For a brief period I’d fallen into the habit of taking my iPhone with me on walks, letting an app run in the background to track my mileage, the terrain, my pace. I fell out out of it a few weeks ago when I neglected to charge it one night and awoke to a nearly dead battery. I realized I liked walking without it much better.
Even though I programmed it to speak in German to me, I began to recall enough minuscule vocabulary lurking in the depths of my memory to know exactly how fast I’d been walking… “Ein mile! Zeit; Funfzehn minuten, drei und zwanzig seconds…”. It’s exactly the thing that, while I may be interested in knowing, is not the reason I walk. In fact, it rather detracts from the experience.
Without it, I remember again why I really walk, why I adopted it as a sort of past-time, most importantly, who I learned it from; my beautiful dog, Sky. Like her, I make no distinction about walking being healthy or not healthy. If eating 3 pounds of bacon a day was as much fun I’d probably do that instead. For her it was never about the chance to pee and crap. It was always a grand journey.
And that is exactly what walking is for me. It’s a thrilling sightseeing tour, a scavenger hunt for things I never knew I was looking for. Exercise? Healthy? OK. Fine. But that’s never been the point of it. I live for seeing new things. Seeing all the familiar things changing from day to day, and turning up streets and lanes and through ravines I never knew existed. Seeing leaves growing, a couch dumped far in a ditch, happening across blind cats, lost matchbox cars, occasionally finding money (including once, a $100 bill…).
There are other things. Stuff you bring with you when you walk out the door and discard along the way. Places where I’ve left thoughts, hopes, anger, frustrations in trees and shrubs and facades of houses I’ll never walk past again lest I think of them again. Meditations about life and the layers of its texture, letting my mind wander, only being interrupted by something better, brighter, stranger than what I’m currently mulling over.
One of my favorite routes takes me past a gym with treadmills lined up to face a plaza on a mall. I walk by there, watching people sweating it out, eyes fixed on the televisions only a few feet from their faces. I see my reflection in the window they look out of, me smiling, almost laughing, seeing none of them with an expression that extends beyond a grimace. I wonder what keeps them there.
Maybe Steve Jobs said it best, “the journey is the reward”. I know this is true, because the more you quantify and plan it, the less any of life becomes a journey at all…