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Born to Walk

Born to Walk

The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act
edition:Paperback
also available: Audiobook Hardcover eBook
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Excerpt

This book is about the transformative properties of walking. About fissures that anyone can explore. It is the outcome of an experiment both personal and journalistic, an attempt to understand my addiction, to see how much repair might be within range.

I have tried to structure it in a logical way, exploring one main benefit of walking in each chapter. This is a problematic construction: the anecdotes, statistics and conclusions overlap and magnify one another. There are also geographic boundaries to stumble over. While I touch down in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the focus is on the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The cultural and economic forces that have shaped the Anglosphere (our cities and habits, our health and happiness) have incubated a distinct set of challenges.

Maturity, we are told, means accepting that the world is broken. Yet, what if some simple patches were possible? All of the people I spoke to or spent time with, outstanding in diverse fields, have demonstrated, in one way or another, that a renewed emphasis on walking, even in communities facing stacked odds, could be a small step toward somewhere better. That my fix just might be a fix.

Generations of writers have gone down this road. Wordsworth, Thoreau, Solnit, Chatwin and scores of others have crafted lyrical poems, essays and books about the power of walking. I bow at their feet. These classics are more relevant now than ever, and they have kindled a resurgence. In 2014 alone, French philosopher Frédéric Gros published a manifesto about the subversive ability of walking to mine the “mystery of presence”; British author Nick Hunt retraced the 80-year-old footsteps of scholar Patrick Leigh Fermor across Europe on a quest to find what remains of the kindness of strangers; historian Matthew Algeo looked back at an era when competitive walking was America’s most popular spectator sport; and naturalist Trevor Herriot embarked on a prairie pilgrimage, wielding “a metaphysics of hope against the dogma that we are aimless wanderers in a world whose chaotic surface is the sum total of reality.” This indispensable paper trail gave my ideas shape and scope.

One of the first guides I talked to was a doctor named Stanley Vollant, the first Aboriginal surgeon from Quebec. A son of the Innu nation, Vollant was striving to inspire hope among Canada’s indigenous peoples by leading group hikes hundreds of miles long, reviving the routes and rhythms of his ancestors. There was a walk coming up. He invited me to tag along.

At the time, I was bogged down by work and domestic responsibilities. But our conversation continued to resonate. “When you begin a journey, you don’t know why,” Vollant had said sagely. “The trail will show you the way.”

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Aging Backwards

Aging Backwards

Reverse the Aging Process and Look 10 Years Younger in 30 Minutes a Day
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover
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The Joy of Yoga

The Joy of Yoga

Fifty Sequences for Your Home and Studio Practice
illustrated by Kerri Frail
by Emma Silverman
edition:Paperback
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Run Better

Run Better

How To Improve Your Running Technique and Prevent Injury
edition:Paperback
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Big Fit Girl

Big Fit Girl

Embrace the Body You Have
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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