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May 11, 2020

For peace of mind, good health or to rediscover that inner self, walking is the trick! Where on earth did everyone come from?

There were teenagers on bikes, and moms with young kids, an older couple with their new puppy and even a dad on a skateboard this morning. And there was Nik, who I hadn’t seen in, literally years. Or was it Nik? I couldn’t quite tell from the mutli-colour mask he was wearing. As I rounded the corner the ever inquisitive 5 year old Thando with his endless questions about my adventures, strolled into view with his dad.

Until this week I had no idea that so many people loved walking in my neighbourhood. Ok granted we are restricted to 5km from home for our daily outdoor fix between 6am and 9am during this extended lockdown, thanks coronavirus. So maybe it’s sheer desperation and not much love for walking itself that has everyone out.

According to poet Gary Snyder, “walking is the great adventure, the first meditation, a practice of heartiness and soul primary to humankind. Walking is the exact balance between spirit and humility.”

THE GREAT ADVENTURE 

What is it that makes walking such a great adventure? Learning to walk for a start. Ask any 12 or 14 month old toddler. For myself I know my most exciting adventures took place while out walking. My work as a wilderness guide literally depends on walking. My first first long-distance hike was mostly a solo mission to scout a walkable route for the Eden to Addo Great Corridor Hike, which turned out to become an amazing almost 400km trek from Knysna to Addo Elephant National Park.

I reflect on the adventures the first humans who wondered out of Africa may have had. Paul Salopek, a National Geographic adventurer is currently retracing these old migration routes in a 10 year long adventure — all on foot.

Supplied by: @gardenroutewalkingfestival
Supplied by: @gardenroutewalkingfestival

THE FIRST MEDITATION 

For years now I have had a daily walking practice. A moment on one’s own to think and reflect. To take in the world early in the morning as the sun crests the distant horizon across the bay, one’s mind wonders, and yet it is always brought back to the present, through the shriek of a seagull or the break of a particularly large wave. On the beach I find I can walk and get lost in thought without literally getting lost. It is deeply meditative. There is something about the pace of the heart and the pace of ones thinking that comes into perfect alignment. Rebecca Solnit in her wonderful book, Wanderlust: A History of Walking highlights that walking is both physical and meditative, it “strikes a delicate balance between working and idling, being and doing.”, she says.

In this vein there is a whole series of walking meditations one can practice. Its soulful, restful and de-stresses.

THE EXACT BALANCE 

Walking I have found brings me literally back to earth. Feet on the ground. Brings me into contact with the neighbours, with where I am, and the ecosystem in which I live. We are also vulnerable when walking, more so than sitting in a car or a bus. We greet people we pass, it grows social connection and a sense of belonging.

In the end I am aware of how walking connects us to each other, to ourselves and to nature.

My lockdown walk this morning reminded me why walking is so important, for myself but also for my community. I phoned up Nik when I got home, it was him behind the mask. One thing led to another and, now we are collaborating on a new business opportunity together. We can keep our distance in this time, but we can also keep reaching out. Walking helps clear our mind of negative thoughts, keeps the spirit up, and reminds us we are not alone in the world.

BY: GALEO SAINTZ - CONSERVATION ADVENTURER AND GLOBAL TRAILS AMBASSADOR. FOUNDING CHAIR OF THE WORLD TRAILS NETWORK IN SWITZERLAND. FOUNDER OF THE HI-TEC GARDEN ROUTE WALKING FESTIVAL, AND INSTRUMENTAL FOUNDERING MEMBER OF THE EDEN TO ADDO - GREAT CORRIDOR HIKE AND THE RIM OF AFRICA- CAPE MOUNTAIN TRAVERSE.

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