August 15, 2014

How to Embrace Our Inner Pedestrian. ~ Jenni Kay Long


girl walking street

My car has been on the fritz for quite some time.

With 190,000 miles under its belt, the old machine decided that was ready to stop transporting me to and fro. It seems it’s time to call the scrap yard.

Which means it is also time for me to bust out my walking shoes.

Buying a new car isn’t really an option at the moment and I much prefer walking over biking (too many accidents—a story for another time) and so I’ve been strategizing on how best to embrace my inner pedestrian as I hit the streets.

(Perhaps you too are considering the adventuresome life of a full time pedestrian, or perhaps you’ve been walk-commuting for some time now. Your advice, wisdom and tips are quite welcome in the comments below.)

Here’s the strategy that I’ve come up with to plan for a journey:

1. Choose a route.

The first step is to figure out where we need to go. Once we have this information, we can bring out the old map or plug it into Google Maps and check out the various routes that are available.

When choosing our route, it is helpful to consider our ideal terrain. Do I most enjoy walking through parks, on the street, or on sidewalks? Notice if there are stretches along the way that contain blind curves without shoulders or sidewalks—it’s a good idea to avoid those routes, if at all possible.

Consider, too, if we might like to take a break during our journey. Would it be nice to drop into a coffee shop or a creperie on your way to our intended destination? Even if we determine that pit stops aren’t ideal, it is helpful to plan to take a couple of short breaks to drink some water under the shade if we are walking more than 20 minutes.

2. Determine the departure time.

Hour-by-hour weather apps are a great ally to the pedestrian. Figure out what time of day is the mildest—not too hot or cold—and whether rain/sleet/hail/snow is on the way. Then determine the departure time based on what time we need to be wherever we are going, plus how long it will take to walk there (including breaks), plus the best time weather-wise to set out on the adventure. We may also want to add in some time to freshen up (meaning: wipe off the sweat and change clothes) once we arrive. Which lead us to our next step…

3. Choose our attire.

Depending on the climate and season, choose clothing that:

>> is breathable
>> is comfortable
>> can be rained on, splashed with mud, sweaty

Pick shoes that won’t give blisters, that support our feet, and that are breathable/warm, depending on the season.

4. Pack a bag.

Since our commuter clothes are probably different from our work clothes, we can either pack our work clothes and shoes or (get a ride from a friend and) leave a small wardrobe at the office (along with a supply of food).

Choose a bag that distributes the weight evenly across your body and that handles sweat well (sweat pads on the shoulder straps), then pack it up with the following items:

>> work clothes and shoes
>> chap stick, makeup, hair accessories—whatever we might like to have to freshen up once we arrive
>> work needs: laptop, charger, phone charger, pens, paper
>> easy to carry food, some examples include: coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, granola bars, nuts, fruit, peanut butter (not light weight, but oh so good!)
>> poncho or umbrella

>> In the side pockets: water, phone, and tissues.

Notice our inner conversations and tweak as needed.

Most of us have a conversation reeling in our heads when a seeming catastrophe strikes, such as a car dying. It’s easy to sink into a mental rut that sounds something like, “Everything is breaking down! Life is so hard. How am I going to get anywhere? This is so terrible! I’m just going to melt in this summer heat and I’m probably going to lose my job now too…”

This inner conversation is overwhelming and sends our nervous system into overdrive. It is easy to get caught up in that rut, but, the good news is that we don’t have to!

“Things outside neither bind nor liberate you; only your attitude toward them does that.”

~ Sri Swami Satchidananda

What would it be like to tweak the inner conversation, even if the circumstances remained the same? That might sound something like, “So my car isn’t working and it is hot outside, but I’ve been wanting to start a new exercise routine. This situation is giving me the opportunity to both enjoy the sunshine (after a very cold and dark winter) and a chance to get some good exercise in a very productive way that will actually save money.”

While our difficult situations are sometimes not easily remedied, we always have the power to change our relationship to the situation. What are our thoughts saying and how might they be tweaked in a way that will better serve us?

Now, with fresh perspective, a route, breezy, comfy clothes on our adventuresome bodies, provision filled knapsacks on our backs, it is time to set out on the adventure and get to walking.

I’ve found that my hour long walks to the office are a perfect time to make phone calls that I often don’t have space and energy for during the rest of the day. So I like to put on my bluetooth and call my grandma, parents, cousins, my best friend from college…all the folks that I love so dearly, and that I now live far away from.

It’s also a great time to reflect and have important conversations with ourselves that often get squeezed off the schedule.

Or, we can meditate on the miracles around us and feel our feet as we walk upon the amazing Earth.

“People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.”

~Thich Nhat Hahn

Upon arrival, it is helpful to give our bodies and minds the opportunity to notice what we’ve engaged in and accomplished.

After entering the air conditioned space that I’ve been journeying toward, it feels so good to sit down and pay attention to the amazing effects that walking has had on my body, and to notice, also, the fact that instead of getting into more debt by purchasing a new car that I couldn’t afford, I saved money and had some great conversations with myself and others along the way.

I then wash my face, take off the sweaty clothes, get dressed, and enter my work day renewed and refreshed (after, of course, chomping on some coconut flakes).

Happy walking!


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Flickr

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