Sometimes I get a bit jazzed in the middle of the day when I have some time off, or when I’m restless in my dorm room. I’ll check my phone and have a good half an hour of time to kill. When Netflix isn’t so appealing, and YouTube feels a bit soul-sucking, I decide to do something possibly more productive. So, I grab my headphones, don my jacket, tie my shoes, put on my mask, and head into the great outdoors.
Usually, I have no initial idea of exactly where I’m going. I make that decision sometime between walking out the door and arriving back at my dorm. So, yes, I guess I have a starting point and an end destination. But, let’s just say the in-between is unwritten and dependent on the time of day, the tone of my day, the time I have, and the music I’m feeling.
What’s really important is getting my energy flowing. When my mind is flooded with thoughts, sometimes they can get a bit stuck inside my head and there’s nothing that unsticks them better than a nice long walk.
Sometimes it’s light outside, sometimes it’s dark. Whenever I feel the urge and have the realistic ability to act on it, I get up and go.
Walks also help in dealing with any pestering anxiety or worries. Fresh air gives clarity of mind and allows some time to introspect.
Right after I received my first college rejections, I headed out for a walk in my neighborhood. Likewise, before I made my mind up about Oberlin, I had gone on a walk to clear my head.
So, for anyone looking to relieve some tension, my recommendation is to go on a let’s-see-how-this-goes walk, to test what personal pedestrian journeys, AKA walks, mean for you.
If you visit Oberlin and happen to meander around on your own, be sure to check out the bike path. It’s especially beautiful in the fall and seldom used. Similarly, the Arboretum (in the summer/early fall) has cool natural trails and places to pop a squat, stand, or lie down surrounded by lush green grass and gorgeous trees. Tappan Square has some nice pathways too. Along them are benches where, should you feel so inclined, you can sit and rest for a spell. If you happen to be inspired on the way, trees along the walkways sometimes make for good forts for sleeping, reading, or just chilling.
The town of Oberlin is also lit up at night. Right now, string lights adorn the trees along the main street and they make for a perfect, cheery atmosphere for a well-lit night stroll.
If you’re on a wintry college visit, and are able to get a tour of Shanks gym, you’ll get to see an indoor track where you can do your “avoiding bad weather” walking. Or, you know, you could also go in the snow and freezing windchill. So…options, options!
But regardless of your environment of choice, if you’ve been wanting to walk around a bit more, below are some tips from someone who goes on A LOT of walks.
Stay safe. Bring your phone or a way to contact someone in case you end up in a dangerous situation. Walks at night can be a bit scary and if you choose to nightwalk, keep your wits about you. When it’s dark, try to stay close to populated and well-lit areas. If you must venture through a dark space, carrying some form of flashlight is advisable, so you can see who is around you and so you won’t stumble over rough patches on the ground.
Dress for the occasion. Make sure you’re wearing something comfortable and weather-appropriate.
Determine the mood. If you’re upset and wanting to cool down, try to find safe, yet secluded areas. If you’re in a positive mood, it might be useful to head toward crowded spaces or bright displays. If you’re looking for musical empathy, I highly recommend listening to a song that fits your mood or lifts your mood.
Have no expectations. Just go with the flow. Whatever you’re feeling is valid and this walk will help you get your feelings out and experience them fully, with no distractions. However, although walking can be mood lifting, it’s not a cure-all, but may be a salve for or a break from current bothersome situations.
Breathe. Take the time to breathe in and out deeply on your walk. It’s really easy to get caught up in the day-to-day ennui and monotony. Deep breaths can help reset your mental state, especially inhaling the fresh, natural outdoor air.
Remember: they’re for you. Walks are a prime form of self-care. Walking is not just a type of exercise, or a method of transportation. It’s a form of healing and problem-solving. It’s useful for coming to understandings or for reaching personal epiphanies. And even if no inspiration strikes, sometimes it’s just nice to be outside without having to go somewhere.
So, if you are super stressed-out or feeling overwhelmed, try going on a walk. If you are feeling jovial and want to try out some happy heel clicks, a walk may be a useful excuse to do so and could even be energetically rejuvenating. While walking won’t be a perfect solution, it may be helpful in allowing you to gain new perspective, to ground yourself, and to possibly take some time to relax. And oh yeah, it’s good, non-strenuous exercise as well. Who knows, perhaps you’ll even see more definition in your calf muscles!