Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women, said, “I like good strong words that mean something.”
Those particular good strong words of hers are one of my favorite quotes. I’m a lover of words and one good strong word I’ve recently learned and fallen head over heels in love with is: solivagant. I fell in love with solivagant when I realized that it explicitly describes who I am–both my inner Self and my outer Self!
A solivagant is a solitary wanderer. A person who revels in the act of wandering alone–preferably in destinations and locations they have not previously visited.
As a writer, I am most definitely a solivagant. Writing is a journey into the unknown–to destinations and locations we’ve not previously visited. As writers we journey to take an idea and pull it from the unseen into the seen by putting words to it. Then we put the words together in a way that not only conveys our idea but also makes sense to our potential reader. Then we do it all over again. Our solitary wandering into ideas that become words that become stories that become our work makes us solivagants.
So if you are a writer, you are a solivagant. We must revel in the act of wandering alone–otherwise we’d never write anything! Personally I hold writing to be mythic in its essence. It’s the hero’s journey every time we pick up the pen.
As for my outer solivagant–I am a daily walker. I walk alone and I frequently wander. I delight in visiting a new park, a new trail, a new river walk or neighborhood or city. On my walks I find inspiration, solutions to problems, a sense of calm and peace and empowerment and always a return to myself in the rhythmic, simple movement of walking.
I’m often asked why I prefer walking alone and it’s because of that sense of returning to self. While I enjoy (and prefer) walk and talk meetings to “sit down” meetings, and I love hiking with family members (that’s a tradition), my daily walks are a time for me to re-center, recalibrate, refresh, and renew. I can only do that in silence, and the awareness delivered through my five senses, my feet on a trail, a view in site, and a curiosity for what’s around the next bend.
We women who want to grow and change are all solivagants in terms of the inner journey to destinations and locations not previously visited. And if you were to take up wandering by yourself in the physical world as well, you’d be a twofold solivagant–like me.
J. R. R. Tolkien famously said, “Not all those who wander are lost”, and solivagant or not, I never feel lost, rather I wander to find myself–in both the inner and outer journey.
So embrace your solivagant and go for a wee wander. You might like it. You might just find yourSelf.
The new year is upon us and we’ve resolved to change, to create new life-altering habits, to reach hitherto unattained goals. This is all well and good and is one of our most beloved traditions–to turn a new leaf with the turn of the year, thus we make New Year’s resolutions in the most sincere, well-meaning way possible.
I truly hope you achieve each and every one of your resolutions this year. I hope 2018 is your year–your breakthrough, breakout, yell-it-from-the-mountaintops year that blasts you into the life you’ve always dreamed of–the life you desire and deserve.
And while you’re putting action to your resolutions, I wanted to share my 2018 wish for you. It starts with a bit of knowledge that (when put to action) will change and possibly save your life. The knowledge is that 25 minutes of brisk walking on a daily basis can add up to 7 years to your life. Let me repeat this another way: if you walk for 25 minutes every day, you can extend your life by 7 years. That’s 7 more New Years, 7 more year’s worth of resolutions. That’s quite excellent really.
Here’s the life-saving part, which I consider a very big bonus: walking is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function, increases creativity 60%, and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia. Walking also prevents or treats over 40 diseases and walking halves the risk of dying from a heart attack for those of us in our fifties or sixties. Walking truly is the magic pill to health and happiness.
The other great news is that walking brings benefits at whatever age you start. The more active you are, no matter when you start, the more benefit you are going to have.
Wondering how this knowledge is connected to my wish for you for 2018?
I know that walking is the easiest way to create happy, healthy, long lives on a daily basis. And I believe that if more of us are living happy, healthy, long lives we’ll become a force that changes the world for the better. I am all about changing the world for the better. And you are too.
So for you to be happy, healthy, and creative, which enables you to realize your dreams and help the world in the way you intend, I wish you would use your newfound knowledge and take up a 25 minute daily walking practice. It will change your life and every step will bring you closer to the life you desire and deserve, the life that will bring your gifts to a world that is ready for them right now.
I wish your feet on the street, the sidewalk, the hallway, the stairway, the path, the road, the trail.
