I love walking. I think it is the most underrated form of transportation. Of course I love hiking, but it doesn’t have to be a predetermined trail or instagram-worthy trip to merit a walk. Whenever possible, I walk to where I am going, even if it involves carrying groceries two miles or walking 3 hours to a concert venue. My whole life, I have been asked incredulously, “You walked here?” This last summer, I hiked the 2189 miles of the Appalachian Trail, and it was one of the happiest times of my life, because being perpetually on foot changes the way you see the world, and the way it sees you.
As a thru hiker (a word for someone who hikes a long trail all in one go), you become familiar with the concept of “trail magic,” where strangers help you out for no reason other than that you are on a journey. You get tons of free food, free beer, a free shower or stay in someone’s house. Strangers want to help you, because by walking you make yourself vulnerable. You work so much for every meal and place to sleep, and give up a lot of freedom.
At the same time, you become more aware and grateful. You notice small sights you would never see even on a bike. You become incredibly affected by circumstances, whether they be weather or a stranger’s kindness, and learn to appreciate them more. What does a free ride mean when you could call an Uber? What does the sun mean when you can go indoors at any time? By putting yourself at the mercy of outside forces and surrendering some kinds of freedom, you become humble and at the same time incredibly free.
And so, as a recovering thru-hiker, I thought I would do a little. I told my coworkers and friends, “maybe I’ll walk to Olympia this holiday weekend.” (A one hour drive from where I live in Seattle.) They all responded in some way like: “Can you really do that?” “By yourself? Aren’t you worried about getting murdered?” “Where will you stay?” and eventually some version of “No one really does that, but I guess I don’t see why you can’t….”
So the day before, I found some somewhat arbitrary Airbnb stops for around $50 each, basically did no other planning, and packed my AT backpack with a bunch of impractical things like extra sweaters, a hardcover book, a pound of blackberries, and a stuffed pink otter. Then in the morning, I walked out my door and followed google maps toward Olympia.