The importance of walking with no destination

As of last month, I started taking a different subway to work because it involves more walking. I never thought I’d have to get so strategic about walking, because it’s an activity I love. I always thought living in New York would involve a lot of walking. However, working as a graphic designer and illustrator, has meant a lot more time at my desk and a lot less time strolling with skyscrapers.

Last year, when I was a teacher, I got plenty of walking time in from visiting different classrooms, pacing down the aisles, and moving from desk to desk to speak with each student. Nowadays, some of my only walking is to and from subway stations.

For the New Year, I decided to get a FitBit, thinking that tracking my steps might be a good way to get motivated to take more walks. I feel so proud when it buzzes on my wrist, the earlier in the day the better. Still, going out late at night just to get in some extra steps never seemed appealing unless I could also accomplish another goal, like a grocery trip or laundry drop-off. I worry about my busy schedule.

I recently finished Rebecca Sonlit’s Wanderlust: A History of Walking. It finally struck me that walking isn’t just about getting places or getting in a requisite number of steps. From the book, I learned about Peace Pilgrim, a woman who abandoned her name, shelter, and money, and walked for 28 years across the US as a peace activist, relying on other people and nature to provide her with food and shelter. I learned about how the freedom to walk around wasn’t always something that could be taken for granted (especially for women), and how the formation of private properties has impacted how and where we are able to walk. It was amazing to have such a simple act put into perspective.

After listening to Sonlit’s book, I was reminded of a quote from one of my favorite books, Mr. Fooster Traveling on a Whim, “I can see from the lightness in your step that you are traveling on a whim. What makes you so content?”

I love my walk to the subway in the morning, but I also love to wander the neighborhood around the station, meandering a little after work, wondering what warm windows and new restaurants will present themselves to me. I can’t say I’m exactly traveling on a whim, but I am grateful to walk for walking’s sake.

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