A Walk in the Park
June 8, 2015. A Monday. Like most, mundane. Emails, steel cut oatmeal, errands. Morning passes without event and the day continues to march towards its highest point. For me, that’s lunch. Craving locally sourced fare, and wanting to enjoy the summer breeze, I opt to walk the two miles to Brooklyn’s best joint. More than satisfied, I stroll in the direction of home.
Now, there’s an art to this type of amble. It’s not necessarily vigorous or purposeful. Things once obscured by the bustle of the city become clear. Shoot, it’s almost as though they tease, “Hey you, cross the street and take a closer look!” The ordinary reveals its inherent extraordinary. Cell phone reminders go ignored. Topological maps drawn on restaurant napkins may be referenced, but need not be.
This is the type of stroll that yields restoration and contemplation. 21 Questions with self, for sure. What’s for dinner? Would that brownstone sell if it had curb appeal? How much is postage to send a letter to Thailand? Was that pothole there last week? Would it be possible to walk everywhere for the entire week? No subway, no car, no bike, no boat, no piggyback ride? Can I do it? Will I? YES.
That 4-mile roundtrip loop —home to lunchtime feast to home again— became a 12-mile meander. The work week ended and became an experiment in time management and proper footwear decisions. 5 Days, 4 Boroughs, 79 miles and reoccurring daydreams about traversing the country on foot — for a cause. Fast forward five months and I’ve found it: National Park Foundation.
An October invitation to join the Find Your Park Expedition (#FYPx) to explore and celebrate our nation’s protected treasures landed me in South Western Colorado / Four Corners Region. Along with 7 other diverse millennials from across the country, I stood first at the feet of the Great Sand Dunes. By day, the dunes were majestic —of course— but by night, other worldly. The vast open brilliant sky seemed worlds away from the bright lights of Broadway and the Big City. Here, the real stars came out and wow did they shoot and shine! Our caravan traveled next to Mesa Verde and we were humbled by antiquity of the built environment and the sunrises that glowed in ROY G. BIV glory over petroglyph trails.
Travel, like walking, is to start a conversation about places, people and sights. Sometimes that conversation is with companions real time, sometimes it’s a retelling of observations with folks back home. Sometimes that conversation is just with yourself. Meditations on freedom and exploration, legacy and majesty, personal growth and the future. Meditation, as in the merging of breath and body. Meditation on harmonizing that body with the environment be it manufactured, bordered and city scaped. Desert, forest, sea or mountain.
Now, you might be asking, “If one typically walks in a city, will one be primed for a hike in a national park, in the woods or on an incline?” Sure! All trails have profiles that describe distance, difficulty, technical challenge and notes of interest. Choose your fancy. Hiking mustn’t be a gear extravagant affair nor does it have to yield Instagram worthy fodder. Last month I hiked in Colorado’s Mesa Verde National Park and just yesterday I walked from Brooklyn to the Bronx, it was a hike! Walk to think, to explore, for exercise, for the temporary suspension of routine, to get from point A to point B.
Try this, make it mindful. Pocket your smart device. Feel how the texture of the pavement/trail changes. Who are the characters that you encounter and what makes them unique? That tree with the distinct notch in the center, the group of kids drawing chalk rainbows in the middle of the sidewalk. Listen to the sounds around you, there’s a natural rhythm there. Walk in the wrong direction, get lost -- and find yourself in the end.
Here’s to a long walk. Here’s to advancing by steps,
P.S. Wait, I’ve got some questions for you. Yes, YOU!
- Where is your favorite place to walk?
- What was the longest or most memorable walk you’ve ever taken?
- If you could walk anywhere in the world, where and with whom would you walk?
- Did you know that you can raise real money for the National Park Foundation by walking and logging Charity Miles? Simply download the free app, choose NPF as your charity of choice, select your type of activity and you’re off! For more, please visit: CharityMiles.org
Andia Winslow participated in the National Park Foundation’s 2015 Find Your Park Expedition. A Yale alumna and founder of The Fit Cycle, she is also a professional golfer, master certified fitness professional/sports performance coach, and on-air TV personality. You can follow Andia's adventures and connect with her on her website, Twitter, Periscope using @AndiaWinslow, Instagram, Snapchat using AndiaWinslow, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, and Tumblr.
Photo credits: Victor Wei, Casey Schreiner, and Christpher Grant.