In Praise of Walking
By Nancy L. Frey, PhD
31 August 2019
After leading people on walking tours for the last 20 years I have absolutely no doubt about the positive impacts that walking can have on someone's body, mind,soul and emotional life. Walking is healing, it feels good, it brings people together, it allows for solitude, reflection, contemplation as well as necessary space for sharing of experiences and mutual support as people join their steps with one another and listen to each other's stories. I feel very blessed to have been part of such an extraordinary effort of walking over so many years.
The stories of grief, hurt, losses of different types that have been worked out on the way as well as joys and triumphs keep us coming back to repeat what we do over and over again. It is a beautiful calling in life to walk with others and to share with them an essential part of the human experience - being in nature, seeing the world at 3mph/4kmph, feeling, opening our senses and opening ourselves to whatever comes from within or without. It's a leveling, non-competitive experience (at least the way we do it with our clients) that let's people just be who they are.
Sometimes we get lost. Sometimes we hurt and feel confused. Sometimes we laugh at memories, jokes, shared experiences. Sometimes we marvel at the unexpected. Sometimes we are capable of simply being and feel arrested in our steps by the call of a bird or a particularly beautiful flower or even an unusual bug we've never seen sitting on a beautiful flower. Walking has the power to bring us to where we are, to be where we are and to enjoy where we are. And the feeling of fulfillment in doing so is powerful and intoxicating. Everything tastes better, feels better and looks better after days of walking. People often regret the end of the journey and knowing that their care-free days of walking will come to an end when they have to return to the drudgery of life's routines. Keep walking!
At home you can find these beautiful moments too through walking. Though different than being on the Camino or a with a friendly group of fellow walkers in another inspiring place, they are still soothing to all parts of your body and mind!
Our On Foot in Spain t-shirt has the motto: I walk therefore I am. Thinking, of course, is an essential part of who we are but often we do a lot of over-thinking in our lives and walking can help us get beyond our thinking selves (and our unhelpful fictions we love to replay in our minds constantly) and to access other inner and outer worlds that bring enormous amounts of benefits on all levels of our person. Moreover, it's free, doesn't require any gadgets and is something everyone can do who can walk. Walking is a skill we started mastering very young in our lives and it is never too late to start walking again.
On my website Walking to Presence I have highlighted a few books written by people from very different backgrounds (a philosopher, a historian, a Buddhist monk, and a neuroscientist) all recommending the benefits that this simple human act of walking can bring to you.