When I walk, autumn leaves gently crunch underfoot, wind whistles and leaves rustle. Silhouettes of birds soar across the tall sky while trickling streams drip and burble. I feel connected to the landscape and so I keep walking, for longer and longer. In a month, I will be walking the rest of my journey across Kyrgyzstan, a total length of around 1000kms. Is this desire a little unusual?
Humans are born to walk. It was the ability to stand upright and stride forward that took our earliest ancestors out of the savannas of east Africa some 60 000 years ago to eventually reach every corner of the world. They left home to escape drought. They walked further to find food. They withstood inhospitable weather and terrain during one of the worst times of the last Ice Age to seek better opportunities. Their boldness in risk taking and their belief that things will be okay is an ageless quality of the human spirit.
Walking, then, defines our history; the history of human migrations, of the human mind, and of the human spirit, toughened by tens of thousands of years of obstacles and challenges. To wander further and further away from home, then, is human nature. Whether for food, shelter, war, work, love or knowledge, we’ve always left home and adapted to change with a sense of adventure.
Walking and leaving home is, in this sense, our journey into the future; our journey into a better understanding of ourselves and the world in which we live. It is a journey to better understand our interconnectedness and our family tree that branched out into some six thousand languages and into tens of thousands of cultures.
We are also connected to nature. We sprang forth from its womb some 3.7 billion years ago and have flourished in its web of life since. Nature is our true home. When we walk, we come into total connection with her. We use our bodies to intimately experience her time, place and space.
We become one with the land we walk on and we step into the now-ness of our experience. We are in awe of what is around us. We step out of our habituated abodes of the mind and its stories into the beauty of what is. We become alive.
Between a thousand miles we remember the lakes and mountains, the valleys and rivers, and the grassland and highland because we experienced them mindfully and slowly. We experience the world through its geography, geology, biology and history. We become one with nature and we become us in our natural state.