I’ve got my timer on. it tells me I need to get outside for at least 15 minutes. This is for my own health. I’m not terribly motivated, to be honest. There’s just not much inspiring about walking in my neighbourhood. The houses are kind of bland. Mostly bungaloes, with a few older two stories. They’re generally square with siding or peeling siding, and a bit run down. It’s not exactly a destination neighbourhood, not to mention that fact that it is situated in one of the coldest cities on the planet. But I don’t have time to drive to a park. So I go. While I’m walking I start looking around and try to engage myself in my surroundings.
I start thinking about things that would make this walk more interesting.
Over several days I come up with a list of things I could be focusing on, or doing as I walk. I write them down. I start to do them. I start to document these walks and post them on Instagram and then I start getting feedback. Now I want to go for a walk. I want to do the next item on my list. I can’t wait to see what I will discover on my next walk in my own neighbourhood.
After coming up with 50 different walks, I’ve broken up the ideas in to three categories. Creative or Mindful walks, Fitness Walks and Walks to Connect.
Creative or Mindful Walks
These walks involve paying close attention to your surroundings and honing in on various aspects of it. I’ve found that these walks inspire my own creativity. In the book Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer *speaks about the way creativity is increased by being in a city where there are a lot of stimulants. He speaks about how being jostled by strangers when walking down a busy city street or on public transit actually increases creativity! Some of the walks in this section talk about going to different neighbourhoods, but I find that these walks also help me to see my neighbourhood in new ways.
Mindful practice has been known to improve mood by helping us to focus on the present. Depression is often related to regrets about the past. Anxiety is often related to fears about the future.
Mindfulness is about the present moment where you are hopefully in no danger and can breathe deeply and just be.
This has many physical benefits, lowering blood pressure, decreasing tension in the body, improving sleep, etc. Many of the walks in this section help you to focus on your current surroundings, and to stay in the present.
Another obvious benefit of walking is Fitness, where the goal is to push your own physical limits. I’ve included various ways to go for a walk while focusing on fitness and increasing your physical stamina. Elevating heart rate, and moving has more physical benefits than I have room to list here. But I will name a few: reducing arthritis pain which prevents disability, according to Orenstein’s article which links to studies proving this and reducing stroke risk. Madeleine Burry speaks about her mood and sleep improving after a month of walking every day.
The third area is connection. This is connection to the place you live, to get a sense of belonging, connection to the people in your neighbourhood, connection to others and getting a new sense of how someone else might see the world. Connection is a huge factor in the mental health of human beings. It increases empathy, allows us to feel at peace and gives us emotional energy to share with others.
Here are the 50 different ways to go for a walk, which I have come up with, and a few pictures from my own walks:
Creative or Mindful Walks
1. Colour walk – Bring a camera/phone look for the brightest colors, make a photo collage of your collection.
2. Texture walk- Bring a camera/phone and take pics of various textures.
3. Smell Walk – Pay close attention to your nose. Note any distance smells. If you can’t identity them, try to describe them. If you have a phone you could dictate this or take notes when you get home.
4. Delight walk- Look out for things that delight or tickle you. You may use these as destination points for future walks. You might share these with others to enjoy, via social media
5. Slow walk – Go as slowly as you can manage. Pay attention to your five senses as you walk to the end of of the block and back. Note what you’ve noticed for the first time.
6. Destination walk – Pick a spot you want to spend some time at. Go there. Spend some times there regularly. Try to notice every detail and see what changes the next time you are there.
7. Walking at different times of day – Notice the lighting changes, the different people out, the amount of traffic at various times.
8. Back alleys- Walk the alleys of your neighbourhood. In my neighbourhood this is a great place to shop as people leave things they no longer want in the alley to be ‘recycled.’
9. Architecture walk- Note any buildings that don’t match the others. Pay a visit to your city archives and see what you can find out about them. Take a picture and then try to draw them when you get home.
10. DIY Art Walk- Bring a phone/camera and note creative endeavours by your neighbours. Share them if you like, but be kind about it.
11.Mark a trail- Bring along natural coloured yarn and scissors. Mark a favourite route.
12.Designated stop points- Pick several spots along a regular route to stop and check more closely whenever you go by. Notice changes in those spots.
13. Sound walk – Pay close attention to the sounds around you. Name them to yourself, or take note of them or record them
14. Upper View- Look up. Look, waaay up. Don’t trip. Notice the tops of trees, the rooftops and the sky.
15. Lower View- Look mostly at the ground during this walk, what do you find there?
16. Night walking – Go out after dark. Look in windows, but only from the sidewalk (don’t actually stop or go up to the window). In Amsterdam, people keep their curtains open at night because they say it looks more cozy for the people walking by and it does.
17. Numbers – Do a counting walk. Count your steps, count the cracks in sidewalk, count houses, trees, cars, pets, ….you name it
18. Story walk- Imagine you are going a tour of your neighbourhood to a person who landed here in a time machine from the early 1800’s or an alien, or a foreign dignitary. What would you say?
