I just got back from Europe, and like many of us who take a long vacation I worried that eating out, not having my normal gym routine, and spending hours traveling would leave me feeling sluggish and out of shape, not to mention a few pounds heavier.
Instead, I felt better than ever. Ironically, now that I’m back some sluggishness has set in that’s not jet-lag, but rather, what I suspect is heavily related to me getting back to my car and away from the primary mode of transport I used in Spain: my feet.
We’ve all heard the research about how little Americans walk (on average 4-6,000 steps daily) compared to other nations (take Switzerland, for example, at 8-10,000).
Yes! The most basic, affordable, good-for-us, mode of transport has, for some of us, left our radar screen as a daily option. We know the mechanics—one foot in front of the other, heel-toe propulsion—but we don’t know the applications. There are miles of distance between our impulse to pick up our car keys and go somewhere than to lace up some comfortable shoes, leave earlier, brave the elements and put ourselves on the street, free of steel casing and speed.
More than that, we’ve habitualized ourselves into the goal of Not Walking, sometimes going so far as to be affronted if we have to do it. Maybe we don’t believe in, or have forgotten, the foundational goodness of walking.
Well-meaning friends driving by me as I walk often stop and insist I let them drive me where I’m going. It’s clear they want to help me out of the undesirable condition I’ve found myself in—facing the potential for crime, bad weather and menacing traffic. I have one friend, always attractive and well-dressed, who has been mistaken for being homeless when she walks places. The sad truth is that walking around anywhere, particularly to get somewhere and outside of “walking paths” (when any path used to be for walking) is, well, sorta weird.
I think back to the Europeans I was just surrounded by. The streets of Barcelona, at 10 o’clock every night, are teaming. Loaves of bread peak out of bags in the arms of striding shoppers. Old women stroll arm in arm. Children bop along singing. You want to see someone you know? Start walking and sooner or later you’ll run into them. That doesn’t happen when we’re driving.