Walking Everywhere: One Year and 600 Miles

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This is going to be a long article, even by Walk and Think standards.

The subject is fresh on my mind, as I still walk frequently. Just carried some groceries home from the store, good practice for carrying backpacking gear through the woods.

So without further ado, I bring to you:


Walking Origins:

When I was choosing what to name this site, I decided to dig deep and get real with myself.

What have I done the most? What subjects to I know intimately?

What am I going to be able to write about at length from experience?

Without the need for books or theory, or works of other people?

Hmmm.

All I do is walk around and think about stuff, hahaha.

So there you have it: Walk and Think.

Walking is a large part of who I am, that it’s half of the website’s name.

The other half is thinking, of course, which will happen if you walk around and read too much for your own good.


I’ve always walked.

From the crisp snow covered roads in Russia, where we wore valenki(soft felt winter boots, really comfortable) and the packed snow would make a dry crunch as you stepped, and in later years put screws in the soles of our boots, so we wouldn’t slip on the iced over roads….

To the muddy dirt hills, where I routinely took shortcuts, and muddied up my shoes and clothing, and slipped into streams, If I didn’t time a step or land a jump just right…

To the clean and pristine streets of the wealthier neighborhoods, full of luxurious homes with manicured lawns, where I’d get strange looks from people rolling by in their Audi’s and BMW’s.

Summer, Winter, Night, Day, honestly, it didn’t matter to me, if I needed to be somewhere, I could always walk there.

It has defined me in many ways, mainly building confidence in navigation, and self-belief, that I can get somewhere, come hell or high water.

This post will be covering one specific year: 2009

That was the year I walked the most. I was tired of the noisy crowded public bus. It was loud and dirty, and eventually became a hassle to deal with.

I had no funds for a bicycle(or desire to acquire funds) at the time.

So I walked.

It was a little over 2 miles everyday, some days 7+, other days zero. I rounded down for the 600 miles in the title, it was probably more than that, but who cares.

Point is I walked through some shortcuts so much, I stomped out the overgrown weeds and trails appeared.

I never intended to create walking paths or shortcuts, they just happened over time.

I know some of the neighborhood kids might have used them, but after I would quit walking a route, it would once again become all tall weeds.

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(Above: what it looks like when you walk the same path year round)


Annoyances you will encounter when you start walking:

Dogs: Most owners feel like their dog can do no wrong. Dogs do get aggressive sometimes, and can jump over fences. I’ve never been in any areas with packs of roving dogs on the streets(like Mexico), however I’ve been around a lot of domestic dogs, and even heard coyotes a couple of times on the trail.

Dogs are mostly only loud. They bark bark bark at you, really just trying to alert the owner, or make their presence known.

Most dogs won’t bite you, but don’t expect the owner to do much if one does become aggressive. They won’t be able to restrain the dog, and they will blame you, not their dog.

Weed seeds: If you walk through grassy or foresty areas, these clingers will hop along for the ride on your socks, pants, shoes, anything. They will then conveniently drop off in your house, so you can step on them later.

Dirty shoes: If you’re walking anywhere off the sidewalk, you’ll get muddy shoes. Really, any kind of moisture will get your shoes dirty, which is why I avoid trails after rain. Dry dirt won’t stick, dry grass is fine, however when there is water, your shoes will get dirty.

Sweaty back: If it’s warm or humid while you walk, you back will sweat against the backpack, and it won’t evaporate. Most times this isn’t a big deal, however, can get gross during the summer. Solution: put a dry t-shirt and a small towel into the pack. When you arrive at your destination, dry yourself off, put on some deodorant, and put on the fresh shirt.

Time consumed: Walking is slow. For some distances – way too damn slow. Map out your distances using the “measure distance” tool on google maps. Use the satellite images to find the shortcuts. Give yourself sufficient buffer time.

Cars: Pedestrians have the right of way. Too bad most people don’t give a damn about that rule. You should be fairly safe on a crosswalk, but everywhere else, use your discretion. I jaywalk frequently, and never once have even been close to getting hit. Just don’t expect people to stop for you/see you. It’s up to you to stay safe.

Injuries: Never gotten injured walking. After a few long miles, your feet might hurt, but that’s the extent of it. If you walk around a ton, you might see some plantar fascia issues, but I haven’t had any. Walking can help your posture if you sit around a lot. Not all that great for exercise, walking. Walking around barefoot on grass/sand can be great rehab for sprained ankles.

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All the right gear:

Really? Gear for walking? Hell yeah.

I have always had a certain setup when I stepped out, every time.