Get your walk on in 2018! We’ll all be glad you did.
I am an avid outdoors woman. Outdoors is where I feel my truest Self, my most authentic Me. I was born in Tennessee, went to college in Utah, traveled and lived in several western states and then lived in Minnesota for 25 years. Despite the brutal temperatures, I spent many hours of my Minnesota winters cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, skating, slipping on ice, swearing at ice, shoveling snow, hauling in firewood, scraping windshields. Minnesota winters are accompanied by many outdoor activities–not all of them pleasant and not all of them the exercise you had planned on.
Now I live about 15 minutes south of downtown Nashville. Middle Tennessee, where Nashville is located, is blessed with a temperate climate, which means being outside is pretty comfortable year round. (I mention this in contrast to the 25 years I lived in Minnesota.) Here, outdoor activities are much simpler, much easier to access, and much kinder in many ways. We rarely face frostbite or hypothermia. We just don’t do that here. For me this means that my daily walks are dictated more by time than weather. Obviously I dress for the weather–rain, snow, wind, sun, heat and humidity–but I do so knowing that exposed skin is not going to freeze in 10 seconds. This gives me a certain confidence that some (notably my Minnesota friends) might interpret as smugness. To this I say perception is reality.
My favorite walking spot here in temperate Nashville,Tennessee, is Radnor Lake. Radnor Lake is a 1,300+ acre State Natural Area with over 6 miles of walking trails. I have several walking routes based on the time I’ve made for the day’s walk but my favorite walk is to combine the Lake Trail with Otter Creek Road, thus walking all the way around the lake. It’s a walk of about 2.5 miles with stunning views and lots of wildlife. The Lake Trail is mulch and Otter Creek Road, which was at one time a road for vehicles, is paved. Both are easy to walk briskly and a delight on all levels.
Walking is my daily sanctuary, my refilling time, my workout, and my moving meditation. I am an addicted walker and I am blessed to have my favorite walk be less than 3 minutes away. I walk through the woods listening deeply to the squirrels scolding, to the barred owls calling across the lake, to the geese flying overhead, to the turkeys gobbling on the hillside. I watch the silent deer pick their way to the lake for a drink and am captivated by the wind through the trees on the ridges. The lake smells of algae and time in the summer, leaves and dust in the autumn, countless blossoms in the spring, and smells of cold and patience in the winter. Radnor Lake is a place I can absolutely count on to return me to my center, to help me solve my problems, to ease my mind and settle my soul. The walk around Radnor Lake is my favorite walk because in that now familiar 45 minute moving meditation, I know that I am walking myself full circle–from who I was when I started to who I will be when I’m done.
“Sleigh bells ring
Are you listening
In the lane
Snow is glistening
A beautiful sight,
We’re happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland”
Winter Wonderland was written 83 years ago and since then has been recorded by a mind-boggling range of artists: Frank Sinatra to Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day to Elvis, Dolly Parton to Billy Idol. If a singer has released a Christmas album, you can bet Winter Wonderland is on it. My favorite version is on James Taylor’s 2004 release, James Taylor: A Christmas Album.
Winter Wonderland is a song that makes me recall the delight I felt as a child when, during the holidays, we’d hear a knock on the door and to our great joy, find a group of Christmas carolers on the porch. How magical, how wonderful, how life-affirming!
So this holiday season, I invite you to take part in the magic by walking in your own winter wonderland, whether it’s on the sugar white beaches of sunny South Florida or in the frozen bitter cold of northern Minnesota. Here’s two wonderful ways to get your walk on in the coming weeks!
- Caroling! Seriously if you’ve never done it, I can’t recommend it enough! It takes a fair amount of advance planning to organize your own group so I suggest you join an existing group to learn the ropes. Local churches, Meetup, and local singing groups are the three best places to jump on board.
- A Holiday Lights Walk! Take your family for a walk to look at the holiday lights and decoration. This will quickly become a favorite tradition. If you live in a walking friendly neighborhood, dress for the weather and walk out the door. Invite friends and neighbors to walk with you! If your neighborhood isn’t walking friendly, check to see if your downtown storefronts decorate with holiday light displays. A cup of holiday cheer and a stroll around downtown with your loved ones can be wonderfully fun and entertaining.
