You perhaps have read the reports about walking daily. There is a number they say to hit. Its about 10k steps a day for some kind of return on the effort. I wanted to write a blog post about walking for a few reasons but to explain and discuss the why and how of what I do and the differences its made in life and the quality of life for me. See if you can find yourself in this.
First a little background. I am not good at sports at all. I cannot do the usual ones like golf, tennis, raquetball or handball. I also am not good at the endurance ones like jogging or running and I don’t do the strength building things like weight lifting. I don’t care for swimming either and could not do it everyday. I think many of the sports would just bore me beyond belief. As I searched around over a decade ago, we had a Golden Retriever and we were told the dog needed daily exercise. So out we went! We started at 15 minutes a day and then made it to 30. She was so happy to be out! She would make it to this park and chase bunnies, make up with people especially kids, and she was also the neighborhood dog that everyone wanted to meet. Kids would come over and ask if Misty could come out to play. She wanted to walk and run and play with the kids. Retrievers are like kids for a long time. Our vet said give it 5 years and she will grow up somewhat. Somewhere around the second year perhaps she started having problems getting up from laying down. It soon became painful for her to walk longer distances so she dropped out of the walking. By that time we were up to 30 to 45 minutes each day that we would time. Soon she had to sit the walks out and the misery on her face was torture. Playing with the kids in the neighborhood became more difficult too. Chasing a ball or frisbee became difficult. She became a sad house dog and lived that way for years.
I continued to walk though. I walked through rain and winds and desert heat. I walked through divorce and very unhappy times. I walked to walk but only by myself. Going out with my soon to be ex-wife was torture and I still lived at home while things were going down. That’s another story though so I won’t go there. Anyways, I was up to over an hour a day of timed walks and i would have an app time my walks and give me the route. I was looking for times around the 1 to 2 hour range each day. I widened it to walking in various cities like Vancouver, Seattle, Kyoto, Sydney, San Diego. You get the idea.
I did both kinds of walking for a few years. The timed and distance managed walking and then the free form city walking for hours a day. The city walking was much more interesting since I also took my camera and was able to walk for around 5 hours per day. I also did not time it or look at the distance. I still had for a long time a pedometer app that gave me stars if I reached a goal.
In 2018 I would retire and the whole thing changed. I went for a last walk where I timed it around 27 February 2018. It was in Union City California and I went for almost 1.5 hours jamming to music and just going.
Now walking was gonna change to the second form. You see I found two forms of walking:
- walking times and distances with an app to tell you things and goals to be set. This type of walking gives you the day of walking and I would do it every day after work around Mountain View or at home. I received goal reports and distance and gps reporting.
- city walking with no distances and gps measurements. This is what I call free-form walking and you just go every day. I have done this just about every day now for the two years of retirement. There are no goals or distances. There is the day and the walking and the camera and things to see.
So what is better? Some more competitive or wishing daily reporting may need the first one. It provides compelling goals and lets you see your path and distance. It lets you time the things and get feedback on meeting a goal. Perhaps you need that. For me the second form of walking is the best. I don’t do goals or records or responsibilities and I don’t accept challenges. I get out every day to only walk with the camera or iPhone to take pictures and here in Southeast Asia I have walked in Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Other places I have walked have been Hong Kong and Japan.
So what do I get from it? Its indescribable and basic and metaphysical and wonderful and frustrating at times. Its the way I live and each day is spent seeing a place by steps and frames of a camera. There is nothing to reach so I don’t. There is no goal so I don’t miss or attain. I can say because the Apple health app tells me I walk about 5 to 7 miles a day and some days more. I have walked up to 10 miles but its a bit much for me.
If you are casting about for something and want a thing that will lift you up to see the thing in front of you and let you find places and things even in familiar surroundings you may never have seen, I don’t believe bicycling or running or other ways lets you see the familiar and the unique and find the unique in the familiar like walking. Its the most basic ways of transport. Hunter-Gatherers were good at it. We are all good at it or we can be. Its our two legs and our minds and our moments that kind of bend together and let us see both the familiar and unique in a single glance.
For me, its been my best friend, problem solver, and it lets me see what is next to me and on the horizon that much better. Sometimes it frustrates me. It always gives me a glimpse and a taste of the road and perhaps the road less traveled. Walking in cities in Southeast Asia soon takes you out of the touristy and backpacker areas and you may find yourself waving at kids in Da Nang, talking with a nice couple in Saigon, or trying that street food in Siem Reap. Its all there for you. One step at a time.