These Boots Are Made For Walkin’

[9/7/09]

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My friend from England visited me in middle of nowhere, suburbia, MA recently and was astonished at how everything was “bigger” in America. That’s no surprise to anyone who has stepped out of his or her doors for a learning experience or two elsewhere. Everything is indeed bigger. The cars are bigger, the people are bigger, the houses and yards and bigger and the servings at restaurants are bigger.

But like everything there are exceptions to this rule. The sidewalks/pavements are smaller, or in many cases nonexistent. When I moved to the U.S. ten years ago, I experienced the same kind of confusion at why there are more people but fewer walking paths. It didn’t take me long to figure out it was because you couldn’t actually walk anywhere within a reasonable time frame. Of course, it still bothered that I was used to using sidewalks as the means to get places.

The 8-year-old me adapted quickly enough and accepted that walking was crossed off the list in favor of personal cars. I do think cars are wonderful in all sorts of ways. They are incredibly useful when you need to get somewhere – fast. It plays a key part in building our notion of how quickly life should move. Say I want to go to the supermarket, but I want to soak up the sun at the same time and get my exercise too. What happens is I realize how incredibly dangerous is it for me to make this trip, and I stop there.

Yesterday, my family took my friend into Boston where there are sidewalks. As we drove along the Charles River, we watched the people on the path beside us. There were joggers, more joggers, some bikers, a skateboarder and more joggers. No one was walking. OK, there were probably a few people here and there that were legitimately strolling, but I promise the majority of those people were not.

I don’t think everyone is uptight and rushed, but everything in our media and in our communities point to this. How many times have you seen a cell phone commercial that boasts how you’ll become the most efficient texting “machine” if you buy the phone or a service that “connects you faster than ever” to so and so? I’m betting probably a fair number of times. 

But we have the highest GDP in the world, don’t we? We work and live faster, because we grow faster? So let me ask you: Does this fact make you happier?

I challenge whoever is reading this to spend a day walking to their friend’s house or to the closest store. When you reach your destination, I hope that you will feel immensely satisfied by having made that walk. And I hope you’ll also feel some kind of achievement in it, because you put in effort to get there. I think it’s time to give a go. What do you think?

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