But first a short digression.
Have you ever heard of Scrumpy? No? … Go to your local liquor store, do yourself a favour, and look for some.
Essentially, it’s apple cider, only better.
You know how a good cider can have just the right amount of sweetness? Not too sickly sweet, but also not too tart or sour? … You know how it just smoothly slides down your throat and makes you feel like one is never enough?
Okay, Scrumpy does away with all that; it is slightly too bitter, it rasps your tongue in a not entirely comfortable way, and it makes your head swim like the bouncer at the local club just decided it wasn’t your day… and yet… you still want a second one. Make that a third!
Scrumpy is a disorienting experience that’s very hard to resist. And it’s also why this post probably will not make as much sense to you as it did to me inside my head as I was writing it.
I have walked regularly for a while now. I think it was the FitBit that kicked me into gear. It may sound silly, but after a while with a FitBit I have started to want to please the dashboard. Every time it sends me a big smiley face when I make my goal for the day, it reinforces my desire to walk the next day. To make that 10,000 steps. To make the very active minute quota.
But I bore easily, so added on top of that I’m trying to walk as many streets as I can. Some I hit more often than others, but I try to add side-streets that I haven’t tried on each subsequent walk.
It is proving a great way to see things I normally don’t see.
To get a perspective I normally lack.
I still remember one of the earlier visits by my mother to Australia. (I’m originally from the Netherlands, so family have to make a 20-hour journey to come see me)
I had just started renting all by myself, and as you might imagine, being all by myself on the other side of the planet, furniture wasn’t accumulating like it does when you have aunts, uncles and grand-parents with things they don’t really need any more (that is: want an excuse to replace… any excuse will do).
After talking about the local home-maker centre I had been to in Prospect, we decided to go have a visit and look at some lounges that I had seen.
We took the train to Blacktown, and had a walk from there.
Anyone that knows the area will already see the problem with this statement. But we asked passing cars about the distance, and they keenly suggested that it surely wasn’t more than a 15-20 minute walk away.
We don’t mind walking. So we walked.
For those less familiar with Australian/Sydney geography; the distance between Blacktown Station and Prospect Home-Maker Centre is about 4.5km; a good 60 minute walk in a hilly suburb.
My point is this.
When your main way of moving about is in a car, you lose your sense of perspective about the world around you. Everything seems closer. Everything seems smaller. Because the point about driving is to minimise the amount of time you spend in your car.
What made me think of that story on my walk today were the signs and toll gates along the M7.
How large would you say they are?
Okay, your car needs to fit through, so larger than a car. Actually, larger than a truck. But how large really?
Who cares! Zoom! Look, I’m through.
Who cares how large it is!?
But as I was walking along the M7 today, the path came level with one of those great big square green signs we all see every day as we drive past an exit. How large would you say one of them is?
Standing right next to it, I was startled to realise it was easily twice as tall as I am. And just about as wide. And yet, even standing next to it, in my memory it was much smaller.
I am starting to notice how many details I miss in the car. Beautiful spots along the way, comfortable benches set away from the traffic, short-cuts carved out between blocks of houses.
The problem with driving is that it is about destinations. There is nothing separating A from B, other than a high-speed blur that distorts the world.
It’s hard to get an appreciation for how large your neighbourhood is until you try to walk through it. Around it.
And in the process you’ll discover that between A and B there are stretches of distances that also contain places.
And you’ll get to enjoy noticing things you otherwise never notice. And you’ll get time to see things you otherwise only glimpse. And you’ll get to smell the world! Which in summer can be a very worthwhile experience in its own right.
And then… once you get home… you’ll get to crash on the lounge in front of Breaking Bad and do nothing, smug in the knowledge that you did more today than most other people did.