The Art Of Aimlessly Walking

Credit: Zachary Staines

Credit: Zachary Staines

Emily explores the art of being a ‘solivagant’ (or lone wanderer, if you don’t have a dictionary to hand) and walking around Bristol.

Walking has become synonymous with ‘boring’. But what if we re-visited this notion, and look at how walking can do great things for the soul, mental health and self-awareness? And guess what? Bristol is the perfect location to practice this.

Lose The Expectation

As a society, we’re constantly thinking the next best thing is around the corner. Often it means we expect and seek happiness and achievements, rather than living in the moment and choosing to acknowledge the present. It is this expectation that is a key failure of our mentality. If we don’t make tangible achievements, we will always see ourselves as a failure.

The same issue is now applied to walking. We only walk if there is an aim. To walk to work or college, or to get somewhere else. But what if we started walking just for the sake of it?

Turns out this aimless walking actually does great things for the soul – especially if you do it in your home city, such as Bristol.

There’s No Such Thing As Lonely

The beauty of walking around a city as vibrant as Bristol is that even when alone, you feel a part of something much bigger than your own mind.

You can take in all the sights, the harbour, the restaurants, the sights, and most importantly the people. Before you know it you will be drawn to people just like yourself; a species I’ve come to know as ‘solivagants’: solitary wanderers.

Expect Nothing, Gain Everything

As the famous saying goes, things happen when we least expect it, and these are often the best things. This can clearly be applied to aimless walking – or what I prefer to call pondering.

If you come into the city with no expectation, other than to bask in the world around you, I can guarantee you will gain something intangible, but something far more beneficial.

‘Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost’

From my own experience as a solivagant – a new breed of ponderer, I have become more self-aware and positive. Perhaps it comes from being more comfortable in my own company, with nothing but my own thoughts to guide me.

I’ll paint the picture for you. I would get the Park And Ride into town, jump off at Cabot Circus and simply meander between Broadmead, Harbourside and Park Street. I would come with only one thought – I want to walk, simply for the joy of walking and being immersed in the city.

Without knowing it, by doing this every now and then I was doing great things for my self-esteem and confidence. I would always return home happy after my ponderful afternoon, but it took doing it time and time again to realise why.

I have always been a ruminator, deep thinker – and rather prone to overthinking and low moods. Practicing my hobby of walking around the city taught me how to be more comfortable with my own thoughts, and how to appreciate the city in which I live. In turn, this has seriously enhanced my confidence and altered my relationship to expectation. I now know that the best things in life, whether that be a positive outlook, self-confidence, or even relationships, tend to come about when you are not expecting them or consciously seeking some great reward in return for your efforts.

Enjoy The Journey, Not Just The Destination

If you choose to enjoy the moment, choose happiness right now, your mind can reach its true potential. If instead, you are always thinking ‘I’d be happy, if only…’, you will only ever be inevitable feeding your mind with failure.

Applying the art of the solivagant to your life more generally (that of being comfortable alone and appreciating the sights that lie down whichever path you come across) is a simple way to make a positive change.

Give it a try, whether you live in Bristol or a different location – add music, food, coffee, but just go with the aim of walking, simply for the love of walking, and appreciating the world around you.

Take a walk over to the Rife Guide and have a look at some of the amazing projects run by Situations

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