Walking is freedom. It is life, and journey experienced at a pace my body can understand. There’s time to look about, take in the details, experience the sun, the bird calls and the scenery. The rhythm of it brings me peace, and a sense of wellbeing. It might take a lot longer, but it doesn’t cost me anything, nor is it burning fuel. Most of the time, if I can I walk, regardless of the weather.
There’s a sense of kinship between people who walk. I was going down the side of a busy road the other day, carrying a load of wood. People in cars were staring at me like I was blue, or had wings. I guess if you drive from one heated building to another, the sight of a woman carrying firewood in her arms has got to come as a shock. I’m like something from a different century. Maybe it will have made a few of them think about their own choices and options. How would they interpret their own wealth if they stopped to ask if I do that out of necessity?
I was not the only person walking. I saw others, who were choosing their own feet as a mode of transport. We exchanged a few words, smiles, greetings. I didn’t know any of them, but that’s always the way with walkers. We’ve made the same choice, and we recognise something shared, that sets us apart from the folk zooming by in their cars.
The cry of the fast paced modern world demands we have to be here now and ten miles away in half an hour. Shops, homes, schools, doctors and leisure places are increasingly spread out, assuming you have access to a car and the will to use it. As oil prices go up and jobs evaporate, people are going to be struggling with car culture. Our ancestors walked, and they lived their lives at the pace of feet. It’s a good pace. It’s natural, real, good for the soul. Cars are dislocating.
People become used to and dependent on cars very easily, and then can’t imagine doing without them. People regularly tell me they can’t imagine walking the distances I do. I must walk 20 miles a week out of necessity, and sometimes ten or twenty miles additionally just for the pleasure of it. I love walking. It’s part of a whole set of choices. I don’t pay to go to a gym or spend a couple of hours in one every week, I walk. It’s very green, and very cheap. It enables me to slow down, to think and breathe, to experience my own body and have a deeper relationship with my surroundings.
Getting to the point whereby you have to drive everywhere a lot to hold your life together may feel like necessity. But get in there, scrutinise it, and you’ll find there were a whole series of choices underpinning that. If we put choices together unconsciously, doing what we think we ought, or not bothering to consider the options and consequences, we craft lifestyles that feel like we’re stuck with them.
I’m interested in owning my own life and defining the shape of it through conscious intention. I feel cleaner when I walk. I am healthier because I walk. I’m fit, I have excellent stamina. I benefit psychologically from both the exercise and the time spent outdoors. I’m walking my talk as a green and a Druid. It’s not always easy or fun – in the cold, the pouring rain, the ice, days when my body hurts or I’m tired and it feels like a chore. Sometimes I wish for a better bus service, or the luxury of a car, days when in other circumstances, I might be tempted to choose other ways. When it’s sleeting, I envy the warm people, sometimes. I’m aware that there are other choices I could make instead, and that I’ve made this choice, for my reasons. Every choice has consequences. But on a day like today, walking is a joy, and even when it isn’t, I still take pride in it. I have finite resources, if I spend them on getting about, I’d have to not spend on something else. It’s all choices to balance. I like to think if I had a car, I’d still opt to use my feet whenever I could.
When I see someone else out on foot, or taking the shopping home on a bicycle, I know they’ve made the same kinds of choices, for the same sorts of reasons – health, cost, environment. They’ve chosen the slow lane, the way of feet, the pace of the ancestors, cheaper overheads and a smaller footprint. I greet them as comrades, because they are, and they respond to me the same way. The people driving past us will not share those moments of human contact, that warm reinforcement. They don’t know what they’re missing.