This year take the time to walk in the winter wonderland that’s most convenient for you. Make the time, take those you love, get your walk on, and make some memories. Those memories will be the best gifts ever–ones you’ll relive and repeat for years to come.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “It requires a direct dispensation from heaven to become a walker.” What beautiful words, fitting for a man who spent two years, two months, and two days in his singular “experiment in simplicity” at Walden Pond. Thoreau’s time at Walden included daily walks in the Walden Woods–long rambles that could last for hours.
Jane Austen stated her devotion to perambulating more simply. Ms Austen declared, “I walk: I prefer walking.” Her walks from her home Chawton Cottage to Alton Village, a bit over a mile away, have now become the Jane Austen Trail–a testament to her mark on literature and the countryside she called home.
It’s easy to be carried away by the sense of romanticism we project onto the times and places these authors inhabited. Thoreau’s marvelous solitude at Walden Pond, his long walks through the woods, writing by a crackling fire at night, kept company by the night sounds surrounding his one-room cabin.
And Jane Austen! How many women have pictured themselves walking those miles from cottage to village, gathering up their skirts to step the stiles and cross the footpath bridge over the stream, experiencing in that simple activity a wonderful timeless freedom.
As a writer and devoted daily walker, I believe there will always be a romance, a dance of sorts, between the writer and the natural world, the solitude of the pen on paper (today fingers on keyboard), the flow of words from the unseen to the seen. A unique connection exists between the writer and the world we inhabit. Many of us are inspired by walking; our muse speaks more clearly as we make our way along the trail or road or path. But why is that?
Fast forward from the 1800’s to just a few years ago and we find out why walking is the writer’s best friend. In 2014 Marily Oppezzo, a Stanford doctoral graduate in educational psychology, and Daniel Schwartz, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education published Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking. Their research proved that walking increases creativity by 60%. Goodbye writer’s block, hello wonderful words! And don’t worry, when seated at your desk, capturing the brilliance from your walk in written form, you will still be experiencing a “residual creative boost”.
In summary the study showed, “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.” So regardless of what kind of wordsmith you are: author, blogger, essayist, speech writer, editor, journalist, etc, walking is your optimal work space. How wonderful is that? The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”.
That’s why writers need to walk.
Sitting is killing us. You’ve heard it, I’ve heard it, we’ve all heard it and as we sit here reading these words, it’s happening and it’s true. Here’s the shocking truth about sitting: After just 30 minutes of sitting, your metabolism has slowed 90%. That fact is so horrid it bears repeating.
AFTER 30 MINUTES OF SITTING YOUR METABOLISM HAS SLOWED 90%!
A 90% metabolic slow down is as bad as it sounds. And it feels bad too. Sitting has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and depression along with muscle and joint problems. And we sit a lot! In fact we sit an average of 13 hours a day. Combine that with an average 8 hours of sleep and we have a day filled with being sedentary. What’s a person to do?
Stand more, sit less is the best place to start. Take that simple principal and apply it to as many hours of your day as you possibly can. Here’s how in three simple steps:
- Stand up and walk every 30 minutes. Set a timer for 30 minutes and when it goes off, stand up and walk briskly for at least 5 minutes. This simple activity will reset your metabolism and refresh your thinking.
- Stand up for specific activities. For instance, when you’re making a phone call, stand up. When you’re using a tablet or smart phone to search for information, stand up. When you’re organizing your desk, stand up. When you’re meeting with a colleague, have a walk and talk meeting.
- Stand at your computer at work. For the vast majority of us, work consists of sitting in front of a computer. Some of us are in home offices, some have private or shared offices or office space at their place of business, and some of us are working in cubicles. Each of those work environments presents its own opportunities and challenges. If your work environment presents overwhelming challenges to standing at your computer, make sure to break up your sitting with the two suggestions above. If, however, your work environment has some flexibility, try placing your computer at a good height for you to “test drive” how it feels to stand and work. Click this LINK to help you determine your the ideal height, then figure out how you’ll raise your computer. I recently surveyed a group of author/entrepreneurs on the subject and was blown away with their creativity. One journalist uses her recycling container, wine crates have been called in to action (empty I’m assuming), others reported using inverted trash cans, and upended coolers. The main idea here is to raise your computer to a good height and try standing and working. My personal “standing desk” is a large box placed on a table in my office.
