My feet have served me well.
Although I wasn’t an early walker, I have always been an enthusiastic one. Family lore has it that I was tied like a dog to a stake in the backyard because I was such a dedicated wanderer. Living close to a river meant that my trailblazing could lead me to trouble, so my mother kept me tethered. I maintain that she could have simply kept an eye on me but, it being the ’60s and all, perhaps that would have cut into her cigarettes and activism.
At 4, I managed to escape, my cat and I making a break for the road less traveled. A block and a half away, however, my stomach growled and my cat suddenly seemed very, very heavy. I returned home, but only to bide my time until my feet got itchy again for the open road.
My childhood exercise consisted solely of walking to and from school. In those days, parents didn’t chauffeur their kids like they do now. I walked home in hailstorms, thunderstorms and raging blizzards. It never dawned on me to look for our station wagon idling on the street outside the school. And it never dawned on my parents to pick me up. That’s what feet were for.
My walking raged on unabated through grade school. I was forever traipsing door to door, raising funds for my cause du jour. I was a mini missionary, hell-bent on saving the world, armed only with my two feet and a burning idealism.
My feet have carried me to work during transit strikes. They’ve taken me through Europe and Southeast Asia and can traverse in four different languages. They’ve strolled beaches and palaces. Crossed bridges and climbed mountains.
Freeing your feet
My friend Jamie, who recently co-created WeekendWalk.com, a site dedicated to travel via foot, understands my foot fetish. She tells me that feet can literally map out a place, something that rings true. It’s only when I’ve walked around a new destination that I truly feel I have the lay of the land. Jamie’s goal is to convince others to “step away from the car” and experience the joy of foot travel. Your feet, she says, are the ultimate travel agent. “They’ll tell you when it’s time to stop for the day. Or when you’ve packed too much and need to lighten your load.”
Her WeekendWalk.com co-creator, Paul, points out that, of all the creatures in the world, “it’s pretty much us and the occasional emu and ostrich that use two feet as our primary locomotion.” We’re migratory creatures, he explains. Traveling on foot is, perhaps, “where we’re most human. And free.”