I love walking for the sake of walking.
Walking makes for great exercise that costs nothing and allows you to see new things. You can march, meander, and move however you like on your journey. All while you choose whether to focus on everything around you or daydream along your route.
When I walk without aim, my thoughts at once expand and hone in. My mind is free to roam, yet stays focused and active. Some walks are purely meditative while others bring me many ideas that come from nowhere in particular. I never try too hard to force anything. That would defeat the purpose.
Call me crazy, but when I’m on a familiar walk, I sometimes pick a path that I’ve not been down, just so I can walk a while in a new place. A dead end road is fine by me. I want a feeling of being somewhere I’ve never been before.
The other day, I was only a few hundred yards away from my home and I turned down a road that I’d never explored. It was a short cul-de-sac, with little more than houses along it. But in the two or three minutes I explored down this road, I felt transported to somewhere completely different. At the end of the road was a field, which was another pleasant discovery (although not surprising, since I live around countryside in every direction!).
Here are a few tips on making the most of a walk:
- Don’t try to force new ideas or reach a particular state of mind – No need to work on the process. Let the process work for you.
- Explore something new – Check out a path you’ve not yet explored, walk down a cul-de-sac that you’ve never seen any point in seeing, look up at the sky and see what’s happening above you, look down to the ground and be aware of where you’re stepping.
- Make it a routine – All you need is a 15-20 minute stroll. Use a lunch break, early morning, before or after you’ve eaten. Find a time that suits you, or at least commit to a short round-trip walk each day. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other gets you exercising. Your brain will love you for it!
- Listen out – It’s not just the sights that can impress you while you’re out. The sounds are great too. Whether it’s the hustle and bustle of the city, or the distant sways and calls of the countryside, there’s a lot to hear. What do you notice? How does it make you feel?
- Listen in – If the sounds around you aren’t your thing, you could try listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and language learning tools while you’re out and about. Concentrate on the audio and put the walking on automatic. You may find yourself walking further than you would usually enjoy.
Of course, you could explore the world around you with Google Maps. But the experience is hardly the same.
A non-walking couple I know lived in a place right next to some fields of sheep. There was a public right of way across the land and people were free to explore. The couple had never explored the area, despite it being on their doorstep. When I mentioned having recently walked around those fields, one of the two friends spoke with some understanding of the route I had taken. The other gasped in shock and asked how they had such knowledge. The response? “I had a look on Google Maps.”
There’s nothing wrong with the above story. I’m not arguing how much better it is to walk. I’m pointing out the difference between having knowledge of something and actually experiencing it. It’s like when you know a piece of music really well. By going somewhere to hear that music performed live, you experience something bigger. The experience quickly covers more ground.
I have spoken to some people who say they only like to walk when they have a specific reason and an ultimate destination. Trekking for miles can be achieved, but only when the need exists. Walking with no other purpose but to walk is deemed a waste of time.
But might that waste of time actually a gift worth enjoying?
In an age where we tend to fill up our increasingly valuable time with all manner of things, the emphasis is on ensuring every second counts. Paradoxically, a quiet, contemplative stroll may help provide more time in the long run through a short term loss.
To walk for the sake of walking is a chance to recharge the batteries. It is an opportunity to find calm away from all the noisy distractions that we all too often welcome only to regret later.