The Joy of Thinking on Your Feet

By Erin Donahue-Boyle • Schulich Leader at McMaster University
Erin DB

Over the past eighteen months, many small things in life have become those that seem most precious in our lives. With this in mind, there is nothing that can compare to the curious mental state brought about by the stroll.

Legend holds that Socrates did most of his philosophizing while walking the paths outside of Athens. This has become something of a forgotten art. In the hustle to get from place to place, earphones are snapped on, the pace is set, and nothing can divert focus from arrival at a destination.

Yet the thinking done on a walk is a wonderful thing. Some of my fondest memories include heated debates with friends on the way home from school, playing the sentence game while wandering aimlessly with family, or grinning up at the sky after solving a problem that has plagued me for some time. In these moments, the pressures of the rest of the world take a temporary leave, and the journey becomes an opportunity to disappear down a rabbit hole of incredible importance or utter triviality.

Last year, like many, my classes were online, and walking as a means of transportation was largely eliminated. Its return is almost as eagerly anticipated as school itself. Recently, I caught myself stewing over a puzzle on the half-hour walk home from the library. The joy that this brought was surpassed only by the fact that I had figured it out by the time I arrived, something I had been unable to accomplish over a few hours at a desk.

The next time a challenge seems insurmountable, consider taking it out in your sneakers. Beyond being great for physical and mental health, it might just be the key needed to figure the entire thing out.