Point Reyes, California. Photo by Sarah Peck

“Modern literary theory sees a similarity between walking and writing that I find persuasive: words inscribe a text in the same way that a walk inscribes space. In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau writes, ‘The act of walking … is a process of appropriation of the topographical system on the part of the pedestrian, it is a special acting-out of the place … and it implies relations among differentiated positions.’ I think this is a fancy way of saying that writing is one way of making the world our own, and walking is another.”

— Geoff Nicholson, The Lost Art Of Walking.

Walking is critical to thinking, yet we are an increasingly sedentary society. Let’s move, think, wander. There is language and brilliance in movement, in walking and exploring. 

Or, perhaps as Austin Kleon says: “You are a mashup of what you let into your life.”

This past year, I designed an event series around spending time walking and talking with a small group of people in San Francisco (and expanded to Boulder, Colorado for a special session with the Bold Academy). The purpose of the Walk + Talk series was to explore different conversations and new spaces, as well as to test an idea that I’d been mulling over for some time: That walking (and movement) are critical to thinking, and that a walk can enable more vulnerable and in-depth conversations in ways that sitting and talking don’t always do.

For each event, I put together a set of ideas loosely related to a particular topic (with suggested readings and prompt questions), but certainly allowed for people to be free to wander off point and engage in their own imaginations.

Over the past dozen events, there have been several emerging themes and realizations. There are several reasons why walking is conducive to better thinking, from the positioning of our bodies in space, the the idea of a destination, to the elevation of our heart rates to 100-110 beats per minute. When you design scenarios that enable trust–and walking with friends can be designed to create a space of safety and exploration–the ideas and innovations and possibilities that result can be astounding. And sometimes, you just need to walk it out. Just as the peripatetic philosophers did years ago, let’s engage in a short walk and ask good, hard, interesting questions.

I believe in the importance of conversation and wandering and connectivity, and I’m exploring a theory that movement is essential for unlocking the thinking in our minds. I also want to create a space for respectful, fearless conversations, idea exchange, and explorations. Particularly or equally important was the group curation–I invited minds that I admired, thought leaders and people willing to be vulnerable and inquisitive; and kept the size small enough to create space for long-form conversation.

The fact that we’re creating a small but growing group of philosopher-wanderers who gather to muse about the future of the world, modern issues, and other topics at hand makes me incredibly excited. Each walk, a new theme is put forward, with suggested reading passed around in the group.

If you’re in San Francisco, ask about next event or email me to find out more–I tend to keep the groups very small, so space is limited.  The idea, however, is free. Walking and talking are inherently human activities and no one owns them, and I’ll be posting the reading sets for people to borrow on this website (please, take them!). If you find more readings or articles related to movement, thinking and consciousness, please send them my way. The world needs more walkers and philosophers. (And as a bonus: if you come up with your own reading set, send it my way and I’ll use it for a future group). 

Thoughts and musings for the afternoon:

  • How often do you take a walk?
  • Are you a solitary walker or a group walker?
  • When do you do your best imagining and thinking?
  • Is thought and movement related? How is movement important (and critical) for innovation and creativity?
  • Do you wander in places that are familiar or unfamiliar?

“It’s not about where an adventure ends, because that’s not what an adventure is about. Let’s get going.” – Matt Damon (In the movie “We Bought A Zoo”).

Tell me your story in the comments! I’ll be writing more on movement and consciousness in several future posts, and I’d love to hear from you.

Get my monthly newsletter, not available anywhere else: The SKP Monthly.