Somehow, someway, someone once decided that walking was a nice thing to do. Let’s go for a walk, someone once said. Others joined in. Those weary of walking likely declined, but the rest followed. Scan any sidewalk today in any city and you’ll see them. Walkers. If you’re on the beach this morning, like everyone else from the Midwest, take a look at what’s happening around you. It’s a bunch of people walking, getting those ankle pains from walking on that sideways, shifty earth. Oh look, a special shell! Out of trillions and trillions of shells, I can assure you that your shell is not particularly special. This is the sort of thing of which walkers have convinced us.
Let’s put our shoes on and go for a walk, they say. Walk to the store, walk to get coffee. Is it walking distance? There are websites with algorithms that score the walkability of a particular property. Congratulations, your house scored an 8 on the Walkability Scale! This is where we’ve all been tricked. Walkability? I can walk anywhere. I can lace up my shoes and walk to New York City. Is New York City walking distance from here? You bet it is! Walking knows no bounds. Walking can be done anywhere. Is there a difference between Wisconsin walking and San Diego walking? Excepting the syringes stuck into your walking shoes, it’s exactly the same.
Walking, this institution of travel, is overrated. I can walk and walk and walk and someday I’ll get somewhere. This is true of anywhere, any place, at any time. Walking is out, strolling is in. There’s a distinct and meaningful difference between these two verbs. If I’m going for a walk, it implies I have some purpose. I’m walking. I’m starting here and going there. I’m lacing my up shoes, checking my callouses, hydrating, and pushing off on my walk. Like a ship leaving harbor, I’m on my way. Strolling? Now that’s a movement I can get behind.
To stroll is to walk, sure, but only under the loosest definition of the word. To stroll is more likely to saunter, to wander, to casually shuffle from one place to another. There’s no timeline for a stroll. You don’t ask how long the stroll took. When you walk from your house to the coffee shop, you check your watch. How long did that take? No stroller has ever asked how long something took. No stroller ever promised to meet someone anywhere at a specific time. Strolling doesn’t allow for such rigidity.
This summer, you can stay at home. You can. It’s your right. And when you’re at home, you can cinch tight your laces, stretch in your driveway, and walk on a sidewalk into Whatever Town. This is up to you. Entirely and totally up to you. You can spend the summer walking, as your cardiologist advised. Or you can come here. To this place where you can leave your shoes at home. To this shore and this path, and you can join us on a stroll. When are we leaving? We don’t know. Where are we going? No idea.