The roads less traveled

Walking for the sake of walking can take you places

I love to walk. I don't run, I walk. I try to walk as much as possible. When I wake up and see the weather is nice I drink a cup of coffee, put on my shoes and go for a morning walk. There is no better way to wake up the body and get the juices flowing. It's fantastic to see the sun rise and the world slowly wake up.

Sometimes I go for a late evening walk to wind down. When it's dark and silent outside. It makes you see the same road that you walked during the morning in totally new light. The street lights, or if you are lucky, the moon.

Night walk
Silent evening walk in the neigbourhood

Luckily, I live in the city surrounded by water and lots of green areas. City is where I do all my walking. I love to walk in the woods but unfortunately it's hard to find them nearby (walking distance).

Cities are actually great to walk in and can be a very interesting experience. Every time I travel to a new city I make sure to go for a walk. Alone. Preferably in the evening, when it's dark outside. It might seem weird but I love to see the lights from the street lights. Neon signs on the buildings. Car lights. Random people passing by. Couples in love. And the silence of the evening. There is something magical about it.

Usually I walk without any destination in mind. I walk just for the sake of walking. Maybe you could call me a flâneur.

However, back home I have a few different static routes to chose from. I know how long time each one takes and I can decide on the which one to take depending on how much time I have.

I know these routes by heart. They are well prepped, asphalted roads specifically made for people who like to walk or jog. People like me and you. People who do it because it's what everyone says you should do. It's good for your body and health.

However, I don't do it for the sake of my health. I do it for the sake of walking.

And if you do it right it can be a super interesting and pleasant experience.

But what is right?

When I walk I see many people either run or walk fast. 80% of people have headphones on (with probably some interesting podcast on) or they walk and talk on the phone.

(Some people also run and talk on the phone. I will never understand it.)

When you have your headphones plugged in you literally try to shut off your surroundings. Why? Are you trying to maximize your life?

If you do one thing do one thing only, not two.

Walking is thinking. Walking is observing the world. Walking is enjoying life.

I've come to discover that there are actually two types of walking - automatic and exploratory.

Automatic is when you go for a walk on a common route that you know by heart. It's a great way to engage in thinking activity. Because you know the route you can just put your feet on autopilot and engage your brain instead.

Actually, you don't need to engage your brain that much if you don't want to. All you need to do is to think about something hard enough before you go for a walk. During the walk you can outsource the problem to your unconscious self and just observe the thoughts as they pop up in your head. Maybe something useful will pop up maybe not. From my experience it usually does.

Second mode of walking is exploratory. This is my favorite mode of walking. It's when you deviate from the main road and walk on some road you never walked before. I try to do it often because it's fun.

This type of walking is very active. You are forced to be present, to be aware. You have to make decisions. You have to scan your surroundings because you are in the unknown territory. You have to be in the now.

It's also beautiful. You see new things. You might discover something interesting. You might learn something. You explore your surroundings.

How do you do it?

When you walk on the road just turn left or right to some other connecting road. It's the road you never walked before but it's OK. You approximately know your main direction anyway. Now you just have to figure out how to get there and see where you end up.

Most roads that connect to the main road are smaller but still well maintained. Not that many people walk there but still many do. If the road is there it must lead somewhere, right? Just take it.

The road you took might have a fork in it. It's up to you decide if you should take left or right. You still have the approximate sense of direction in your head. Use your best judgment and take a chance.

It's most likely that the road you chose at the fork might be even smaller and less maintained, but still it's a road and you can see that others have walked there before you. So it's safe to assume that you are not a trailblazer.

Maybe, after walking for some time, you discover that that road comes to a dead end. (It happened to me a couple of times.) That's not the end of the world. You can always go back the way you came to the main road and take the path most traveled. The safe path. The path everyone walks.

But there is a big chance that if you carefully look around, standing there at the dead end, you might notice a small path leading into the woods or a small fence that you can climb over. You don't know where this new path leads but it's still an option, right? It's now up to you decide if you want to continue your adventure or turn back.

There is no shame in turning back. After all, you just lost some time and energy. But if you turn back will you not regret that you never took the road less traveled? That tiny, bare visible path?

If there is a path it means that someone has walked if before you. Not many but some.

Where does that path lead?

Aren't you curious to find out?

Remember, you can always turn back.

Heck, you might just substitute the word walk with work in this article.