I’ve always been a walker.
There’s something about your feet rhythmically connecting to the earth—drum-like—while the mind is left free to wander spaciously under the wide-open sky.
It’s always felt like flight to me—a way to be free.
Walking is a way to expand all my senses beyond the limitations of the body.
I’ve walked around many places: Bali, Thailand, Cambodia, Spain, and Australia, to name a few.
Within all these terrains I chose to be a flâneur whenever possible. A flâneur is a French term meaning a person who wanders aimlessly, a saunterer, and a person with the ability to wander detached from society with no other purpose than to be an acute observer of contemporary life.
When I walk in this particular way, the world blossoms open, and I get to see things and meet people I never would if I were walking in a typical, mad 21st-century blinkered hurry. Or if I were driving past, shut inside the walls of a car, oblivious to most of the outside world.
I would never have found myself in a situation reminiscent of the film “The Beach,” for example, had I not walked for hours with no map, exploring the small island of Koh Samui in Thailand.
Yes, it was a bit scary when I found myself in a field that may or may not have been a huge marijuana plantation guarded by ferocious dogs. Did I fear for my life a little? You bet!
But, as I placated the dogs by trying to show no fear and carried on walking (as turning back was not an option at that point)—I felt alive and exhilarated—as if I had really experienced something.
Especially when I got back to my hut on the other side of the island, and could finally relax and down a well-earned drink or two in both relief and victory.
Not all wanderings lead to potential peril—most are full of the ordinary and often overlooked beauties of life: a passing, warm conversation with a stranger, an unexpected patch of exuberant wildflowers on the side of the road, a lover you may have missed meeting by that shared glance as you pass one another.
Even in my hometown, some of the best conversations I’ve had have been happenstance because I was purely wandering, following a subtle intuition, or gliding through in a deep presence and appreciation of everything that spills out in front of me.
I’ve come to driving late in life; only this past year have I bought a car and acquired a license. I recently noticed a piece of joy missing from my life and for a while, I could not pinpoint what it was.
I was still enjoying regular bushwalks and exercising at the gym—so what could it be?
Why did I feel as if something vital to my existence was missing?
I attributed it to the loss of walking, in the day-to-day sense.
The epicenter of my small town is only four kilometers away; previously, I would walk to work to get groceries or to visit people. I would often see fellow walkers along the way—we would share greetings and smiles—a community of sorts.
If a rainbow chose to arc the sky, I would see it and revel in its colours awhile, my face upheld.
I could smell the flowers, the fresh-mown grass, and the distinctive petrichor of wet asphalt steaming up after a sudden summer shower.
I was exposed to the elements; I was a part of everything—expansive.
These things are nurturing, almost a luxury in this day and age, and something I am not willing to give up easily.
I highly recommend being a flâneur for a day, making it a regular habit. I am sure it aids in achieving peace of mind and relaxation.
Let’s face it, the world is beyond busy—constantly hustling us to be more, do more, eat this way, and look a certain way. So many people clamor for their opinions to be heard and seen.
But perhaps the best thing is to slow down a little and rediscover the joy of doing what looks like nothing.
Because, maybe, that nothing is everything.
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