Travellers use several different forms of transportation to arrive at various intended destinations. Some rent cars, others hitch-hike. Mountain bikes, public transport, and overnight trains are all pleasant travel methods. Although I use a variety of these means, my favourite way to explore is on foot.
Since my sudden surgery in France, I have discovered a new appreciation of my feet and their wondrous abilities. I was nearly paralyzed when I foolishly took an icy jump on my flimsy snowboard. I was off my feet for a full two weeks, and although I am still a lot slower than I was before, I am ecstatic to be walking at all.
“Take time to stop and smell the roses.”
Because my pace is a lot more, erm, relaxed, I am able to observe details I previously missed on my city jaunts. Like the old man and his dog who sit watching the ducks on the same corner of a metal bench every Tuesday. Like the blossoming buttercup field just out of view past the rotting farm fence. Like the small, struggling worm that emerged onto the concrete to greet the morning rain.
I walk to absorb and inhale life. It is impossible to receive the same experience trapped behind the thick glass of a tour bus. In order to truly appreciate a city, you must get outside and stroll its streets.
Not everything you see will be warm and welcoming, but it will be honest. Cities tend to have a pungent smell, rougher areas of town, crooked sidewalks, and ruthless traffic. I learned the hard way to carry a sweater, water bottle and umbrella with me everywhere, everyday, even if the sky promises sunshine.
Sometimes, I walk barefoot. I love feeling of the ground against my skin. I squish my toes into the sand and let the ocean lick my soles. When I walk, I am free and alive.
The blisters and muscle cramps accumulated by long walks are always worth the majesty and sincerity of a city and its inhabitants that you discover along the way. If you’ve never explored simply by wandering, take off your shoes, put down your map, and go get lost.