19. Tree walk- Note how many different kinds of trees you see in your neighbourhood. Look them up, find out their names. Talk to them the next time you see them and call them by name. Check out “The Hidden Life of Trees”* to get to know them better.
20. Complete a task- Walk to complete a task: get some groceries, mail a letter, go to the bank, go to the library, pick up a child from school, etc.
21. Scavenger walk- Make a list of random objects and then see if you can find them on your walk. Better yet, get a child to make a list of things for you to find. Even better, bring the child along to help find the items on the list.
22. Timed walk- See how far you can get in 15 minutes. See if you can beat it the next time. (NOTE: Running is not cheating)
23. Walking as alternative transportation- Skip the bus or the car, see if you can walk it. OR, get off the bus early or park far away from your destination, on purpose.
24. Walking in different neighbourhoods- Take a bus to another neighbourhood and walk home, or get dropped off a ways away from your destination and walk from there.
25. Go for a Skip- Don’t walk, skip. It’s not as easy as it looks. See how far you can go.
26. Walking backwards- Bring a friend. See how far you can get.
27. Hopscotching it – Bring sidewalk chalk. Draw a hopscotch grid to the end of your block and see how many times you can jump it.
28. Skip it – Bring a skipping rope, see how far you can go while you’re skipping.
29. Rocky IV Walk- When the snow is deep, try to walk as quickly as you can, but only in the deepest parts of the snow.
30. Dance walk – Listen to music and move to it, for your entire walk.
31. The Marathon Walk – Perimeter to perimeter. Build up your ability to walk far. See if you can eventually walk from perimeter to perimeter. (This could also a great idea for a fundraiser/ walk-a-thon).
32. Public park- Walk to a public park. Time yourself, it might not be as far as you think. You might want to go there more often.
33. Walk with a dog- See where the dog wants to go. Whenever the dog stops, take note of everything around you, note your five senses. If you don’t have a dog, borrow a neighbours’ dog.
34. Walk with a friend – Invite a friend to go for a walk.
35. Walking Group – Put up posters that say “Walking group – Meets at Blair street every Tuesday at 7:30AM. Walk is for one hour. Meet us there!” Then show up on Tuesday mornings each week and walk for an hour, no matter if anyone else does.
36. Walking tour- Develop a walking tour of your own neighbourhood, include gossip about the neighbours. Invite others on your tour or record it for YouTube (change the names of the neighbours to avoid being sued).
37. Wheelchair – If you don’t normally use a wheelchair, try it out. Try to go around your block. See what that is like. Contact city hall about any problems you encounter. Join a group advocating for accessibility, listen and learn. You will see the world with new eyes.
38. Walking with Children- Take small children for a walk (if they’re not yours, ask their guardian first). See where they go, stop when they stop. Look closely at the things that interest them.
39. Wildlife Walk- Keep your eyes peeled. Do a wildlife count. You might bring binoculars. Go home and look up any creatures you don’t recognize and then talk to them next time you see them. Call them by name.
40. Pet Census – Do a pet census of your neighbourhood. If you’re feeling bold, bring a clipboard, knock on doors to ask how many pets live there. Don’t forget to get the proper spelling of their names.
41. Walk Blind- You will need a friend with you. Blindfold yourself, or close your eyes and see if you can walk to the end of the block and back. Note any major impediments. Learn more about how people with sight impairments navigate in the city.
42. The Extrovert Walk- Go out with an intention to say hello to any other walkers you meet.
43. Greeting yard dwellers – Go out with an intention to say hello to anyone working in their yard.
44. Greeting city/construction/outdoor workers – Go out with an intention to greet any workers you come across. Bring cookies to share.
45. Local Business walk – Go into every business in your neighbourhood and say hello to the owner. If possible, support them by buying from them.
47. Working Walk – Bring a shovel, rake or push a lawnmower. Offer services to whoever you see that looks like they need them.
48. Stray Walk – Follow a stray (you might also call 311 to report a stray).
49. Laundry walk – If you own a washer and dryer, try this walk out. Find a shopping cart or sled or stroller or wagon and load all your laundry into it. Walk to the nearest laundry matt and do your laundry there. See who you meet there, see how long the whole process takes and what it costs
50. Own the road walk -Wear bright colors (reflectors if it’s dusk). Walk on the road like you own it. Don’t do this after dark. Make way for other traffic if they cannot get around you. See how it feels to occupy a different space in your neighbourhood.
If you want to check out more evidence of my own walks, find me on Instagram @itsnotjustyou.ca. If you decide to try some out yourself and post the result, tag me on Instragram or leave a comment, I’d love to see/hear about your experience and any new walks you come up with.
*Please note: I have signed on as an affiliate sales person for McNally Robinson which means that if you click on the above link, and decide to purchase the book I’ve recommended, I will receive an affiliate’s fee.
Also check out Avoiding Exercise – An Expert’s Guide
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