Lately I’ve been reading Paul Theroux’s “The Tao of Travel,” a compilation of travel writings and reflections from both Theroux as well as his favorite travelers and authors. Chapter 13 talks about the art of walking and its importance for the pilgrim, the wanderer, the writer, poet and artist.
Walking, he says, “is a spiritual act; walking on one’s own induces meditation.” The walker, he says, is like the French flâneur, a “stroller, saunterer, drifter — the essence of a traveler.”
I’m not a walker by nature, but there is a restless part of me that longs to be on the move, to see the world on the ground and face-to-face. And there’s something about being able to walk the streets of a major metropolitan city or hike down a country road; a brief moment of lucidity, perhaps.
The hardest part about being home in Orange County is the inability to walk. There isn’t anything within walking distance from my home, unless I walk for walking’s sake (and let me tell you, the suburbs are not exactly what you would call “scenic”). There are some very pretty hikes, like Inspiration Point, Newport Back Bay, and Top of the World, but they aren’t something I can do on a daily basis.
As a growing writer, one of the things I know I need to learn most is to be a walker, to be an observer and ruminator. To not just see the world around me as it is, but to also meditate on what it all means and how it connects to the human experience as well as my own.
That may be one of the things I miss most about being in London. I walked everywhere. To class, to the bus stop, to the next Tube platform, to meet up with friends, to explore by myself. There’s always something to see or do, some place to walk to. And if you go outside of London, it’s even better (Aside: If I hadn’t been so ill on my last visit with Elizabeth, I would have walked all over Keswick, which was beautiful and stormy and serene all at once).
Even at home, I get antsy to be on the move, to eat at new restaurants, visit new parks, see different neighborhoods and meet new people. But the reality of my life right now is that I need to be patient, and to learn to be still — physically, existentially and spiritually. Maybe a stroll or two around the cul-de-sac will do me some good.