On walking

The rhythm of eat, walk, sleep, repeat was exhausting in the purest and most cleansing way, and it changed my perspective on so much.

From ‘El Camino

The first newsletter I came across and subscribed to here on Substack was ‘Way of the Walk’, a newsletter by fellow photographer Bryan Formhals. It’s one of my favourite things to read since it made me realise quite how much there was to say, research, analyse on walking. This along with more articles, publications, poems, artistic and research-based projects, and more that I’ve now started to read and consider since coming across his newsletter have begun to really open my eyes.

Walking is something that slowly but surely became a huge and conscious part of my life - a tool for travel, fitness, relaxation, meditation, a creative detox… The ways it has become integrated with my life are many, though I came to it quite late. It feels a bit weird to think about it that way when I’ve technically been walking since… well, literally since I could walk. But thinking back, I don’t remember particularly enjoying walking that much or ever thinking about it that much. It was always just an unnoticeable, unmemorable part of life: walking to school, walking home again, or, later on, walking to work (rather, walking to the bus stop to catch the train to catch another train to then walk to work). A chore.

I missed out on all the big things at school like Duke of Edinburgh (an award for schoolchildren that can be achieved by doing things like hiking, camping, navigation etc), which I’d love to do now, and hiking didn’t make an appearance until university, but even then it was only one or two trips that I went on. It wasn’t until 2016 when I, she who never really walked that much, committed to a 500km trek across Spain as part of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

Suddenly I was a “walker”. The trip didn’t change my life, but it revealed to me the deep connection between mind and feet, and how each can influence the other. It was more that I was looking at the world with new eyes. The rhythm of eat, walk, sleep, repeat was exhausting in the purest and most cleansing way, and it changed my perspective on so much.

And it was addicting; when my walk ended, I only wanted to continue walking. I did go back finally, two years later, in 2019. I walked the Via de la Plata route, which started in the south and was double the KM of my first walk, double the time, a much more challenging walk, and I went solo this time. It was very different from the first walk but no less incredible.

I’m still not one of those people that manages to walk miles every day, though I’d like to be. Even in lockdown, though it’s because I somehow managed to injure my foot by doing nothing those first few weeks...

Nick Young Wtf GIF

Since doing that first long-distance walk, I’m slowly understanding more and more of the importance of walking, in all aspects of life - physically, mentally, and creatively.

I won’t talk about walking and creativity today, there’s so much to say, to read, to learn about, and I want to spread this topic out over time. But the link between walking and creativity has been much-discussed and is well-documented in history of artists and writers for whom walking was an intrinsic part of their creative process.

Since at least the time of peripatetic Greek philosophers, many other writers have discovered a deep, intuitive connection between walking, thinking, and writing…

“Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” Thomas DeQuincey has calculated that William Wordsworth—whose poetry is filled with tramps up mountains, through forests, and along public roads—walked as many as a hundred and eighty thousand miles in his lifetime, which comes to an average of six and a half miles a day starting from age five.

- Why walking helps us think

Sometime soon I’d also love to write more about women who walk and have walked, historically, now in the modern age, in books and media…

To be a Woman and a pedestrian in the city can be combative and exhausting but some­times it reminds me that I am in charge and that I will propel myself forward, always forward - An ode to women who walk

This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about walking. During lockdown the one year anniversary of my second time walking the Camino de Santiago passed, and it was a strange and interesting juxtaposition to compare the walking I was doing over March to May last year, to the walking I was doing over March to May this year.

This past week, my thoughts were even more full of walks - it was my 29th birthday on last Thursday and my plan this year had been to head back to Spain and do a short walk to ring in the last year of my twenties; something completely different from what I usually do. It was different anyway though - staying at home and not making a big fuss, enjoying the day off and getting a couple of pressies in the post was lovely - not to mention having my best friend round for a very delicious lunch on Saturday, which is not something I usually do (p.s thinking about starting a supper club… is this peak adulthood?)

At the same time, I’ve been working through the photographs I took on the Via de la Plata last year - I’m developing a photography project around them and it’s been very slow-going. I also reread the daily blog I’d kept while on the walk, and I realised that I’d never finished sharing the posts. I enjoyed looking through the memories and photographs so much and wondered if I could somehow retell the story now, digitally retracing my steps with writing and photography, and if anyone would be interested. I was quite surprised at the response after I tweeted about it, since I wasn’t really expecting it to hear from anyone to be quite honest, but it was a well-received idea!

And so on Sunday, I’ll be launching The Silver Way. A little story-based temporary newsletter, digitally retracing my steps along the Via de la Plata every Sunday.

45 days of walking. 1000km. Sevilla to Santiago de Compostela.

Subscribe to 'The Silver Way' here

I hope you all enjoy!

A x

End Notes
Why walking helps us think
An ode to women who walk

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Today’s soundtrack


Reads

In Praise of Paths

“Following an epilepsy diagnosis which prevented him driving, Norwegian journalist Torbjørn Ekelund hung up his car keys for the last time and starting walking instead. Walking was his new mode of transport, and he walked everywhere – but he also experimented with walking too, walking in different places and in new ways.”

The Women Who Walked Into History

“You would not know it from published literature, but the history of walking is very much women’s history.”

Wanderlust: Rebecca Solnit on How Walking Vitalizes the Meanderings of the Mind

“The most obvious and the most obscure thing in the world, this walking that wanders so readily into religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak.”


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Hey! I’m a freelance portraiture and documentary photographer in Croydon, south London. Community and culture are the cornerstones of my work and I enjoy telling stories about adventure, the outdoors, and our relationship with the natural world.

I also run of the land & us, an online journal for photographers exploring people, places and living.

‘Notes on Freelancing’ is my attempt to make becoming a freelance creative a bit less scary by documenting my own journey.

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