbed my to-go cup at the shop counter and started to leave when a loud voice inside me screamed, “Stop! Slow down, now.” I had often heard this voice inside me before but had rarely slowed enough to listen to it. On this day, for the first time in many years, I granted myself permission to listen and follow it; I imagine all the walking I had been doing largely contributed to the decision to listen. I turned around looking for a seat, and saw that the only one open was next to a much older lady who was sitting peacefully with her nice red gloves stacked next to her purse. I smiled at her and we began to chat about the snowy weather, about Boulder, and eventually about teaching.
The conversation hit a natural pause and I heard her take a deep breath. She looked me in my eyes and asked if she could share her one and only wish with me. I said of course, and this shaky elder of a woman shared how she wished that all the children suffering in the world knew they had a friend in nature and that she had written a book, more like a workbook, to help spread that word. Diane had tears in her eyes as she opened up about her 20-year struggle with getting this book published, not knowing how to move forward, nor the people who could help. She had no aspirations of making any money. Her sole wish was that all children around the world could have as much access to this knowledge as possible. At this point, my inner voice again spoke to me and again I listened, telling Diane that I would help her make this wish come true. With that decision I chose, on the spot, to stay in Colorado and support this woman’s dreams as well as explore next and new steps in my career.
Fast forward six years and Diane and I continue to meet, dream, and walk. We’ve published an e-version of her book, The Flower Exercise, and it has been downloaded by teachers all over the world, even as far away as Malaysia. Most recently, I lived with Diane so she could stay in her home as long as possible as she ages. So one could say that in slowing down and walking I found family. I also found some solid next steps in what I do for a living.
In 2015, I walked every day of the year with a new person or group of people. I walked with thousands of people that year and intimately learned about the individual and collective benefits of living life at a pace of 3 miles per hour. During that time, I also continued to listen for the dreams of people like Diane and started an organization, Wild Dream Walks, to support those people dreaming of a better world. I also began volunteering as a Walking Movement Leader for Walk2Connect. Eventually, my volunteering turned into working in the office to support the exponential growth of the walking community and, as we formed into a Co-op, I chose to be a founding member-owner and on the board.
Eventually, my steps took me away from the mountains of Denver to the beaches of Maui, where I now live. Over the next few months, I will be stepping back from the day-to-day of Walk2Connect and Wild Dream Walks and launching a new initiative called Aloha Alliances. There’s no doubt that this initiative incorporates the steady steps of a daily walk and the ability those steady steps give to be in tune with myself and the community.