If you’ve ever spent any time outside of the U.S., one of the first things you will likely notice is how accessible everything seems to be. Whether it is Europe, the Far East, South America or even our friends to the North, the cities I’ve visited all have a way of making their world feel more local. Everywhere you go, everyone seems to be walking. Some may be on bikes, or pushing a carriage. But if there is an option to go on two feet, chances are it is the preferred way to go. More importantly, their destinations all seem to be within walking distance.
And maybe it is a bit of a “what came first, the chicken or the egg” argument, but I cannot help wonder of people outside the U.S. walk more because everything they need is within walking distance, or if everything is within walking distance because people just like to walk. Either way, you don’t see the glut of cars and traffic in most villages and towns in Europe. You see people of all ages out walking. Rain or shine. They walk to work. They walk to school. They walk to get their groceries. Whatever the time of day or occasion, they walk!
Yes, it may be that their small towns are more pedestrian-friendly and big cities more picturesque and compact, but walking has really paid off for the continent. I rarely see obesity in Europe, even though Europeans do like their rich foods. In fact, even very old and frail men and women walk everywhere: running errands, shopping, and hauling everything back home to an old apartment building without elevators. If they can do it, so can we! Putting walking to practice will really make a difference in how we look, how we feel about ourselves, our ability to get in touch with our world and yes, finally meet the neighbors who live and work right next door!
“Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors…disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it.”
Walking will undoubtedly take a concentrated effort. Too many towns and communities have not made available sidewalks and pedestrian-safe cross walks a priority. In my own community, you practically have to take your life in your own hands to cross the street less than a block from my house and despite the fact that the corner is a daily school bus stop for children, the city planners have failed to see the need for a painted cross walk. We don’t let that deter us, we simply walk the opposite direction!
Find ways that you can walk more this year and put your feet to work for you! Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Take the parking space farthest from the building instead of the closest. Walk to the deli across the way at lunch instead of driving. Ditch the treadmill on Saturdays for the real thing and go find a park or a country road that you can really get out and explore.
There are plenty of ways to get moving and leave behind today’s sedentary lifestyle. Simply put your mind to it, and you can begin to make a difference.