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.