Practicing these three steps means you’ll be standing more and sitting less, which in turn means you’re taking much better care of yourself and that is always great!
What if you had a very special best friend, a friend who made you feel better whenever you spent time together? A friend who helped you problem solve, improve your relationships, boosted your self-esteem, helped you lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers and that same friend always helped you save time and money? Pretty great friend I’d say. But that special friend doesn’t stop caring for you after all that, no, this friend does even more for you!
This friend reduces your risk of dementia, boosts your mood and energy level and adds up to seven years to your life–every time you are together! Now that’s an incredible friend–that’s a BFF who is looking out for you in every area of your life. A life-changing friend. A life-saving friend. A friend you definitely want in your life.
The great news is that you have that BFF starting today!
That friend is a 25 minute daily walk.
The best way to have that friend in your life is to find a favorite walking spot and walk there–every day. Rain or shine, snow or sun, winter or summer. (Make exceptions for life-threatening weather but otherwise, get your walk on.)
I am an addicted daily walker. I walk regardless of–well everything. Walking is my BFF every single day of my life. In bad weather, and it has to be truly, truly bad, I will walk indoors. But my preferred walking spots are outside in the elements connecting to the big world around me.
Here’s the bonus of walking outside: research has shown that “green exercise” increases physical activity levels (with lower levels of perceived exertion by the way), reduces stress and mental fatigue, and improves mood and self-esteem. This is why I’m a huge advocate for finding a favorite walking spot outside.
Your spot could be in the downtown area where you work, on the campus where you go to school, in the park just down the street from your house. Decide to be curious and take some time to explore the walking spots that are on your daily route, are easily accessible, and that are safe and beautiful. It doesn’t matter where your walking spot is, what matters is that you have one and that you use it. By taking your new BFF to your walking spot on a daily basis, you create a go-to favorite activity and experience that’s a known commodity. With just a little effort and curiosity you’ll have a new BFF who will never ever ever let you down. And that’s a great thing to have! Best friends are the best!
Today’s Walking Women Interview is with Kim Baker of Whanarua Bay, which is on the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
Q: Kim, what inspired you to start walking?
A: I don’t really know. I had always had a dog but I wasn’t particularly aware of the benefits of walking my dog. My partner Karen wasn’t especially keen on dogs but I already had Jap when our relationship began and so for most of our 24 year relationship I had a dog. Sometimes Karen would walk with us but it was clear that she didn’t really enjoy it so mostly I went alone. So, in some ways I regarded dog walking as a chore.
When the relationship broke up I felt discarded and abandoned and I was totally miserable. Jap had been dead some 6 years or so. Within 3 months of Karen’s leaving I purchased a wee dog. I have always taken my dog care responsibilities seriously so we would have two walks a day--once in the morning before I went to work and then, a longer walk as soon as I got home in the late afternoon. It dawned on me slowly that walking improved my mood and I was able to forget myself for a time. Kuskus was an absolute delight and not taking her out was out of the question. She was so “in the moment” on these walks, so overjoyed to be running along the beach, chasing seagulls, running back to me with the biggest grin on her face. It was impossible not to smile and feel love. Over the weekends I would sometimes find myself in the depths of despair and we would go to the beach and just walk and walk and walk. I hadn’t been a religious person but I found myself praying, asking for help……and it came. It was miraculous and I there would be peace for a time. I began to notice my environment; to become more aware of what was outside of me. Pretty soon I was taking the camera out with me and over a two-year period I took hundreds of photos of everyday plants, trees, flowers and I still have them. I guess it helped me to focus on something outside myself.
Q: How long have you been walking?
