“Solvitur ambulando” — it is solved by walking, is attributed to St. Augustine. I have this saying posted in my office, and I agree with Augustine on the power of putting one foot in front of the other. Walking has been life-changing for me. In 2001, I began to offer walks to clients as an alternative to more traditional forms of coaching. During our “coachwalks” they were able to think more creatively and expansively.
January inevitably brings out my introspective/retrospective side. I just returned from a walk, during which I thought about how often I’ve oriented myself to new surroundings by exploring the neighborhood on foot. I pondered the pros and cons of moving. As I write, my sister is doing something common in our family: unpacking boxes in a new residence. I’m halfway across the country, unable to help. I wish I could be there; somehow, home becomes more real and comfortable when loved ones show up to affirm your new space.
From birth to age 20, we moved eight times and lived in four states. During college I spent a semester abroad. In my adult life, I’ve moved another eight times, although I remained in one area for a record 20 years, until the desire to relocate was too strong to ignore. Moving had a positive impact: I learned how to fit in and make new friends, how to appreciate diversity in people and places. However, I envy families that don’t book airline tickets to be together for holidays and milestones. When people ask where I’m from, there is no simple answer. (Do they mean my home state, or where I lived the longest?)
I experienced the familiar unpacking ritual three months ago. As moves go, mine was local, and fairly easy: I’m practically in the same neighborhood, and friends helped a lot. My move was about walking into a better living and work space, so I solved some things through relocating. One of my first acts after the furniture was off the truck was to ask a new neighbor where I might walk in the neighborhood. I had to learn about the territory.
In my professional life, I request a tour when I begin my relationship with an organization. I want to absorb as much as possible about the culture, mission, and client needs or preferences. I’ve noticed some differences between clients who have not seen much beyond their home turf, and those who have moved around or traveled a lot.
A favorite former student yearns to travel, and wants to move, but she is stuck in her home state, because of loyalty and love for a disabled parent for whom she is caregiver and legal guardian. I know others with the resources and freedom to go anywhere, but they choose to stay in one place, complaining of boredom, lack of opportunity, or how life “sucks” where they live. I coached someone who knew significant issues would be resolved if he could find the courage to walk (i.e., move), but his fear of the unknown was too overwhelming.
Geographic moves may or may not solve problems, but I’m happy to be a lifelong walker. One of my new year intentions is to walk more mindfully, more often, listening for the answers within. What do you think?