We walk - it is in our nature. the Romans used to say, "Solvitur ambulando." All is solved by walking.
From baby's first steps across a room from Mommy's or Daddy's arms, walking leads to discovery. A baby looks at its surroundings and absorbs everything in awe, and so should we. When taken as exploration and not as transportation, a walk can help a person regain perspective and satisfy the inherent desires of wanderlust.
First, you have to stop thinking of it as an alternative to the bus. That kind of walking turns the legs into a vehicle that carries you from point A to point B. You wind up doing it because you have commitments - be they to school or work. Make the walk your end, not your means.
I walk as a luxury. I walk for the sake of walking. I walk because I can walk. Most importantly, since the walk is foremost, I leave my technological "miracles" at home.
An iPod, cell and laptop are constant reminders of a fast-paced, multi-tasking society that equates unstructured time with wasted time. And what if you destroy one of those toys by dropping it on a sidewalk or in a slushy snowbank? Nobody needs that kind of added stress at this time of year.
Portable devices are like environmental blinders. A "walking" playlist only blocks the world from directly communicating with me, and I with it. It also puts more focus on the music and takes me to the point where I'm no longer walking; I'm simply listening to music.
The same goes for cells. Sometimes my phone enables me to ignore honking cars or Sick Kids canvassers, because I'm only half present and can shift in and out of touch with my immediate surroundings when I find it opportune.
A laptop in my bag weighs me down, and not just physically. There's always the guilt of not transcribing some interview I did last week. My brain begins to seek out high-density housing areas to gauge free wireless potential, as if I'll fall off the face of the earth if I can't log onto MSN.
To truly walk, I must ditch the gadgets. By casting off the headphones clamped on my skull, taking a reprieve from wireless waves frying my brain cells and giving up the urge to check how many people have viewed my Friendster profile this month (not many), I allow myself to reintegrate with my surroundings.
Like a chiropractor twisting and crunching a spine into sync, walking for me is therapy - but free. I set out from my house with no planned destination, with my eyes set on realigning myself with the space around me.
My New Year's resolution: to appreciate the walk for what it is at its purest. We don't have five senses because we have to be doing five separate things at once. Why not try to get them all working together in harmony?
Lately, that's meant strolling through the maze of garage-lined alleys from Bloor to Queen, usually a solitary journey.
It helps me understand more about how my neighbourhood used to look, and what kind of people used to live there. Every garage is fairly unique, and many look like someone nailed together whatever supplies the wind blew onto their lawn during the building process.
At night, when I don't have the balls to meander all wide-eyed down some cutthroat lane, the crunch of a frozen sidewalk and the simple comfort of the moderately to terribly gaudy Christmas lights make me happy.
I guess that's the real value of walking: it reminds me of simple pleasures. Rambling gives me perspective on my work and home, hints that I don't actually need an Xbox 360 like the TV keeps insisting, and, most importantly, keeps me grounded.