I would suit up, like a solider going into battle, and then head out the door. I felt ready to take on the distance, the cold, crossing busy streets, jumping over small creeks, crawling through a tunnel, hopping a fence, anything.

This is my show, and this is my playground.

These are certain necessities for long distances.

Approved list of gear for walking by A:

Shoes: Feiyue, Onitsuka, chuck taylors. Brand is not too important. Look for shoes without excessive padding, good flexibility, and a one piece sole. Most shoes break in fairly well, even if they are crap at first. Biggest issue that can make a shoe unwearable is blisters. If a certain shoe gives you continuous blister problems, get rid of them. Avoid Velcro. Velcro can’t be re-laced in different ways for increase comfort, and is loud and goofy. Go with laces.

Phone: Didn’t have one for years, and laughed at people who told me I had to have one. Listen: Everybody else has one, just ask to use it. Walk into any facility and ask to use the landline. I got a phone in 2013, a cheap prepaid burner. Until that time I used gmail to text people, and Skype to call, for free. In 2014 I got a phone plan, which I have now, and it’s a luxury in my opinion.

I love airplane mode, and have it on the majority of the day. Saves battery, and has a positive effect on my focus, mood, and mental health. When I’m ready to reply to texts/calls, I turn off airplane mode, reply to everyone in less that 20 minutes, and be on my way.

“But what about emergencies?!”

There are rarely any true emergencies, and if there were, what can I do that the police or paramedics can’t do better? Why call me? This may be different if you have small children, however I do not.

If you’re around civilization, you can find access to a phone easy. You’re just not on a virtual leash 24/7, which is why your boss hates that you don’t have a phone.

Mp3: Take your pick, music tech is a far cry from what it was back then. In Russia I had a cassette player, and it chewed up the only tape I had for it. Later, I had something like a 30 song limit on my first mp3 player, but it didn’t skip like a CD player, and wasn’t a giant UFO shaped thing. Easy to run with. Today: Zune 16gb I’ve had since 2010, great device, great software, no longer in production.

Jacket for cold: Back then a zippered hoodie. Lately, a long sleeve or some kind of vest. In extreme cold, you can synch up the hood(only way the hood does anything but be an air scoop, making you colder.) Never underestimate how cold it can get at night. Early mornings are cold. Add a little wind, and without a jacket you’ll be miserable. As long as you’re moving, you’ll be ok, but miserable. Beanie and light gloves are a must for real cold.

Water bottle: Anything works, no need to get fancy. If you want hot tea or coffee on a cold day, a metal water bottle works great, and will keep your back warm through the backpack for a while. Just toss in a tea bag, pour the hot water in, and throw it in the pack.

Food: I like sandwiches. Trail mix. Power bars. I’ve gone on long distances without food thought, and only showed up a little leaner after it, nothing wrong with that. If you plan to be out all day, I would bring something.

Headphones: I’ve been through so many headphones its ridiculous. If you’re active and wear them in the gym, on the bike, and while walking, they will wear out and fail. All mine fail due to the wire bending too much, and one ear goes out. They get wet in the rain often. Best ones I’ve had: bose sound true. Definitely prefer in-ear to over ear for walking.

Journal+Pen: Mandatory, but for adventuring reasons. Put the journal in a zip-lock bag, in case it rains. That way you won’t be worried when you see rain clouds gathering. Put your electronics in a zip-lock bag as well.

Id card and money: Id is for cops, money is for food and whatever other expenses.

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Appropriate distances:

I do not think walking is the best option for all length commutes, only short ones. It’s just too slow. Even if you zone out and walk on autopilot, walking for 4 hours a day is a waste. Cycling is great because you can coast, and maintain a higher speed. But even cycling won’t get you there sometimes. Here’s the breakdown:

Walking: anything <3 miles

Cycling: anything <10 miles

Car: anything >10 miles

or

Shorten the commute by relocating/finding other employment. It’s just not worth it in time/effort vs distance covered.

Yes athletes routinely run more than 10 consecutive miles. Half marathon and full marathon are common benchmarks. Cyclist have the century(100 miles) as a bench mark.

But we’re not talking competitive distances here. Were talking about commuting. Every day. Carrying groceries or items form the store. Every kind of weather condition from heat to cold. Whether you feel great, or tired, or sick.

You still need to get to where you need to get, so get there.

This is different than training for competitive endurance athletics. There is some carryover, but it is different.

What happens when an overuse injury or acute injury happens? Athletes take some time off and do rehab. If your food depends on getting somewhere, there is no time off. So you have to be mindful of wear and tear, and overuse, which is why I low-balled the distances above.

How you gonna get to where you need to get?

Thank you for reading.

All the Best.

-A

Read these excellent articles about walking (here and here)

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