A: I’ve been walking consciously and with pleasure for almost 10 years. Dogs have become a central issue in this because within 3 months of Karen’s leaving my work contract expired and because of joint mortgage responsibilities I had to move. To cut a long story short I became a pet sitter and stayed in other people’s homes caring for their pets whilst they were on holiday. It provided me with a roof over my head and there was enough money to feed myself and Kuskus, buy petrol and even the odd coffee or movie. Most of the dogs I sat were big and required walks twice a day. I had done yoga for 35 years but there wasn’t enough time in the day for everything so the yoga was abandoned. Now that I have a home I still haven’t got back to it and spend that time on a set of daily spiritual “exercises”.
Q: What changes (body/mind/spirit) have resulted from your walking?
A: I have a belief in a power greater than myself. I live consciously, having not done so for a very long time. I am more grateful than ever and it probably isn’t entirely due to walking that I have a whole new philosophy about my place in the world, who I am, and what I want or what I am capable of. I have a belief system that I spent most of my life searching for despite having majored in Religious Studies. I keep reasonably healthy, physically speaking and I spend time every day improving my mental and emotional health. I like to think I am calmer than I have ever been but that has never really been tested. I live a quiet life, and I’m not in a relationship.
Q: What happens if you don’t walk?
A: The same thing that happens if I don’t do my spiritual exercises. I’m all over the place, irritable, stressed.
Q: What does walking mean to you?
A: If I’m not looking after dogs, I usually walk in the morning. It’s an essential part of my day and I don’t walk far. It is uphill all the way home. Although I don’t work at it in a conscious manner, it’s the time when the things I need to attend to rise to the surface. I get home with a little list of “important things to do”. They’re often things I’d forgotten about – well that’s how it seems.
Q: What are your biggest walking challenges/obstacles?
A: After Karen left I tried a running regime, with absolutely no knowledge of what I should do – I just got out there and ran. I knew I had to do something, I just didn’t know what (I tried swimming too). Anyway whilst I was out running, someone called me and I turned around and twisted my knee. I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time and now, on occasions, it’s sore and makes walking a little difficult. Walking in the rain can be a bit of a challenge. Actually it’s not being in the rain that is the challenge – it’s getting home and drying off, drying KK off and then finding somewhere to hang sodden jackets (hers and mine). Hardly a challenge really, is it? Hahaha! So lucky, I am.
Q: What’s your favorite place to walk?
A: I’m an ocean lover so it will always be by the sea.
Q: What advice would you give to women who know they should be walking but aren’t--yet?
A: Just do it and smile at, or say hello to everyone you see, even if you don’t feel like it. If you have to, then get a dog to force yourself out there. The dog will add immeasurably to your pleasure and if you stick at it you will come to feel the benefits. No dog? Well look around you, take a camera, think about the beauty that surrounds us. We are so fortunate and we have so much to be grateful for. Not even a bad idea to think about 5 or 10 things that happened during the day that you can feel grateful for. They don’t have to biggies – someone’s smile, your comfy bed, the coffee you drank that morning, the electric jug you used to heat the water. It’s all GOOD.
Kim, it is all GOOD and so are you! Thank you for sharing your walking story!
Kim Baker lives in New Zealand in the most beautiful place overlooking the ocean. She is the owner of ARUHE, a BnB holiday home. The website is: www.aruhe.nz. Kim is whakapapa to Ngai Tahu meaning she has tribal roots in a South Island Maori Tribe or Iwi. Kim is an entrepreneur, a curious lover of life and a self-described “work in progress” who lives consciously and gratefully every day.
Today's Walking Women Interview is with Debbie Wood of Broadview Heights, Ohio.
Q. Debbie, what inspired you to start walking?
A. For me, the inspiration was just to feel better. There’s something about being out in nature, whether it be sunny or pouring rain that just melts your troubles away, even if it’s only for a while.
Having the realization hit me--that I could feel better just by walking--was what inspired me to expand my knowledge and hiking ability and figure out just what it could do for me.
Q. How long have you been walking?
A. I would say that my walking/hiking really started when I joined the Cleveland Hiking Club in October of 2010. Being a part of an organized club is an inspiration in and of itself because there are events, challenges, and plenty to keep the mind and body occupied. I had been walking in the parks and on sidewalks since I was a little girl, but in my early 50’s I had gone through a pretty heartbreaking divorce. That was when hiking found me, and I truly believe it was a divine intervention that saved me.
