Monday, March 1, 2010

In Any Real City, You Walk

I've always enjoyed walking and, living in a city, I do a lot of it. So when my friend suggested I read the book The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson, I was immediately intrigued.

"Walking had certainly always been a pleasure, but it was more than that. For me walking has to do with exploration, a way of accommodating myself, of feeling at home. When I find myself in a new place I explore it on foot. It's the way I get to know that place. Maybe it's a way of marking territory. Setting foot on a street makes it yours in a way that driving down it never does."

I've never understood the aversion some people have towards walking. To me, walking has always been a calming activity and a way to really orient myself within an environment. The first thing I do whenever I move to a new city is walk.

I walk to get places, I walk to get lost and discover new places, and I walk to understand a place.

I walk to feel a part of something. I walk to forget things. I walk to feel good physically and I walk when I'm feeling bad.

I've spent hours walking the streets of London, Boston and New York. Given the opportunity to take public transportation or walking, I will chose walking every time - well, unless it's raining in the city..I hate that. I've discovered unexpected things and encountered some interesting characters in these walks.

But the thing I enjoy the most about walking in a city is the feeling of being a part of it.

Yesterday I was taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of the city when I became acutely aware of all the people walking with me down Broadway. There were people everywhere. Passing me in all directions, each of us lost in our own little world, yet we all choose to be a part of the same city.

Sometimes this annoys me.

"During the busiest part of the day, I wasn't so much looking at people, as looking out for them, trying to avoid being bumped into, knocked aside, trampled underfoot."

But yesterday, it exhilarated me. I felt so alive among the crowd of people and didn't mind having to sidestep others along the way. The diversity surrounding me was striking. We are all a part of the same city and even though we all experience it in very different ways, we all just want to feel those ties - to the city and to each other.

Walking gives me a very real connection to the present. It allows me to develop a different type of relationship with my surroundings and, in a weird way, it allows me to feel less lonely in a city of millions where I know so few.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay!!! I am so glad you are reading the book! You and I have exactly the same point of view when it comes to walking...The Lost Art of Walking really says it best. I find it so sad that there are so many people who can't appreciate this simple form of transportation, but I'm happy to know that there are at least a handful of people out there who love to walk just as much as I do -- to feel part of something, to get away, to become at peace...walking does so much for me (us!) and I couldn't ever think of it becoming a lost art in my mind.