3 Reasons to Take the Sidewalk
The Best Way to Explore? Walk!
My favorite place is whichever sidewalk is beneath my feet because I am just constantly fascinated by walking and looking and learning. If I've already walked a street five times, then the next five times I walk it looking up, and I learn something about the cornices.
- Danny Meyer (Michelin-starred chef of Eleven Madison Park & Shake Shack)
Don’t take Uber. Don’t take Lyft. Go on foot and take the sidewalk.
Life can feel like a race sometimes. Sprint to beat the traffic. Dash to get to the restaurant. The chase is part of city living, but it doesn’t have to be. Next time you’re rushing in your hometown or traveling in a new city, take the slow approach to exploring. I’m a huge fan of relying on your two feet and ten toes to really see a place. Here are three reasons why walking is the way to go.
1. You’ll uncover more stuff
Relax. Walk. Allow yourself to get lost. Realize that it doesn’t matter if you miss a few museums or “key points of interest” . . . your trip won’t be ruined. And chances are, you’ll discover something local, authentic and special that isn’t found in any guidebook or tourism office.
Every day, pick one or two things that you want to see that are within walking distance, and visit them. Then anything else you do after that is a bonus. Give yourself permission to go agendaless, spend the afternoon wandering down whichever streets look interesting.
In Paris? Don’t take the subway to the Eiffel Tower, just walk there. You can see it just about wherever you are so it’s easy to get to. And when you get there, have a picnic and marvel at it.
In Istanbul? Don’t just dash through the bazaar, get lost in it. Sample Turkish Delight (the roasted pistachio and Turkish coffee happen to be my fav). I can promise you that the things you see in between - the locals heading home from work, the kids playing pick-up soccer in the street, the couple having a heated argument, the lantern craftsman cutting glass - can’t be experienced from a car, a bus or a train.
2. You’ll capture better photos
I’ve only taken a handful of photography classes, so I’m no expert. But, I do know, that if you’re in a hurry, your photos will reflect it. Higher quality photos come with a little patience and a little luck. Walking gives you that freedom. You can take your time. Find that beautiful frame (a crumbling wall, a blossoming hedge, or a bustling market). Then wait. You’ll see a trendy young woman and her charming grandmother walking hand in hand right in front of it . . . and BAM! You just nailed that canvas-worthy, bazillion likes on Instagram, National Geographic-worthy shot.
Take portrait shots of the locals’ faces, snap the doors they open when they come home, shoot the cafe’s they go to with their friends. If you see something or a situation you like or gets your photographic juices flowing, stay with it. Work it over until either the situation dissolves or you’re sure you’ve gotten the best out of it. Being on foot slows you down so you can see the everyday ingredients of a place that make it special. Besides, photos shot from the inside of a choppy, dirty vehicle always suck.
3. You’ll burn calories
You probably wouldn’t think of your next holiday as an opportunity to improve your cardiovascular health. Especially if you’re snacking on Turkish Delight. But, more often than not, we are much more idle at home than we are when traveling. Non-resort travelers tend to walk six to eight miles a day while traveling, compared to about 2 miles when at home.
Out of shape? No worries! Slow down. Find a comfy bench and take in the local vibe. Hell, if you need to, hop on the bus for the return leg. Rules are for fools. In my experience, the exhilaration of seeing somewhere new will provide ample endorphins to fuel your way through your adventure. And at the end of the day, you’ll have the satisfaction of new memories collected as you traversed a city on foot (you’ll also feel better about treating yourself to that decadent dinner you have planned).
The conventional response to this would be, “but, if you walk, you will be wasting time, how will I get to see everything if I waste all my time walking?” To that argument, my response is, walk and you’ll visit half as many points of interest, but you’ll see twice as many things. Your travel isn’t about collecting passport stamps, it’s about compiling experiences. It’s about etching new memories.
I can promise that if you simply walk, you’ll have many more (and better) stories that you will tell forever.