“That is a long way to walk,” she said.
I nodded and smiled, about five or six miles, round trip. Not really a lot. But I know where she’s coming from. We are bipedal hominids, born to walk, but we grow up indoors, watching TV in an air-conditioned room, and at the age of sixteen we are handed the keys to the car.
She asked how I’d gotten to walking so much.
I said that when I’d moved to California, I had to drive everywhere. I got fat, because I’d lost what little exercise I had been accustomed to in my life: walking to the L, often through harsh weather. There was no L in California. I felt unhealthy.
So I moved. I took an apartment close enough to work and walked or rode my bicycle to work. Over time, and a few different jobs, I came to rely on walking, biking, and whatever public transit was available. I came to love walking, as a sweet, slow experience of the outside world that was an excellent complement to whatever it was that I did in the dark, air-conditioned indoors of my employer. Walking gave me a space to myself, to think, and to feel a connection to the beauty of the world – trees, flowers, squirrels, fellow walkers, and all the infrastructure of the human world that I could observe carefully from the outside.
We’d gotten on the subject of walking because she wanted to know how I’d gotten around during my travels. Planes, trains, and my own two feet. I was pleased that just as I walked around this town now, I had also walked around towns in different countries all over the world. Walking was one of my constants, which is important to a life that feels more variable than most.