Walks to Befriend Your City

This photo is in San Francisco! I see other cities sometimes!

If you’ve ever wanted to walk around your city to explore it but can’t figure out how, here’s a handy guide to the things I do when I walk around, which I sure do a lot! So I’m basically an expert. Here’s some expert advice.

The Pilgrimage

This is usually how I buy my chocolate for the month. I make a monthly trek up the stairs to a nice view of the Space Needle, then the Fremont bridge, then to the Theo chocolate factory, where I try samples, check out what’s seasonal, and buy like 10 chocolate bars (not exaggerating, that’s not even all the chocolate I eat in a month). It’s definitely a ritual, since it’s not especially convenient, I enjoy every part of the walk since it includes pretty quality scenery, and it makes chocolate buying into a weirdly sentimental activity. Then I have a much longer walk home. Other activities that could be great for this include going to the library, going to your favorite flower shop, or walking to a place where you like to read or get coffee. Anything that benefits from a slower mindset.

The Friendgrimage

This is admittedly a pretty bad portmanteau, but the concept above is really fun with a partner. If you live a reasonable-but-slightly-far distance from someone, you can meet in the middle, or at an almost central location, and then walk somewhere together! I’ve done this a lot on slow weekend days, and I’ve come to love the “I’m walking on x street, with traffic” communication and the slow realization that you are finally approaching the other person when you see them in the distance and prepare for a hug slightly too soon.

The Walk-Mindlessly-In-One-Direction

This works really well in Seattle for walking along one of the many bodies of water, but I’m sure other cities have analogous features. Anywhere where you can walk pretty indefinitely in one direction following some kind of scenic landmark and not think about navigating. You can just start walking and space out and look at things. Also works with someone with whom you have a lot of catching up to do, because it’s a low-key activity that doesn’t involve one of you checking your phone constantly to navigate or any difficult logistics.

The Chore Circuit

Sometimes, you can do an even more practical version of the pilgrimage if you have a lot of different sorts of chores. There’s something tiring about waiting for a ton of buses or getting in and out of the car a bunch, but if you can string together several chores into one longish walk, it can make for a very satisfyingly productive Sunday morning. I like to do something like return library books, go to the bouldering gym, pick up an odd item from a less-visited grocery store, get lunch, and get my phone repaired. It works best with chores that are very different, that you keep wanting to put off, and that are reasonably close together. It works especially well for me as a way to enjoy the time to myself on my weekdays off and sometimes it’s the kind of push I need to motivate myself to go bouldering (which I usually like doing only once I’ve started).

The Get Lost Intentionally

This is actually how I like to run, but that maybe isn’t advisable since that’s how you end up 8 miles from your house not wanting to run back. Still, if you have a lot of free time or are in a new city, this is a really great way to find something new. This is my favorite kind of walk, but it does get increasingly hard as you get to know a city better. Just bring a bus pass and/or think about a turnaround time.

The Hill Sit

This seems oddly specific, because it is. But I think it’s worth mentioning, because there’s something special about urban walks to a destination that isn’t actually a tourist attraction or something else crowded (especially a view) Maybe where you bring a picnic, or some wine if that’s legal. It’s the closest thing to hiking if hiking is unavailable or you just don’t feel like the effort, and fosters the same kind of appreciation for your (cringe) Urban Landscape. I like to walk to hills even more at night to look at the city lights from above. This can be combined with the previous walk to make a sort of “where is a hill?” adventure.

The Varied Commute

Every day, I walk nearly the same route to work. I recognize the smells, the light, the changes in snow on the mountains, and the same couple of CrossFit dudes I walk past at the same time each day. For a couple of parts of my walk, I choose my route based on my mood. One way has better plants. One has the drug store. One has laundry detergent smells from a particular apartment building. Even if you don’t take a different route, a walk you take often enough will have exciting seasonal changes, changing storefronts, common characters, local cats, and other subtle excitement. It’s worth trying to notice something different each time.

How do you like to explore your city? Do you walk a turtle? Play dog breed bingo? Let me know!

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