“Walkers are ‘practitioners of the city,’ for the city is made to be walked. A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities.” – Rebecca Solnit
Many people will claim the joy of woodland hiking, long walks on the beach and strolls through beautiful leafy parks, but give me a city brimming with history, a pair of good headphones and my internal compass, and you won’t see me again until nightfall.
When living in London, restlessness would smother me. A world of thoughts and should haves, could haves, must haves would hijack my mind and all I could think to do was to get out and walk. Just be. I would alienate myself from the furore of life oddly by immersing myself in the thick of it.
I liked the feel of the pavement under my feet, the city smells, the towering buildings, the jostle of people—but I wasn’t a part of it. I was detached. I was my own world amongst many other worlds and I would walk myself to exhaustion only to arrive home once more; leg muscles shaking and soulful.
I will leave the house immediately after breakfast and not return until past dinner time. I still can’t explain how I walked from my apartment in Borough, across the River Thames and into Richmond Park. Within hours, I had traded skyscrapers and wrought iron fences for wild deer and grey skies.
Ask me the public transport links in any of the cities I’ve visited and I’ll be hazy in my response, but ask me how I walked there and I’ll happily whisk you away in a tale of cobbled streets and antique lamp posts, men with thick eyebrows and women with slender ankles, children with rosy cheeks, weathered bicycles, shiny cars, low flying birds, and miles of architecture. Whenever a friend, or friend of a friend, has come to London asking me where to go or what to do, my response has always been the same: walk and let the city give itself back to you. You will never be finished with a good city, and walking is one of the best ways to uncover some of its secrets.
Will my way of travel be the quickest route to the destination? Naturally, the answer to the question lies in the assumption that there ever was a destination to begin with. The short answer is always no.
Walking a city is about so much more than arriving somewhere. You must surrender to it.