I’ve always loved walking. When I was in elementary school, I would ask my best friend to walk home with me and we’d take all the scenic routes, finding new paths through our city every afternoon. This same desire to walk and explore stayed with me as I got older, always as something I could turn to for self-care or just to get some movement in. While I preferred to amble about on a leisurely stroll in the warm weather, I’ve definitely also walked in some of Massachusetts’ most intense blizzards (like I said, I really like to walk).
But then two years ago, things changed. I graduated from college and started working full-time while going to graduate school at night and I essentially stopped keeping up with my walking habit.
With 12-hour days where I’d go straight from work to class to my bed, I barely made an effort to shower, never mind purposefully walk anywhere I didn’t already have to. I missed walking—missed the time to myself, missed being able to move and see things and find a sense of grounding.
This May, I finished my graduate degree—so no more night classes for me (yay!). I finally have my evenings to myself again, and my weekends aren’t packed with playing catch-up on homework and studying.
On top of my newfound free time, I also recently found a renewed desire to walk. A few weeks ago, after getting home from a three-day trip to New York City, trekking all over Brooklyn and Manhattan, I challenged myself to start walking every day after work. I wanted to recreate that feeling of adventure that I was missing and figured the best way to do it was to get back into taking walks (that, or world travel—which isn’t exactly free of charge!).
With 12-hour days where I’d go straight from work to class to my bed, I barely made an effort to shower, never mind purposefully walk anywhere I didn’t already have to.
I didn’t set a time frame or a distance for these walks, because I didn’t want it to feel like a chore; walking used to be fun—a way for me to get my creativity flowing and recharge my mental and physical health.
The first few days, I seriously struggled to get walking. The problem is that it’s not a part of my routine. I usually go to work, and then after work I might make social plans to meet a friend in the city or grab dinner with my partner at a restaurant. If I don’t make plans, my go-to hobbies are reading and creative writing, which unfortunately keep me locked away from people and the world. So when I challenged myself to walk every day, the first question I had was—how will I fit that in, now that I have some extra time?
I had to actively carve out time in my day, but it was totally worth it. On the first day of my challenge, I found myself walking around my neighborhood block because I hadn’t budgeted my time well; I needed to grocery shop after work that night, and by the time I’d finished dinner, it was already late. I’ll be honest and say my neighborhood isn’t very fascinating to look at, so I didn’t find the walk very stimulating. To avoid a lame walk again, I vowed to make walking a priority so that I wouldn’t have to resort to a snooze-filled walk again the next day.
Related: Yes, I Take My Toddler To The Gym
My daily walks varied, and I tried to keep up the habit on the weekend, too. I took a short walk in Western Massachusetts with my friends when I visited for a surprise party, and a longer walk on the beach the next day. I budgeted days for at least a few longer, intentional walks, and toured around the Charles River (in Boston) for over an hour with one of my friends. I’ve always preferred talking while walking over chatting at the bar or at dinner, because moving around keeps my creative energy going. (I also have ADHD, so I’m at my best when I can move my body while I’m thinking and having a conversation—as opposed to feeling restrained because I have to sit still on the same bar stool for two hours.)
After just a few days, I was starting to feel better: My mental health had improved—I felt calmer and more focused—and so had my creativity.
After just a few days, I was starting to feel better: My mental health had improved—I felt calmer and more focused—and so had my creativity. I’m a writer of both fiction and journalism, and getting out into the world filled my head with a ton of story ideas. Whether I was walking around Beacon Hill in Boston or on the shore of Wollaston beach, just being out and walking put me in the right headspace to create.
The only downside to my regular walks was that they encouraged me to make purchases while I was out. I’d spot my favorite ice cream shop and feel the urge to grab a small cup, or I’d be tempted to get dinner in the city instead of going all the way home and cooking the meal I’d planned. Basically, it’s just a mindset I need to plan for if I want to be budget-conscious (although ice cream is SO good).
There are days when I wasn’t (or am not) able to fit my walking in, like when I had a bunch of errands that needed to get done after work or I wanted to make plans with a friend who preferred to stay indoors. I probably won’t be able to walk every single day, but I’m going to make it an intentional, active part of my routine the way I do with reading and writing.
It fills me with a small sense of adventure and travel on a local scale, which helps me keep my thirst for world travel at bay while I save for future trips to London, California, and Japan—all vacations where I plan to walk my heart out.