In praise of walking

For the past decade, I’ve been able to walk to my work. 10 years ago, that commute was a half-an-hour jaunt across the centre of Dublin. Since 2007, we’ve worked from home, and so my walk to work has been measured in seconds.

When I can walk to work, I find that most of my other needs fall within walking distance, too. Whether we’re living in Victoria, Malta or Victoria, BC, groceries, restaurants, medical services and the like have just been a stroll away. When we can, we plan our living circumstances around this proximity, and I’m the happier for it.

As I think about it, walking reminds me that I’m living my life at a healthy, sustainable pace. I don’t have to hop into a car to beat the traffic so that I can make it to the office on time, or get to a store before it closes.

I appreciate that this kind of lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Your average North American family lives in the suburbs, and so they can’t walk to school, work or the rest of their lives away from home. They routinely need cars to get where they’re going. My choice to walk is the privilege of a childless, middle-class knowledge worker. Of course, in many small towns around the world, walking is still the way of life for much of humanity.

Here in France, I walk every day. Usually it’s down to the local shops–the grocery store, la pâtisserie and la boucherie. I also walk up and down the Canal du Midi a lot. It’s very pleasant to follow the meandering path of the slow-moving canal, shaded by plane trees.

I recently learned about the Camino de Santiago, a Catholic pilgrimage in northern Spain, and one of many such pilgrimages throughout Europe. While I’m not Catholic, I do see the appeal in a moving ritual that lasts a month and leaves you alone with your thoughts and surroundings.



  1. When we were house shopping last year, one of the priorities for me was to be within walking distance of some basic amenities. I wanted, at the bare minimum, a decent grocery store, a coffee shop, and a few places to eat. And I’m all the happier for it now that I live in the Willingdon Heights area in Burnaby. I’m walking distance to some great shops on Hastings, as well as Lougheed Highway and Brentwood Mall.

    Since I work out of a home office, I don’t have to commute anywhere and I have since gotten rid of my car. I walk out to get groceries or get a cup of coffee. I’ve been trying to make it a habit to walk more often, as sitting in front of a computer all day lends itself to a rather sedentary lifestyle. So, yes, I’m definitely with you on this one.

  2. walking 1km a day is the best form of exercise

    if you drive everywhere every day your lifestyle is not sustainable both for the world and your body no matter how rich you are. Families do have choices!

  3. We did this about 4 years ago:

    Route profile:

    And did this two years ago:

    Route profile:

    I think we did each in 11 days. Of the two, the Hadrian’s Wall path was the more enjoyable and the Cotswold was definitely a more energetic walk.

    Basically, the company (there are quite a few that do this) books the B&B for each night of your travel. You get up, have breakfast, put on a day pack and follow the directions to your next stop. While you’re walking a van comes along, picks up your baggage and delivers it to the next stop where it awaits your arrival.

    The only serious potential issue is waking up and finding it pouring. You can’t stay where you are because all of your bookings have already been made.

    If you’re interested in this sort of walking then you might want to check out the Long Distance Walking Association site at

    In case you’re wondering how difficult these walks are, I’m old enough to be Darren’s father.

  4. One further comment … if you are interested in doing this then you might want to consider setting up your itinerary so that, in the middle, you stay 2 days at a B&B — for R&R purposes or just to take a break. The booking companies will set this up and advise you what the area is like. At one stop, the B&B was in the middle of nowhere but the next day, the B&B was on the edge of a nice little town with a pub about 100 metres down the road. So, depending on what floats your boat, you might prefer the extra day at one or the other.

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