Monday, November 15, 2010
I was drawn to how he wrote and what he wrote. He provided a short answer and a long answer as to why he was doing this; but I’ll give you a piece from the long answer that resonated with me – “A couple years ago I started a walking group called Hey, I’m Walkin’ Here! in New York City, and my love for walking really blossomed over the course of our adventures. Moving through the world at three miles an hour, you can fully take in your surroundings. There’s nothing separating you from your environment. You notice things that go completely undetected by people zooming by in cars. It’s such a rich experience: you can see, hear, and smell everything around you, and even touch and taste things if you feel like it.”
I mentioned in an earlier post that I’m reading the Power of Now and I thought it was interesting how this story found its way to me. It was just another reminder that when you fully take in your surroundings, you’re essentially not missing out. Many of us become engulfed in past or present thoughts, or completely bury ourselves in a fast-paced world and we miss what’s happening right in front of us. It made me think that this would be a good exercise for everyone on the planet, among many other things…
Matt shared his route, timeline, equipment and supplies for this trip and provided descriptive pictures along the way. We all know pictures speak a thousand words and I love that he chose this format. Some were beautiful scenery shots- some animal shots- accidental shots- funky shots- many supporting people shots, etc. etc. When I have more time, I really want to continue where I left off.
He also shared two lessons that he learned:
1. Have some faith in this world.
2. There’s beauty everywhere.
He did elaborate, so you should really read more here; however, I wanted more. I wanted more of his insight and more of his experience. I always say people learn from each other, and I couldn’t wait to read his responses to my questions…
1. Did you have any predetermined notion of what this trip would be like?
I didn't really know what the trip would be like, as I had never done anything similar before. I also wanted to keep my mind open and experience the country and the adventure without preconceptions coloring what I was seeing and feeling, so I tried not to set up expectations about the trip.
2. How did the first step compare to the last step?
Surprisingly, the first and last steps didn't feel all that different. I guess there was more relief and less nervousness in the last step, but this trip had a way of evening out my steps, of making each one feel equal to the last, more or less. I'll get to this a little more in question 4.
3. You finished on August 30th and stated that you’d need months of contemplation and reflection, but shared two obvious lessons. Can you please share more that you’ve learned since your initial lessons?
Those two most important lessons are still the main things rattling around in my head. I just can't believe the contrast between the kindness and generosity that I encountered, on the one hand, and this dangerous and scary world that seems to exist in people's heads, on the other. I feel like baseless fears are eating away at so many people's lives, all in the guise of "playing it safe". When something scares me now, I try to make it a point to think about whether it is a justified fear or not, and make sure I'm not missing out on something wonderful because of something irrational.
4. What is the one moment you will never forget?
This question ties in with the second lesson I referenced above, and the comment about my first and last steps above that. I used walking directions from Google on my trip, and basically just blindly followed them from one side of the country to the other. I didn't try to see anything in particular along the way; I just wanted to see what lay on my arbitrary route and challenge myself to discover the beauty in wherever I was. In this sense, I was traveling without destinations, which is very much the opposite of most sightseeing-oriented vacations. The benefit of doing this is that I was never just counting down the miles and idling away the hours until the next Big Attraction, because there were no Big Attractions. This put each step on an equal footing, so to speak. When you drive five hours to see something, your experience and perception of that thing are colored by the expectations that such a long trip entails. But when you are just out walking for the hell of it, without any particular destination in mind, no step carries any more expectations than any other. They're all equal. Everything you see is a mere step away from the last thing you saw; you haven't built up expectations about what you're experiencing, and I think that gives you the opportunity to more fully appreciate things for what they are, and not what you expect them to be. In my walk, I found that this opened up a hidden world of beauty to me, the beauty of the things all around us that we can't normally see because we're looking for something else. But I wasn't looking for something else because I didn't know what else to look for. This approach to my trip, combined with the slow speed and immersive nature of walking, allowed me to see the world in a way I never have before.
So... there certainly were more and less exciting moments on my trip, but I don't like trying to compare them against each other. I think to try to hold one experience above the others goes against the lesson I learned about just taking in whatever is around you and appreciating it for what it is, and not worrying about how it stacks up to anything else.
5. Did you experience any kind of awakening or new life path because of this?
The closest thing to an awakening that I had was my answer to the last question, that I need to do a better job of appreciating and not taking for granted the beauty that is all around me. Whether this leads to a new life path or just a richer experience of the one I'm currently on remains to be seen.
I told my boyfriend I love this man after reading what he wrote…is that wrong? :) In all seriousness, I just think his lessons are sincere and powerful. In actuality, they are quite simple and I think many of us just miss the simplicity of life. We tie so much “happiness” into money, jobs, possessions, significant others, etc. and it will never fulfill anything we personally lack. And many live in fear - fear of inadequacy, fear of death, fear of others, fear of living - and it would be a commitment to do otherwise. This story somewhat reminds me of the movie, Peaceful Warrior, and if you haven’t seen it, I’d suggest doing so. I can go on and on about this subject, but one day, I actually hope to fully live it myself; until then…
Thanks for sharing Matt!
Has anyone attempted something similar to this, or plans to?