For quite some time I have been meaning to write this article. Since as long as I can remember, I have taken a long walk to unwind and let the creative juices flow. When I was younger it was more of a sprint or a rigorous bike ride. As I grew older the overall intensity has declined, just slightly. A nice four or five mile walk can do wonders when it comes to opening up the mind. I am not a neuropsychologist but I know there is something special going on in the human brain when the body is in motion. The long walk has been very influential in my life and here is why…
Growing Up in the Mountains
One horse town does not even begin to describe where I grew up. The high school that was assigned to my parent’s address had a total of 21 students. Yes. A total of 21 students in the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades. It is safe to say they could not field a football team. Fortunately, there were some high schools nearby that had a larger student population. I ended up fulfilling the requirements of a high school diploma at Robbinsville High with 68 other students. As you can imagine, there was not a lot of quality entertainment in this part of the world.
At a young age I realized my mind was a little different. I was not one of those kids that could sit around and stare at the TV. My brain had to be active. More importantly, at the time, my body had to be active as well. This was a time before the Internet. We did not have iPads or Xbox video game systems. The Gameboy was the only “gaming system” and that kept my attention for about 26 seconds.
Although the mountains are sparse in terms of population they are dense in terms of outdoor activities. I grew up beside a whitewater rafting river which allowed me the opportunity to fly fish, mountain bike, hike, kayak, zip line, swim and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors. To say I was a kid that “got outside” is an understatement. I spent the majority of my waking hours watching the trout rise for mayflies or riding my Cannondale bike up Winding Stairs road.
Those first 18 years on the earth helped shape my body and my mind. As I write this article, years after leaving that small mountain town I still find that my most creative work starts and ends after being physically active. There are no longer opportunities to grab the Orvis fly rod and catch a trout. It is not possible to walk out the back door and immediately start climbing the Great Smoky Mountains. What is available is a long walk…
Getting Away From It All
In a time with smartphones with email, tablets with browsers and TV’s connected to Twitter and Facebook it is sometimes hard to “turn it off”. I have had my trials and tribulations when it comes to social media addiction. Fortunately, I am very aware of the problems that arise when humans remain sedentary for a lengthy period of time. There is no possible way my body can do it. In fact, after I finish the rough draft of this article I will be hitting the gym on Christmas Eve.
Recently, I removed email and 95% of social media from my phone. I still update Twitter once in a blue moon but that is it. If someone has the desire to contact me they must pick up the phone and call or wait until I am sitting at desktop to respond to email. This has been a huge change in my life; for the better. I was “that guy” that would check his email and social profiles every 20 minutes just to make sure nothing changed. It was an issue that had to be resolved. Unplugging and getting away was one of my best decisions of 2013.
Below is an HDR photo I took while on a long walk. This is my most common long walk as it is right behind my apartment complex.
Every time I take the trip down this sidewalk I wonder why I don’t do it more. Never is it the case that I return from this walk thinking, “Well, that was a waste of time.” I have a plethora of high dynamic range photos I have taken while on some of these long walks. I have also had some of the best conversations of my life while getting out and enjoying some fresh air. Why not do it more? It is when I feel the most alive!
My Call to Action
It is very easy to get consumed in work. It is even easier to get consumed with work when it follows you around on your phone, tablet or laptop. Getting away and enjoying the finer things in life has helped me open my eyes to what is important. On a daily basis I take a long walk or complete a physical activity. For me, it is crossfit, cardio training and walking around the countryside of North Carolina taking HDR photos. I want to know what you do. How do you get away? Do you sit on the porch and call old friends? Do you throw the ball with the youngest boy? Do you ride the 4wheeler deep into the country? What makes you feel alive?
I would also like to encourage you to write it down. It does not have to be in a blog post. It doesn’t have to be posted online. It can be on a post-it note or in a diary. What I would enjoy more than anything is to have the opportunity to read ways in which you enjoy your long walk. If you happen to publish it online send me a link to firstname.lastname@example.org or place the link in the comments below. If you did not publish it online please leave a brief message in a comment and I am can promise you it will be read. Maybe it will open the eyes of some other readers as to how to truly get every second out of this life.
A Long Walk I Will Take More in 2014
In 2012 and 2013 I worked very hard to build my social profiles; especially on Google+ and other Google channels. That meant much more work on the computer and less swinging of the golf clubs. Heading into 2014 I have streamlined my business model to allow me to spend much more time on the golf course. One of my “resolutions” is to play two rounds of golf a week at Hasentree Golf Club. This goal be adjusted based on the weather, but, for the most part, I would like to take the long walk of 9 or 18 holes twice a week.
Every time I make the trip to Wake Forest, North Carolina to play a round of golf at Hasentree I find that it is refreshing and eye opening. Very rarely do I take the walk and not enjoy the sights and sounds of nature around me. Along with spending more time playing golf in 2014 I am going to try to snap more HDR photos. This resource will allow you to see what I am up to that particular week or month. Expect to see quite a few HDR photos of Hasentree Golf Club. I am not certain how I am going to get HDR photos with my Nikon D5200 walking the course, but I will find a way.
It will likely be the case that I grab a golf cart at least a few times a month. My Nikon fits perfectly in the “slot” that holds valuables in my golf cart. This will be quite useful on those days when it is a little bit too warm to walk the 3700 yards of the front 9 at Hasentree. That said, the walk will always come first when the weather is not extremely hot or frigid. In a past life I had the rule that any time the temperature was between 55 and 93 degrees I would play golf. I will be interested to see if I can hold up that end of the bargain in 2014. Maybe it is time for me to create a resource documenting my golf game in 2014. Lots of slices and missed opportunities I am certain!
The Long Walk to the Library
In Chapel Hill, North Carolina there is an amazing public library. I spend too much time there. Well, that is not possible, but you know what I mean. There is also a greenway/walkway that leads to the library. Some of my most enjoyable moments in the Chapel Hill Public Library is watching people take the walk along the greenway to get from Franklin Street to the library. I have yet to make this walk but I can assure you it will happen a few times in 2014. The temperatures are still a little bit cold in December and early January but as the weather gets nicer this is a walk that will likely be common for me.
Walking to a library. can you beat that?