I have always loved walking. Even before I learned to associate it with exercise, miles covered, or calories burned, I truly enjoyed the practice.
In college, I lived about forty blocks from the set of buildings designated as my campus. While I was typically running too far behind schedule to take a stroll to class, I nearly always walked home afterward, whether the temperature be below freezing or above eighty. Climate didn’t matter; I simply loved the walk.
Those post-class hikes taught me an important lesson about cities: there is no better way to experience one than to walk it. As I covered the Manhattan blocks between school and my dorm room, I passed through four distinct neighborhoods – quaint, trendy, grimy, pristine. I watched one seamlessly flow into another, saw the numbers and types of people in each change, felt the neighborhood energy shift from one to the next.
Consequently, when I travel, I walk everywhere, sometimes beyond the point of reason. On my first trip to Paris, I was so busy flitting from place to place that I only scratched the surface of the city. When I returned, however, I walked miles and miles, finally reaching an understanding of the city’s ebb, flow, and relentless classicism, no matter the district.
When summer arrived in Prague, I began to tread over the cobblestone regardless of my destination. I strolled over a valley of railroad tracks on my way to work, wound through tourist central to teach English lessons, crossed the river to meet friends for Sunday afternoon brunches. The city began to feel small and unbelievably accessible, covered east to west by my two feet.
A few months ago, I was blindsided when I was told not only to stop running, but to also restrict my walking. I could never give it up altogether – walking is a means of transportation in New York. But suddenly, twenty blocks was no longer a distance meant for foot travel; it was a distance covered by two subway stops.
I picked up my custom orthotics two days ago. As instructed, I wore them yesterday on a thirty minute walk, and for the first time in six months, I exited my apartment building with the knowledge that the walk I was planning was okay. Turns out my orthotics need some serious adjustments – but that’s not the point. What matters is that I have learned to appreciate the basics.
Whether alone, in someone’s company, in the city, or on a boardwalk, I have relished in the simple joy of each walk I have taken this year. The running question remains, but walking? Right now, that is my goal, and perhaps it is the only goal I need.
Are you a walker? Where’s your favorite place to take a stroll?