Why Walking Is Still Honest
It is so hard for me to find focus nowadays. My life reminds me of a finicky bathtub drain. It is constantly clogged with school, work, friends, hobbies, TV shows, social media, finances, and even my dogs, causing me to overflow with stress and reduce into a sudsy puddle on the floor.
In the midst of this eternal hustle I often forget to take a step back and make time for myself. Subsequently, it becomes increasingly difficult to create good content, focus all of my energy in one place, or organize my thoughts. While having a seven-track mind has it’s benefits—one of which being the ability to eat, type, and watch Parks and Rec re-runs simultaneously—it also leaves me with an empty feeling of unproductiveness and dissatisfaction.
In my case, the best remedy for these 21st century blues has been the escape to and through nature. In fact, travel often revolves around the massive triumphs of nature; hence the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, Mount Fuji, Niagara Falls, the Everglades, the Great Barrier Reef, Sub-Saharan Africa, and thousands more that I can't even begin to cover. These places remind us of the world we hardly acknowledge on a day-to-day basis; the world that we swoon over in Planet Earth specials, but forget to appreciate when we step outside.
Even though it's impossible to travel halfway around the globe for some much-needed decompression, I have found that taking a walk has been a worthy substitute. There are an abundance of physical and mental benefits to taking a brisk walk, so I’ll try to speed past the known variables: Walking has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, and stress, regulate body weight, and raise energy levels.
Getting up, moving our neglected muscles, and going outside has a whole slew of physical benefits that prove necessary to living a healthy life. But, even beyond our bodies, taking a hike can improve our mental health.
Take it from that age old saying: “Take time to stop and smell the roses.”
If I stopped to smell a rose on a sidewalk here in LA I would probably get bumped into the rosebush by a hurriedly apologetic businessman. Just as those stunning roses get neglected thanks to the angry riptide of the weekday, we also neglect to have honest, uninterrupted conversations with ourselves. I know from experience that it can seem impossible to relax when our schedules overlap like three-tiered Venn Diagrams, but even if it takes all of the strength we have left at the end of the day, going outside, taking a walk, and silently ruminating without the distractions of blipping phones or Leslie Knope’s egregious enthusiasm can really renew us.
At the extreme risk of sounding like an old fart, I really do think there is value to be found in the occasional removal from technology. For me, taking thirty minutes every other day to read at the park, go on a small hike, or walk my dog has opened a tiny window of calmness that I would have never otherwise found in my rigid, planner-bound existence. During this teeny break from the chaos of my day, my thoughts are no longer muddled, and my wants, needs, and passions become surprisingly clear. My mind is free to explore and I am able to properly tie up my loose ends.
This is not to say that we should all pack a knapsack, sling it over our shoulder, and disappear into the wilderness like Alexander Supertramp. It is our duty to stay present, informed, and inquisitive in this day and age. Ditching our worldly possessions to become one with nature—although tempting—would render us out of touch with the fast-paced society around us.
That "fast-paced society" is exactly why nature acts as a cold drink of water. It rejuvenates the weary soul. Being able to feel the breeze, turn our heads upwards, and abandon our worries for a moment or two snuggles us up with a watered-down version of Supertramp's mentality. If anything, at this point we're encroaching into Wordsworth's territory. We can see the world for what it is, exist in it, appreciate it, but remove ourselves when we need to find clarity. Venturing beyond our urban sprawl with wide eyes and an open mind can offer us that perspective.
So, from one aspiring traveler to the next, I greatly encourage some mindful alone time. In my experience, thirty minutes a few times a week has really helped alleviate some major burdens that have been wearing on my shoulders.
I’m almost positive that we all have itchy feet around this time of year. Burdened with extensive responsibility, we crusade to see those glorious mountains, cross those unforgiving deserts, and breathe the cool, damp winds under waterfalls seemingly taller than God. Sadly, not all of us can be full-time travelers. But in these distracting moments, when everything but your aspirations are fighting for your attention, remember: There is so much beauty to be found in the details.
Like the Romantics, strive to seek uniqueness in everyday life, and draw motivation from it. Don't wait all year long to "travel" because you don't have the funds or the time to make it to Mount Fuji... travel in your own town! Take a hike—go somewhere you have never been—or simply defamiliarize yourself from the views you've grown accustomed to. Keep your chin up. Learn to love walking! After all, walking is the one thing that hasn’t been corrupted or capitalized upon. And with that, I'll end with the wise words of Laura Jane Grace:
"You can be almost anything when you're on your fucking knees... Not today. Not my son, not my family; not while walking is still honest and you haven't given up on me."
"While Walking is Still Honest"