26 December 2013

Walk on

6004km in 6 hours and 19 minutes. That is fast. Too fast. When I got off the amazing flying machine, I had crossed an ocean and many time zones, but while my body had arrived in a new place, my mind was still somewhere in transit.

Technology has enabled us to whizz around easily, and overcome distances without much sweat. But sometimes, it seems to me that man was not made for this. Man was made for the oldest, easiest, and sadly underappreciated form of transportation: Walking.

One of the simple pleasures in a trip back to my hometown is the opportunity to go on long, calming walks across the surrounding countryside. Stolling along the trails and paths that I know so well, the roads that I've explored with boyscouts and in the Vélo Ralley, I can let both my body and soul roam. Unlike in the city, out here there is silence, but for the odd cow bell and the distant triad of the postal car. And as I walk, I start developing a sense of truly being in this particular place.

This year has seen me engage in plenty of activity on foot. From running to climbing, my legs were put to good use. But it is the humble walk that is the most stimulating, and intellectually liberating. While being hurled through the skies on my way to Europe, I came upon an article in Intelligent Life magazine that aptly described the feeling:

Many people have remarked on the curious relationship between walking and thinking. The rhythm of the body seems to free the mind, just as the rhythm of a mother's walk (it is imagined) puts at rest her babe-in-arms. Solvitur ambulando, declared the ancients: "it is solved by walking". Wordsworth wrote many of his poems on the move, as did John Clare. Nietzsche claimed to have made all his philosophical discoveries while walking, and Kierkegaard wrote that "I have walked myself into my best thoughts."
It's a quality often underappreciated in North America. When a few months ago, I had the gall to suggest to two colleagues that on a business trip, we could simply walk the 500m between the airport terminal and our client's office, I was heaped with scorn, whereas back in my European days, my boss would frequently join me for "brainstorm walks" out in the open.

Undeterred, I walk on, leaving just footsteps but taking sunlight, energy and random ideas with me. Looking ahead into the new year, there will be highs and lows, I'll tread on green meadows and through muddy waters, and I'll have decisions to make at each junction. I'll take on 2014 in stride. 

But first things first. Right now, I am stumbling from one holiday feast to the next. And I benefit from yet another advantage of going it on foot: It's a great way to walk err... work up an appetite.


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