Sometimes I pay close attention to the details in my surroundings: the way the speckles in the concrete sidewalk glitters when it catches the light, the curves in the neon storefront signage, how a plane seems to catch on fire as it jets across the setting sun, and the ponytailed runners weaving through and around us at their iPod playlist's pace. Most of the times I turn inward. I think on an idea or let the thoughts come and go as they please. I remember moments or create whole new scenarios. If I'm battling through a dilemma, this is when my mind fiddles around with it, mulling it over and over until I've reached some better understanding. If there's a conversation that needs to happen or a topic I want to discuss on the blog, this is usually when I start formulating the words I will express. Walking is when I let my mind do cartwheels in my head.
When I worked at my first magazine job, I'd look forward to temperate evenings in the summer. That's when I'd walk from Times Square and up 3.5 miles all along Central Park West before catching the train the rest of the way home. (Once I walked the whole nine miles there!) I'd wander and wonder about work, life, nature, even the mindless act of putting one foot in front of the other. Zen podcasts would sometimes turn the hour into an on-the-go lesson on any number of self-awareness topics.
Even if the route is the same, everything else is different. The people I cross paths with are different, the sky is different, I'm different. Depending on my mental and physical state, I might experience the walk in a new way day after day. Not only will I be exposed to new catalysts, but the thoughts I come away with because of them will be different every single time.
I recently discovered that Maira Kalman feels the way I do. In THNKR's interview with the artist/author for its Epiphany series, Kalman shares her feelings on walking and movement as a way of generating creativity and awareness.
"I'm always aware of the vulnerability of people and the heroism, the struggle to walk down the street, the choice of clothing, where are they going, what are they doing, who are they talking to. Walking enables your senses to really pick up lots of things and you can feel your body going through space," she says. "Walking clears your brain and fills your soul and makes you quite happy actually. A lot of what my work is is waiting for the unexpected and to be surprised, to be walking down the street and to not know what I'm going to see and go, 'Oh! A ha! That's what I was going to see today. That's what I was supposed to see today.'"
But my boyfriend, who hails from a land where everyone drives (Los Angeles), does not see traveling à pied the way I do. To A., walking without a destination is merely a vehicle towards Tiredville and he'd rather know exactly where Point B lies.
"Yes, but walk where?" he always replies to my invitations.
"Anywhere," I respond. How else will we stumble upon something new if we always know where we're going?
Walking and exploring is how we happened upon the best gelateria in the middle of Berlin and how we found ourselves having a wooden sword fight in a Florentine toy store. If we don't allow for the spontaneous, we will always know what to expect at the end of the journey, never leaving room for serendipity to step in.