Q. What changes (body, mind, spirit) have resulted from walking?
A. This is probably my favorite question of them all. I LOVE sharing with women all of the improvements that happen when you begin to walk/hike. It’s actually a bit of a minor miracle, and for me, it was on steroids.
I don’t think it really matters when you get into hiking, what matters is when hiking gets into you. There is a change that takes place that’s pretty hard to explain, but I’ll give it my best shot.
For starters, I began to see all aspects of my life through different eyes. I was less stressed and as a whole, just felt better.
When you hike the hard hikes, (like for example I did a fourteener in Colorado, which means that you climb to 14,000 feet in elevation) you realize that all those people who ever told you that you couldn’t do ANYTHING in your life were wrong! You stand on top of that mountain and you are all of a sudden 10 feet tall. You know you’ve accomplished something that a very small percentage of the population will ever do and something inside of you changes. You grow in a way that you can never go back from.
Q. What happens if you don't walk?
A. Major crash is the only way I can describe it. My sleep quality tanks, I begin to feel fat, my energy goes right down the drain and my overall well-being suffers tremendously, most of all my attitude and mental state.
Q. What does walking mean to you?
A. Walking to me means pretty much everything. I really don’t know where I would be right now if I wasn’t able to get out and hike! I am eternally grateful that I have two strong legs to carry me through the most difficult hikes, two good eyes and ears to see and hear the beauty of the forest, and most of all a sound mind to enjoy it all and let it have its way with me.
Q. What are your biggest walking challenges/obstacles?
A. I’m going to have to say the only challenge I have is that because of the fact that I work full time, I don’t have the amount of time to devote to hiking/walking as I would like. For me, the biggest challenge is to sit in an office and look out the windows at a beautiful, sunny day and listen to the trails calling my name. (I can seriously almost hear it!)
Q. What's your favorite place to walk?
A. Oh I have so many, but I think that given the fact that my roots are in Northeast Ohio, I would have to say that anywhere in the Emerald Necklace or the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are my favorites.
The Emerald Necklace is an amazing series of parks (eighteen trailheads in all) that cover over 21,000 acres. You can walk, ride your bike or your horse or just find a really cool picnic area and spend the day relaxing. There are also nature education centers, golf courses, and many spots to cast a line and catch some fresh fish. The Cleveland Zoo is also a part of the system, which is one of the only spots that I knew inside and out as a child.
I’ve hiked pretty much from coast to coast in the U.S. and I still feel that we, in Northeast Ohio, have the most beautiful parks in the country. People actually come from all over the world to visit, so there has to be something to it. So come visit and look me up. I’d be glad to be your tour guide.
Q. What advice would you give to women who know they should be walking but aren’t yet?
A. In the words of the great tennis shoe… Just Do It! In my soon to be released book, The First Mile is the Hardest, I deliver this message loud and clear. The hardest part is getting up off your easy chair and just beginning! Once you start it becomes addictive and you will notice all the sudden changes that happen to you mentally and physically and you will seriously wonder what took you so long.
But most of all, it's just plain fun!!!
Debbie, it is plain fun! I couldn't agree with you more. Thanks for sharing your walking story!
Debbie Wood is a legal secretary by profession but her real love is writing and internet marketing. She also loves everything hiking and nature. Being outdoors is clearly her passion and she is eager to climb more mountains. Two of Debbie’s biggest hiking accomplishments are receiving her hiking club's 10,000 mile patch (in seven years) and hiking all of the fifty-nine cities in Cuyahoga County (in five years).
Debbie is a proud grandmother of three: Anthony, Luca, and Layla, and she's looking forward to more as her kids have only just begun their lives as parents. She's also very eager to be hiking with her grandbabies!
Debbie is the author of the soon to be published book, The First Mile is the Hardest, Seven Hiking Lessons That Will Change Your Life, which is due to be released this holiday season. You can learn more about her book, her hikes, and her love of life on her Facebook page: Addicted2Hiking.