My old life is six million seven hundred thousand steps, six thousand kilometres, fourteen months and four pairs of shoes behind me now and I don’t know if I’ve gotten closer to any answers. If anything I have more questions, a lot more questions, than when I started.
Walking saved me when I needed saving. Everyone knows that sunshine, fresh air, exercise and spending time in nature are all positively correlated with better overall physical and mental health, right? I never gave any of it much thought but now I was going to be off work for a while and I needed a new way to occupy my brain. Fortunately the office was participating in the Global Corporate Challenge and that was the shove I needed to get out walking.
For the first while I stuck close to home and listened to music on my walks but the novelty of that wore off pretty quickly and I pivoted to fiction audiobooks like The Martian, American Gods, Ready Player One, World War Z, The Shining (and its sequel) and the Mr. Mercedes trilogy.
I never considered listening to business books on my walks but I was feeling the need to dive into something serious and I soon started dabbling in Cal Newport, Steven Johnson, Malcolm Gladwell, Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, and Ori and Ram Brafman.
It was the listening to the last four of these authors that started to spark my interest in deeper subject matter; genetics, neuroscience, behavioural economics, behavioural and cognitive psychology, and philosophy. I started chewing up Daniel Kahneman, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Stuart Ritchie and Yuval Noah Harari.
This is all pretty heavy stuff for me so when I was in the mood for shorter form brain food I switched to podcasts like You Are Not So Smart, Hidden Brain, Invisibilia, Philosophy Bites, Revisionist History, Waking Up with Sam Harris, Freakonomics and, my personal favourite, Very Bad Wizards.
Now I find myself waking up before 6:00am every day hitting the Thames Valley Parkway for a ten kilometre walk with the brain trying hard to absorb all the information coming through my headphones. I’ve overcome some of my self consciousness and gotten used to laughing out loud as strangers walk past (Very Bad Wizards is as funny as it is deep). I occasionally lose track of time (and my location) but I’ve gotten a new appreciation for the beauty of my city along the way and to top it off I’m feeling more intellectually stimulated than at any other time in my life. I’d walk four hours a day if I could.
I set out with the intent to keep my black dog on a chain but my feet have taken me to this wonderful, unexpected place. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t purport to be any smarter than I was at the beginning of this journey, I’m still a big dummy where most of this material is involved. After all I’m living with a 48 year old brain that just doesn’t process these concepts like a 20 year old brain would, but I’m loving it, right here, right now.
Every week someone asks if I’ll start a running routine but walking isn’t in my body, walking is all in my head.