Take to Your Feet

It fits perfectly that I came online this morning to blog about walking the world and immediately across this post from TED Blog. Everything I’ve come across lately brings me back to this subject and is not helping me with my current itch to walk everywhere.

First, I had a conversation with a coworker about her journey walking the Camino de Santiago. She described it as miserable and wonderful, that she badly wants to go back. This is a walk that has recently come to rest on my “bucket list”. If you’re not familiar with this, the Camino de Santiago is a network of ancient pilgrimage routes across Europe ending at the tomb of St. James (Santiago) in northwest Spain. The idea of seeing Europe on foot, of getting to take your time and really take in things the way I’ve never had time (or made time) for before. It makes my heart race. It makes me want to sell my car and lock up my house and be on my way. One day…

camino-big

Then I started reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed. It’s a story of a woman’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. Memoirs tend to not resonate the same with everyone- they reach different people. Many times memoirs are not a genre that I choose to read. Last year I put together a recommended reading list based on a survey I did of my coworkers of their favorite books. Now I’m trying to read my way through that list. I started with Beach Music by Pat Conroy and read a few more but all the while, Wild has been staring at me from the list. I knew reading it would start all my wheels turning, I’d get fidgety in my daily life. In other words, I’d be ready to go. And I am now. This book was sad but humorous, poignant and relatable. I can’t understand how Cheryl lost her way so profoundly because I’ve never been in the situation that she was, but I can understand her remedy. When she saw that she had to find a way out of this mess, she took to nature and to solitude. She created a physical journey for her emotional one. I love that. And while the idea of hiking alone for 1100 miles terrifies me, I also find myself wanting to pull my hiking boots out…

wild

I realized I wasn’t alone in this obsession over walking when I finally read the January/February issue of Poets & Writers (I know just saying I read this sounds pretentious, but I promise it’s interesting!). They had a section on inspiration and specifically a piece titled “Pedestrian Adventures: Walking to Inspiration.” Even just reading the title made me sit straight up. Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary, “To walk alone in London is the greatest rest.” To read that made me want to jump and shout, “Yes! You understand!” Dickens sometimes walked as much as twenty miles in an afternoon! Wordsworth is estimated to have walked “175,000 to 180,000 English miles” in his late sixties. Kindred spirits even among the highest ranks of literary minds.

It’s comforting to me to know all these people exist in the world. That other people have to take to their feet to work things out, to explore, to feel a part of the world. Maybe it’s time for a hike.

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