Last Man Walking

Every time I come back to the forests of my childhood town in Northern Germany, the scenery is a little different:

Old trees have been chopped, new trees have been planted; rivers and creeks have grown, or have run dry. Sometimes I will see rabbits and foxes, at other times deers, and on the rare occasion even a blazing fire salamander.

One of the most peculiar changes in recent years, though, are the people.

The other citizens that decide to visit the forest. Whenever I see them, I get the feeling that times are changing and that I am – despite my comparatively young age – totally antiquated: While everybody else is jogging, jumping, running, sprinting and racing, I simply walk.

The result? Even pensioners outrun me, dressed in neon-colored and breathable sportswear, pinching me with their fitness walking poles if I don’t watch out.

As it turns out, I seem to be the only person that still enjoys strolling through the forest. Apparently, I’m the last man walking.

The Idle Rebel

Sure, you can train for a marathon. That’s fine with me!1 But what strikes me as odd is that I’m virtually the only person left that is still walking around aimlessly, without a major action plan in mind: All I want to do is breathe some fresh air and enjoy the wonderful scenery. Is that really such a strange thing to do?

When I see the hordes of athletes in the forest, I believe there’s something more to it.

Could it be that idleness is so frowned upon today that many people feel they need some kind of excuse in order to go outside?

It could be that the kids have to play.2
It could be that they’ve got some errands to do.
It could be their marathon training.

But taking one or two hours just to walk around and do nothing?

In times where work is worshipped as the only Goddess, idleness becomes an act of rebellion.

Good for us it’s so enjoyable.

So… I’ll just continue to walk and see what happens.

I won’t bring any protest signs to the forest either.3

Maybe you’ll join me, so we can confuse some more people about what we are up to, walking slowly, smiling at the world.

Idleness for the rescue.

  1. If nothing else, the softer forest soil will probably prevent major injuries in your joints and ankles. []
  2. Parents with their children busy playing seem to be the only relaxed people out there. As the young ones are distracted, they find some time to simply enjoy the sun. []
  3. Though I might bring some flowers. []

Comments 17

  1. Célia July 20, 2011

    Amen to that! The world really needs to slow down. What’s the rush?
    I’m a rebel too :)

    • Fabian July 20, 2011

      Yay, so we’re building a peaceful army of walking rebels!
      Thanks, Célia! :)

  2. Dan July 20, 2011

    Hey man,

    I hear you. I actually do something a tad different. I live in the suburbs, but there are some beautiful places to drive to. And I love music. So I will go out for hours on a drive to a random place and see what I find, all while listening to my favorite songs.

    Funny thing is, I have never had a friend who understood this compulsion. One of my exes thought I was really weird for it. I said one day, “Let’s go for a drive.” She said, “To where?” I said, “I don’t know.” She looked like a robot to whom I had just told a logical paradox!

    Sometimes travelling without a destination is great, whether it be walking or driving. (I walk too, but I have to actually go out of my way to get to any meaningful greenspace).

    Thanks man,

    • Fabian July 20, 2011

      Dan, I can certainly relate to that! It has been a while for me, as I pretty much avoid driving nowadays, but I too enjoyed simply driving to new places while listening to some of my favorite tunes… still on tapes in the old days!

      Strangely enough, the only equivalent for me now seems to be walking with my iPod at the beach. While I normally like to listen to the sounds of the environmet, there’s nothing like enjoying a well-composed album while walking barefoot in the sand, looking at the sea! :)

  3. Erick July 20, 2011

    And that reminds me the wise words of Thoreau on Walden… Thanks!

  4. Janet July 20, 2011

    a stroll through the forest sounds nice. :) isn’t that called hiking? ;)

    • Fabian July 21, 2011

      Depends on your marketing skills when it comes to presenting yourself as an athletic person! ;)

  5. Cristhyano July 21, 2011

    I’m with you. Saddly i’m in one of the busiest times of my life with college and job, but soon this will pass and i’ll be free again.

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  8. kemai July 23, 2011

    I’m totally with you! Here, and in the real world. I love going for a walk in the forest, or somewhere in the countryside, not knowing what I will find… though I like knowing how to get back… so I often choose tours I find on the Internet for some kind of orientation.

  9. Fabian July 25, 2011

    Thank you, Cristhyano and Kemai! Good to see more happy walkers! :)

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  11. natalia_pi October 21, 2011

    Nice post – I agree with you. Since you like the concept of tempo giusto, I’ll give you another Italian concept: la passeggiata. Passeggiare means going out, walking, and doing nothing else. Maybe chat with your friend if you are with someone, otherwise just walk for walking. I love it, and I really miss it – here in Vienna people don’t seem to do it that much, despite their beautiful green hills – whereas it’s one of the things that make me happy. It’s one of the things that sometimes makes me a little homesick.

    • Fabian October 27, 2011

      Hey Paola, that’s great! :)

      The “passeggiata” is probably similar to what in Germany is called a “Spaziergang”! It’s maybe not as popular in the larger cities, though, but more in towns or villages. Of course, I’ve also been taking quite a few passeggiatas here in Vienna, especially around Ottakring, the 7th district, and the city center! :)

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