Perhaps the most significant revelation to come over me recently is how awesome walking is (specifically, as a mode of transit), and how easily people have forgotten this simple joy. Indulging this oft-overlooked mode of transit is certainly more compelling when you have interesting places to amble through, but can be worthwhile in even the most bare, topographically challenged strip-malls suburbia can muster. I really don’t see why anyone would choose to drive a car when walking is a reasonable alternative, or more importantly, why anyone in their right mind would design a neighborhood or city that is not navigable on foot. It boggles the mind and is antithetical to human physiology. With increased walkability comes increased quality of life (to a certain point). Look it up, there are documents upon studies upon surveys confirming that very fact. I’m sure you could even find some swanky, ocular orgasm inducing infographics if monochromatic statistics ain’t yo thang.
It could very well be that this epiphany struck me so vehemently because of the circumstances of my upbringing. I am a byproduct of an environment where not having a car seemingly relegates you to leading the least fulfilling life known to man. Even more frightening than the synonymous nature of the automobile with freedom is the almost complete lack of anything culturally redeeming within a 5 mile radius of your domicile which, for all intents and purposes, transforms your home into a prison (maybe this is why hoarders exist—you have to fill the void somehow). If you do not have access to anything life affirming or any semblance of public space, why not just fill up your laughably oversized house with an inordinate amount of shit!). I realize now that this was an erroneous conclusion, for even the most culturally homogenous subdivisions can reward an impromptu trek.
Now, I do understand that owning an automobile provides personalized, relatively safe transportation on a scale that would have been inconceivable a little over a century ago. Heck, I have a car and an infinite, torrid love-affair with road-trips, but I am no longer reliant on those four haggard, tread-less cylinders (maybe it’s time for new tires). No more 2 hour traffic jams just to get to the nearest [insert national chain], I say! As a people, we gleefully delude ourselves with certainty that each new great invention is in fact, a panacea for society’s ills. And while this positivity is not without merit, we often blind ourselves to the lives we led prior to these revolutions. We suffer from cultural amnesia which leads to the false assumption that we must intimately integrate each great invention into our everyday lives. Moreover, we obsess over these inventions and assume—falsely—that it is inherently better than what preceded it.
So societally we got a little too excited over the awesomeness of being able to go wherever you want whenever you want whilst listening to whichever awful album we wish. It’s ok. It happens, and there isn’t anything wrong with expressing childlike wonder, heck, I wish wonder were more pervasive! But with understanding comes wisdom, and I think it would be prudent of us to reflect on this vehicular virus. Let’s just think logically for a second, shall we? We have two legs. Attached to these legs are feet with approximately five toes each (I’m looking at you, West Virginia). Why are we minimizing their use unnecessarily? Built-in, free transportation, people. FREE. You don’t need to worry about gas prices, though you may have to worry about the cost of your gas (crop-dusters, I know who you are!). There is no reason why you cannot put on some pants, Jorts, or a skirt and push your feet awkwardly, one in front of the other, to go get coffee, bread, or kombucha (whatever that is). If you reside in a city and you do not live within a mile of a café or bar or grocery store, well, then you might want to rethink your living arrangement. That’s just awful urban planning and you shouldn’t have to suffer because of it. Or, you could buy a bike, trike, some roller skates, or a scooter.
A rambling digression about auto-centric society aside, back to the point: walking is awesome. For so many reasons. First, walking gets you where you need to be whilst simultaneously saving you from the horror of cardio machines. Those gargantuan, sweat-drenched monstrosities that fill corporatized shrines to vanity and sleeve-less shirts. Or, to appeal to those guided by logic, you save money. Personally, I find the idea of driving to a building to walk, jog, bike, or whatever-the-fuck-moving-in-an-elliptical-is-called for hours while not actually going anywhere to be silly. Yes, I have done it repeatedly in the past, but I wasn’t thinking straight. You have the right to choose whatever lifestyle you wish to, but stationary locomotion is far too pervasive an oxy-moron in our society. Those 8 miles you killed on the treadmill today, well you could have walked to your favorite watering hole and rewarded yourself with a frosty pint or gotten red-velvet froyo from Pinkberry. Or you could go to the sweat emporium to pay $35 a month ($420 a year) to jog in place, ears bleeding in tune to the latest Bieber remix, all the while being bombarded by Scent of a Sweaty Man. No Thanks.
The true joy of walking comes from the instances between A and B. Detours both relational (more on this later this week) and exploratory arise as byproducts of taking a bit more time and effort in transporting yourself. Expediency is all well and good, but it is often predicated on an unnecessary loss of experience and neglect for impulse. You could very well be missing the next Sistine Chapel, manifested as graffiti shrouded over a decaying building, a striking view of nature’s bounty or the Nashville skyline, or a chance encounter with your future best friend because of an over-reliance on good ole internal combustion. The next time you have the choice, take a walk, stop and smell the roses, and take a right when Google tells you to go left. You only live once (YOLO, mofos!) and owe it to yourself to break away from efficiency and routine every once and awhile. The quickest route between two points may very well be driving in a straight line, but straight lines are boring as fuck.