My relationship with walking goes back to just after my first birthday party. I was an only child and my only cousins near my age lived miles and miles away. There also were not a lot of kids on my block, so I never saw any toddlers until that party. To hear my mom tell it, I saw these people my own size (and my own age, literally. The party was for my mom’s suitemates from the hospital where I was born) walking around seemed to give me a chance to really observe what they were doing and copy it.
My relationship with walking on trips doesn’t go back nearly as far. During most of my trips to Florida and North Carolina, we spent a lot of time in cars. We did occasionally walk, like when we would go to a state park or the time we climbed to the top of the mountain that my grandfather’s cabin was on once, but other than that there wasn’t much walking being done.
Once we started going to other destinations besides Florida and North Carolina, we started walking more. On our first non-family-related trip, we walked along the Mississippi River for a while just to do it. Our first really major walking trip was probably our trip to Canada in 1981. My mom and I calculated that we walked around ten miles in Quebec City in one day. When I asked my dad what was up with all of the walking, he told me that you really cannot see things from cars. You need to be down on street level to really understand the place where you are traveling.
And in the years since then I have walked a lot in many locations, both in the United States and abroad. I don’t walk absolutely everywhere, because there is a limit to how much walking I can do (about 12 miles in one day, apparently, based on my busiest day in my 2015 vacation). But I do love to walk down the street of a town or a city and see the people and the buildings.
And I do notice some interesting buildings. During my recent trip to New York, a building caught my eye. When I got home, I researched it and it turned out to be the High Line Hotel, which was previously the General Theological Seminary. And the land the seminary stood on had been donated to the Episcopal diocese by Clement Clarke Moore who wrote the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Moore’s family had owned the land, and the entire surrounding area, since Moore’s grandfather’s time. I doubt that any tour buses even go through that area, and I may never have noticed the building even if the bus had gone down there. I only saw that building because I was walking.
My son is now a teenager and he has recently asked me why we walk so many places, when we could take a bus or a cab instead. And all I could do was quote his grandfather to him. I also told him that I asked the same thing of my own dad at his age. I also had to warn him (playfully, of course) that 33 years down the line, he may well be explaining to his own teenager(s) why they do so much walking when they travel.