Is purposeless walking now a luxury? Are we losing an important source of creative thinking?
I have to admit, I used to talk more pleasure walks. My favorite thing to do was to walk around the neighborhood at a time when few others were. I loved the feeling that I had the place all to myself, it was very quiet and relaxing, and allowed me to think without much distraction (no emails, RSS feeds, Twitter, iMessages, etc). I should make a conscious effort to take more purposeless walks (having to go somewhere isn't quite the same, though it's still very good for your health and the planet).
And apparently, I'm not the only one who isn't walking as much. The BBC has a great piece on "the slow death of purposeless walking".
Walking is a luxury in the West. Very few people, particularly in cities, are obliged to do much of it at all. Cars, bicycles, buses, trams, and trains all beckon.
Instead, walking for any distance is usually a planned leisure activity. Or a health aid. Something to help people lose weight. Or keep their fitness. But there's something else people get from choosing to walk. A place to think.
There are many great examples of people who did their best thinking while walking. Our colleagues at Mother Nature Network highlight some, like Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Dickens (who often walked for 20 miles, sometimes at night), Kierkegaard, Thoreau, etc, who all said that it helped them produce more creative thinking. Definitely not something we can afford to lose...
So here's your homework: Try to walk more, for no particular reason other than to relax and think about whatever your mind wants to think about. Don't walk while staring at your iPhone or in a hurry to get somewhere. No, no, that simply won't do. Take a stroll in a nice spot, and just enjoy how lucky you are to be alive (the odds were heavily stacked against our individual existence, after all...)!