May 25, 2006

Walking Outside

In an earlier post, I described some of the experience of walking to work and back. The first thing that I described was dealing with the weather, because that’s first thing that people ask about, but I wanted to make a larger point. It’s not just the weather, but the exposure to the outside, especially compared to driving in a car, that makes the walk different from the drive.

We’re so used to being protected by our cars when we travel that I think there’s a distinct feeling of exposure when we’re out of our cars. The weather – especially the rain and wind – is the most obvious and most easily talked about aspect of being outside. But there’s more. For one thing, people see you out on the sidewalks – anonymity is more assured if you’re in your car. I occasionally have people tell me that they’ve seen me walking to or from work. For another, there are more potential interactions with strangers, someone who falls into stride with you or whom you meet when you stop at a crosswalk. There’s a greater potential of coming face to face with a stranger on foot, even when there are very few people out, than there is in a car in heavy traffic. I think that some people would consider that a problem or a danger.

Ultimately, that exposure is part of what I like about the walk. I think it’s part of what I like about hiking, too, that it gets me out. I like the feeling of freedom that moving about the world on my own two feet brings me.

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