I sneak into her closet and see them. They’re tan, worn thin through years of walking. I glance over my shoulder to make sure I’m not about to get caught. I grin, and steal the shoes. I want to feel what it’s like to be her. My mom has high arches, and her shoes felt uncomfortable and strange to someone like me whose feet are as flat as a duck’s. I never had that luxury of being able to borrow my mom’s shoes. But being a young and curious kid, I’m wanting to try anyway.
They feel weird on my feet. I laugh as I try to waddle around in them. But I can’t get anywhere fast.
Soon, I grow bored and decide to try someone else’s.
They’re lying out on the living room floor. I know they’re huge for me, but I can’t resist slipping them on. His flip flops swallow my feet in one big gulp. I try to walk across the living room. They flop around my little feet and help me as much as a tiny paddle can help a cruise ship.
As a kid, I thought it funny that someone could have feet as big as my older brother’s, and I was fascinated how high my mom’s arches were. My feet were so small that my brother could hold one in his hand, my toes reaching to the tips of his fingers, and my heel rested comfortably in his palm.
My feet are no longer tiny; in fact, they are now relatively large. My arches never did get taller; my mom’s shoes still kill me. My brother’s feet are still huge.
Trying on someone else’s shoes is one way to experience what it’s like to travel as them. You feel the world in a different way, and become more aware of where your feet are. We tend to think of travel as a means of getting from one physical location to another. Trying on someone else’s shoes, literally and figuratively, take you somewhere else, somewhere no other kind of walking can do. It’s a different kind of travel.
If you read this blog post of mine, you’ll know that I make a habit of taking a 20-30 minute walk every day (I have a streak on the side of my blog to help me keep track).
As I’ve been going for these walks, I’m becoming more aware of nature around me. I try to find new routes. Since I moved recently, I now have a whole new neighborhood to traverse, and it’s both exciting and overwhelming. I’m awed by the beauty I see. The trees leaning over the street obstructing my view of the sky, the long winding roads, the uphill roads, the cracks in the pavement. It’s a quieter atmosphere from where I used to live. It’s different. I like it.
It’s interesting where walking takes me. And I’m not talking about the roads in my neighborhood. I’m talking about my thought processes.
It’s now November. It’s gotten chilly where I live. Going for a walk is refreshing; the crisp, sharp air wakes me up. It makes me think more about what’s going on in my life. I think about work, and how I relate to coworkers. I grin inwardly at something I did well today, and feel smug; I cringe at the memory of a mistake. I think about the friends nearby, who I haven’t seen in too long. I think about the friends far away that I don’t get to see often enough. I wonder about what they’re doing right now, and where my parents and siblings are, who they’re around. I wouldn’t think about any of this as in depth as I do if I didn’t take my daily walk.
You see, walking is a form of travel. You don’t just walk in your neighborhood. You walk on a pavement that a thousand people have driven on, walked on. Underneath that pavement is layers and layers of ground that has been worn down by thousands of feet, millions of drops of rain. It’s been dug up, covered, shifted. Yet the ground is still there. Maybe new dirt has come to that little area over time. But it’s still ground.
You’re traveling where many people have traveled before.
You’re going where everyone has stepped.
Everyone but you.
Walking is a form of travel. You’re going places. You’re seeing the world from the perspective of a gravel road and tennis shoes. You’re experiencing the feeling of the wind in your hair and the crunch of rocks under your feet. You experience the speed of a car as it drives by, yet you keep walking. You go on your way, your slow walking pace.
Today you can cover hundreds of miles in a number of hours, whether if it’s by car, or train, or airplane. The modes of travel have increased in speed exponentially over the centuries, and those of us plagued by wanderlust can wander easier than ever. There’s not much holding you back from traveling the world from the seat of a piece of machinery.
But there’s value in a good old fashioned walk.
It takes patience. You’re experiencing life at a slower, quieter pace. Even if you walk in a city, the melodial sound grants peace in a way that loud music and a car humming can’t give you. Walking in the country, you experience the sounds of nature that don’t occur anywhere else.
Go for a walk today. Take your phone with you, if you must. But I challenge you to not look at it for 20 or 30 minutes. Just enjoy the pristine outdoor air. Experience the lights around you, whether it’s the sun in the country or street lights in the city. Feel the chill, or the warmth; the sun, or the rain. Breathe it in. Experience it fully.
Walking is traveling. And it’s one of my favorite forms.