Living

Published on June 15th, 2008 | by Justin Van Kleeck

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Green Walking 1: Go Walkabout

walkingInspired by Caroline Savery’s great post on bicycling in the city, I wanted to comment on yet another alternative mode of transportation: walking.

Walking? C’mon.

Yes, walking. Seriously. Walking is not only easy to do and inexpensive (unless you go all out and make it complicated and costly), but it is also a wonderful way to go green–to travel without using up one fuel source or another, to keep the planet and yourself healthy, and to enjoy the health-giving splendor of nature.

If you want to go green, then just go walkabout!

Green Walking? C’mon.

Yes, green walking. Walkabout. Seriously. And in order to facilitate your transition from normal, mundane, boring old walking to green walking, to walkabout, I offer here a brief introduction and field guide, a short vade mecum of tips for all the walkabouters.

1. First and foremost, for walking to be green walking or walkabout, it must be entirely sensual. Your walking should stimulate every sense in some way, and you should appreciate the stimulation and the sources with full reverence and revelry:

  • Sight: Look at the clouds in the sky, the sunrise or sunset, the flowers and the trees, the birds and the bugs. Get up close and personal with the contours of an iris, the iridescence of a beetle.
  • Hearing: Listen to the sounds of nature, from the breeze to the birdsongs, from the rain to the hail. Leave the walkman and the iPod at home so you can hear the music of nature.
  • Smell: Stop and smell the roses and anything else that you can. Even if the smell that strikes you is not entirely pleasant, notice it and recognize that nature smells like that, too.
  • Touch: Pet animals you pass (if you are sure they and their owners are friendly!), check out the feeling of tree bark or flower petals, take off your shoes and walk in the grass or in a puddle.
  • Taste: If you can forage along the way, from summer berries to dandelion greens, then enjoy eating wild. If not, take some natural vegetal food along with you–nuts, fruit, carrot sticks.

2. Walkabout should involve as little extra travel as possible. While it is great to take walks in natural areas, in state parks, at the beach, and so forth, you often have to travel some distance to get there…thus utilizing old-school, non-green, resource-consumptive transportation. Green walking is at its best when you just get out and go walkabout. Even if you do not live in the country, try to find the nature all around you wherever you are…and get out and walk in it!

3. Green walking also should be as simple as possible. Walkabout is all about you and nature, not you and your backpack and your hiking/camping gear and your digital camera and your laptop (to keep a blog going) and your GPS and your cell phone…. Do not go out and buy special “walking shoes,” just wear whatever is on your feet or go out in bare feet. Strip yourself of all the non-essentials–which, depending on your proclivities, may or may not include your clothes. (If clothing is a “non-essential” for you, then I recommend you know the laws in your area.) Walkabout is thus the cheapest, easiest, most readily available mode of locomotion ever known. The animals do it, heck even some plants do it, so humans can do it, too. And they have been doing it, long before the bike and the scooter and the automobile and the airplane.

4. Although jogging is a sub-type of green walking, the premier method of walkabout is done slowly. Your green walk should have plenty of “rest stops” along the way–so you can smell the roses, look at the sunrise, hold a butterfly that lands on your arm, pick up a turtle and take it to the other side of the street (always the one it was heading towards, remember!). Walkabout is best when it is meandering, wandering, rambling. Jogging offers less time to stop and appreciate all of the things that make a walk in nature wonderful, plus you are bouncing around all over the place and probably sweating profusely–an admittedly natural smell, but a bit overpowering and too close to home.

5. Walkabout is best conducted in a safe place and at a safe time. Try not to wander into known sketchy neighborhoods in the wee hours of the morning. You likely cannot, and surely should not, be sniffing flowers and petting animals at midnight in a neighborhood with a murder rate higher than some countries. Even the woods at night can be dangerous–from an increased risk of getting lost to a decreased ability to frighten away the wild things at the sight of a gangly furless biped. However, if your setting is secure, then go out as you feel inspired.

6. Last, but by far not least, green walking must be done with full and complete intention to experience nature while and through walking. Yes, my sisters and my brothers, walkabout should be your daily constitutional and your daily communion. Whether it takes up your morning or takes you next door to the neighbor’s, green walking occurs when you go out with an open heart and spirit, when your walk is the way for you to let nature permeate your every pore. You can do other things on the walk–go to the store, see a friend, exercise, walk off a big meal–but the primary purpose should be the communion and the reverie and the revelry. Walkabout should be a sacred nature experience.

However, you do not have to do the ideal walkabout out “in nature” to be a green walker and to contribute to the health of the planet. What makes walking so great, and so green, is that it is perfectly practical. You heard me right: Even when you cannot go “walkabout,” you can still go for a walk!

And in my next post, I will discuss green walking in the city, or urban walkabout. So go on out for a walk and come on back in a bit.

Image credit: Henri Bergius at Flickr.



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About the Author

I am an ethical vegan (since 1999), a writer, an educator, an activist, an organizer, and a vegan-of-all-trades. I have a PhD in English but then left academia to work on social change. I focus on veganism, animal rights, local foods, farming practices, environmentalism, and sustainability--starting from the position that humans are just one part of the biosphere, not the center of it.



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