I do like to walk and while I am away in Brazil at this moment long walks with the Lovely Wife are something I definitely miss a lot. I can and will walk – I need to keep the level of physical activity up, and sometimes (as now, in Sao Paulo) the place you are in does not support running and I detest treadmills so avoid them at all possible. At home, there are advantages to spending a lot of time wandering around where you live, and investigating those footpaths between houses that you had not really noticed before. It provides a certain kind of delight to realise how sometimes they all connect up with each other or provide short cuts to going via the road, one things footpaths should always do is give the pedestrian an advantage over the vehicle in getting to the final destination in as short and as sneaky a way as possible. It also helps me build a network of traffic avoiding runs (much more pleasant and indeed safer) and finally allows you to better understand where things are in relation to each other, which can be helpful even if you are driving, especially in a town where some or other part of it seems to be constantly being dug up, accompanied by the joys of the four-way light control.
Outside your normal sphere of influence however something more circumspect is probably needed for people like me who have a tendency to saunter innocently through neighbourhoods with an air of genuine curiosity without much thought about the fact I’m an obvious British tourist (something which I believe is quite clear even from a distance) and that there are some places that curiosity is not actually very welcome. There have been times when I have been happily striding along and then stopped looking at the architecture and realised that what would be the most sensible thing would be to walk a little faster and more determinedly to remove myself from a situation that suddenly made me feel vulnerable and a little nervous. You probably know that feeling; you might not actually be in any danger but you are suddenly ‘out of place’ so the little alarm bell in the back of your head tells you to get a move on.
Most of the time my walks have been entirely positive. Recent wanders around Singapore (slow ones; we adopted the moniker ‘Singapore stroll’ to describe the slightly more careful stride a cold loving boy from Northern England should employ to survive in that constant heat and humidity). When I was in Japan many years ago I walked for miles in loops from train stations and was amazed at how quickly with some of the smaller towns twenty minutes of solid walking got you away from the concrete and technology and threw you back a hundred year or so, with older ladies quietly working their paddy fields as this slightly weary Westerner walked past soaking the atmosphere up, only to mutter something under his breath after a bit of watch checking and suddenly hightail it back the way he had come, as the one drawback for being on foot is that quite often it talked that bit longer to get anywhere than perhaps you thought it would; to be avoided where at all possible, as let’s be honest, a forced march to catch the last train is never as much fun as a steady relaxed walk.