that I've been fortunate to have an innate urge all my life to
take long walks. Ever since I was a kid (and my wife would
argue that those days aren't over!), I've always loved heading out
and walking for hours sometimes, often with no particular
destination or reason for going other than just to get out and see
some more of life. These walks have done a lot to keep me
aware and to keep me healthy, and I've learned more through
walking than I ever could have by sitting at home, doing nothing.
the prerequisites for enjoying a nice long walk is having no real
time table. If you have to be back at a certain time, that's
okay, but it certainly doesn't promote spontaneity or searching
out new roads or paths. It also speeds you up, which means
that your chances of noticing things definitely go down. You
may still notice the major things that you go by such as houses
and trees and nice views, but you'll miss the things like the cool
insect on the tall grass or the way the light makes certain bushes
shimmer. I would never not take a walk because I had a
deadline, but I try to make sure that I have time to stop where I
want to (especially if the urge for a cup of coffee hits), to
extend my walk, or to explore new directions.
health benefits of the long walk cannot be disputed. Our
bodies were made to be used, and walking is great exercise.
It's also very low-impact, which means that our chances of hurting
ourselves while out for a walk are very low. Walking also
helps the heart by getting to to beat more strongly, helps our
circulation and our lungs, and helps us to shape and define our
muscles, especially in our legs. No one's going to get the
body of a body builder by walking, but the long-term benefits of
walking are well documented, which is why so many doctors
recommend the practice for those of us who need exercise.
mental benefits of walking are also many. Walking for me has
a very similar effect to meditation for other people. It
helps me to clear my mind, and it helps me to think through
problems and dilemmas. When I'm out walking without hurry
and without a destination, my mind tends to relax as I focus on so
many things outside of myself, as I see the natural world around
me and breathe the fresh air. A long walk can help me to
reach a state of clarity much more easily than any other practice
that I've ever discovered, and walks have often helped me through
difficult times in my life.
I try to
walk as much as I can. If we need a gallon of milk, I'd much
rather take the twenty-minute walk to the store than the
three-minute drive. When I have a break at work I often take
advantage of the time to get out and spend the time walking.
Even if I'm seeing the same things that I always see on such
walks, they're never exactly the same. Every walk has its
own personality, its own feel, and I love to see and feel those
changes inside. I don't remember ever being bored on any
walk I've ever taken--there's always something interesting to see.
modern world of hurry and convenience, I often find that I'm the
only one out on the street, walking. Sidewalks in most
places tend to be empty, except for downtown areas during business
hours. I see very few people walk to the store, and most of
those I do see tend to be either very old or very young. One
of the things that I love about Spain is that the people are out
walking so often--usually the streets of most towns are packed
with people, except during siesta. This fact leads to much
stronger social ties, as people who are walking have the chance to
stop and chat with someone they know, something we just can't do
when we're in our cars.
people, walking hasn't been an option for years. It's no
longer one of the choices they have to make--should we walk to the
movies, or drive? For most of us, it's assumed that we'll
drive wherever we go. And that's a shame, for most people
never will know just what they're losing by depriving themselves
of the experience of walking.