Before there were clocks or calendars, our first step out of primordial ooze started us down a sacred path we’ve walked ever since. Yet it took a health kick for me to consider the way most people travel — on foot.
My radically pedestrian lifestyle began a few years ago when I traded late night fun for early morning training as a participant in the 3 Day, a 60 mile walk benefiting Komen for the Cure.
Why a klutz like me committed to such an adventure eluded most who knew me well. I once broke my ankle in the U.S. days prior to my scheduled departure for a hike across Africa. (I went anyway.) I’d also rollerbladed into a tree, giving myself a black eye on the eve of a job interview. (I didn’t get an offer.) But rather than see those missteps (or rather, mis-skates) as accidents, I consider myself “opportunity-prone.”
This opportunity to stay active without equipment, class fees, or a gym membership also allowed extra time with my beloved sister, who I’d cheered four years earlier at a similar event in NYC. Now we were teammates, though we trained differently to cover as many miles as possible when Texas’ summer sun made being outdoors unbearable — my sister walking her dog after dinner; me waking up pre-dawn for a 10 mile trek to Starbucks.
In our sea level-flat hometown of Dallas, even mid-rise buildings stand out on the horizon. Distances I’d driven my whole life were transformed. What residents of cities with great mass transit like Paris, London, Madrid and NYC have in common with people of the developing world, I discovered in my mid-30s: life without road rage. Step by step, yard by yard, and neighborhood by neighborhood, I learned that if I can see my destination, I can walk to it — even a far-off downtown skyscraper. In contrast to hiking while camping or strolling on vacation, I began noticing how much of my everyday world I miss from inside a vehicle. I discovered public artworks with sculptural details too subtle to see at 40 MPH. I noticed the smells of baking bread, fresh cut grass, grilled meat, rainclouds about to burst, and chimneys smoking. I realized Dallas Area Rapid Transit lacks shade or seats at most bus stops. I stumbled off sidewalks which inexplicably disappeared mid-block from beneath my feet, usually at a blind curve beside a six-lane road. I jaywalked in traffic, Frogger-style. Now I live a mile from my downtown office and have walked hundreds of miles in my neighborhood, commuting by foot more than by car. My sis and I are training for another 3 Day next year.
The pulse of footfalls are a rhythm essential to our life, as is our heartbeat and breath. We were born to travel on long journeys upright and at a pace. Since ancient times, the wise have known and shown, by walking, we create sacred music.