Jean Jacques Rousseau, a philosopher from the 1700s, expressed his fondness for walking by maintaining, “We think at walking pace. What is revealed when walking and thinking at the same pace is the pace of everything around me. My mind only works with my legs.”
I profoundly enjoyed the great virtue of walking on a trip traversing the Cotswolds in England. I related to Rousseau’s quote while meandering amidst rolling hills and lush-green pastoral countryside, interrupted occasionally by quaint cobblestone villages. There is a simplicity to walking as it is a natural movement for our bodies. It is the ultimate slow activity, allowing us to experience the panoramic 360-degree view as a painter’s pallet. It enhances our sense of connection to the world, while allowing us to think, meditate and improve our health.
Stepping away from everyday life to partake in a walking adventure is one way to develop an affinity for this exercise. There are many places across the globe where trails are tended and land is deemed a walker’s paradise. One of these places is the Cotswolds in England. In 1947, a definitive map was released of the extensive infrastructure of footpaths. The county of Gloucestershire in the southwest has three-and-a-half thousand miles of trails. There are 300 wardens who donate their time to the maintenance and surveillance, ensuring trails are inviting and safe. Robert Toolbit is one of these I had the pleasure welcoming as my trail chaperone. As we walked through gates and over wooden stiles, I realized Robert was an earth steward. He relayed that our feet were traversing over a seabed of limestone that was formed hundreds of millions of years ago, as we passed wildflower meadows set upon a backdrop of ancient walls speckled with lichen, moss and variegated stone.
Walking is a pastime coveted in England for physical and mental health, as well as preservation of nature. In 2010, Robert created an award-winning walking festival to celebrate the experience. It is embraced by acknowledging a “countryside code” of observances to ensure respect and protect the countryside. These ancient lands offer the opportunity to walk through farms, villages and historic sites, and there is a reciprocity between the people and the land, gifted as a right-of-way for walkers. Homeowners and farmers wave and one of the most pleasurable pastimes is when a trail intersects with a garden or a tearoom for a ritual refreshment.
At the end of a week of walking, I felt resolutely rooted in the world. It was a sensorial experience. Each day provided accomplishment, fatigue, reverie, contentment and a true awareness that walking provides life sustenance.
We can all learn to become walking wardens of our communities by seeking out open spaces. We can then find ways to explore via personal escapes and trips walking the world! May your best miles be covered on foot through the virtue of walking.
Jennifer Di Francesco is a wellness explorer and desert adventurist and can be reached at www.coachellabellaboho.com.