walking: far & long

I think I’m finally figuring myself and this whole life thing out.

Just kidding, that won’t ever happen. But, I do appreciate stories and people that make me feel not so insane.

While listening to NPR the other morning, a story came on that immediately caught my attention. It was about Paul Salopek. He’s walking 21,000 miles. Yes. Walking. 21,000 miles. He calls is the “Out of Eden” walk because he’s following the path of human migration, from Africa to the Middle East, through Asia, down through Alaska and to the tip of South America.

John Stanmeyer/National Geographic

He. Is. Insane. And I mean that in all the best ways. Something about the way he thinks about life just makes sense to me. I have that insane thing built into my brain as well.

But, he said some things in the interview that really resonated with me, just made a whole lot of sense. It was about walking. About how magical it is, how intrinsic it is into the human body.

“On a psychic l level, it [walking] really builds confidence in your body. By and large after 10 months of walking, it is about the most natural thing in the world to get up at dawn, have a cup of chai and then plot a course to the next well, about 20-25 miles away.”

“There’s something about moving across the surface of the earth at 3 mph that feels really good; it feels normal and the landscape kind of sliding by your shoulders as you turn your head left and right. There must be something limbic about it, it must not even be cerebral. It’s in our backbones. It just feels like the right pace to be absorbing the landscape and information. So, its been a joy most days.”

Maybe this is why hiking feels so natural to me. It’s just what our bodies want to do, in a way. Out brains want to absorb, anything and everything.  And, most of the time we are moving so fast and have one zillion things on our mind that it’s prevented us from actually absorbing anything. The more things we can cram into our days, the more “productive” we feel like we are being. But, for me, my days are so full, I rarely have time to absorb the moments as they are happening.  Sometimes, I don’t think I know how to keep something in my brain for longer than a fleeting moment.

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Being removed from the normalcy of my day to day life, I realize that slowing down and absorbing rarely happens. Only when I’m surrounded by trees and lakes and mountains, do I realize that I am, in fact, capable of absorbing. To take in, to assimilate what’s happening at a  precise moment in time into my permanent mind bank and reflecting and molding myself because of the experiences I’ve had.

So, my challenge to myself is to walk.  To keep on walking and hiking and exploring the world around me at a slower pace. To step forward and realize how wonderful life is.

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