Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act

Born to Walk: The Transformative Power of a Pedestrian Act

Paperback(Reprint)

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Overview

The case for getting back on our feet — now in paperback

The humble act of putting one foot in front of the other transcends age, geography, culture, and class and is one of the most economical and environmentally responsible modes of transit. Yet with our modern fixation on speed, this healthy pedestrian activity has been largely left behind.

At a personal and professional crossroads, writer, editor, and obsessive walker Dan Rubinstein traveled throughout the U.S., U.K., and Canada to walk with people who saw the act not only as a form of transportation and recreation, but also as a path to a better world. There are no magic-bullet solutions to modern epidemics like obesity, anxiety, alienation, and climate change. But what if there is a simple way to take a step in the right direction? Combining fascinating reportage, eye-opening research, and Rubinstein’s own discoveries,Born to Walkexplores how far this ancient habit can take us and how much repair is within range, and guarantees that you’ll never again take walking for granted.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781770414198
Publisher: ECW Press
Publication date: 05/08/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Dan Rubinsteinis a National Magazine Award–winning writer and editor. He contributes to publications such asThe Walrus, TheGlobe and Mail,The EconomistandenRoute, and has edited magazines in Ontario and Alberta. These days, he does most of his walking in Ottawa. Kevin Pattersonis a medical doctor who works mostly in British Columbia and Nunavut. He is the author of the novelConsumption, the short story collectionCountry of Cold(which won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize), and the memoirThe Water in Between: A Journey at Sea.

Read an Excerpt

This book is about the transformative properties of walking. About fissures that anyone can explore. It is the outcome of an experiment both personal and journalistic, an attempt to understand my addiction, to see how much repair might be within range.

I have tried to structure it in a logical way, exploring one main benefit of walking in each chapter. This is a problematic construction: the anecdotes, statistics and conclusions overlap and magnify one another. There are also geographic boundaries to stumble over. While I touch down in Asia, Africa and Latin America, the focus is on the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. The cultural and economic forces that have shaped the Anglosphere (our cities and habits, our health and happiness) have incubated a distinct set of challenges.

Maturity, we are told, means accepting that the world is broken. Yet, what if some simple patches were possible? All of the people I spoke to or spent time with, outstanding in diverse fields, have demonstrated, in one way or another, that a renewed emphasis on walking, even in communities facing stacked odds, could be a small step toward somewhere better. That my fix just might be a fix.

Generations of writers have gone down this road. Wordsworth, Thoreau, Solnit, Chatwin and scores of others have crafted lyrical poems, essays and books about the power of walking. I bow at their feet. These classics are more relevant now than ever, and they have kindled a resurgence. In 2014 alone, French philosopher Frédéric Gros published a manifesto about the subversive ability of walking to mine the “mystery of presence”; British author Nick Hunt retraced the 80-year-old footsteps of scholar Patrick Leigh Fermor across Europe on a quest to find what remains of the kindness of strangers; historian Matthew Algeo looked back at an era when competitive walking was America’s most popular spectator sport; and naturalist Trevor Herriot embarked on a prairie pilgrimage, wielding “a metaphysics of hope against the dogma that we are aimless wanderers in a world whose chaotic surface is the sum total of reality.” This indispensable paper trail gave my ideas shape and scope.

One of the first guides I talked to was a doctor named Stanley Vollant, the first Aboriginal surgeon from Quebec. A son of the Innu nation, Vollant was striving to inspire hope among Canada’s indigenous peoples by leading group hikes hundreds of miles long, reviving the routes and rhythms of his ancestors. There was a walk coming up. He invited me to tag along.

At the time, I was bogged down by work and domestic responsibilities. But our conversation continued to resonate. “When you begin a journey, you don’t know why,” Vollant had said sagely. “The trail will show you the way.”

Table of Contents


  1. Foreword

  2. Prologue

  3. Chapter 1: Body

  4. Chapter 2: Mind

  5. Chapter 3: Society

  6. Chapter 4: Economy

  7. Chapter 5: Politics

  8. Chapter 6: Creativity

  9. Chapter 7: Spirit

  10. Chapter 8: Family

  11. Epilogue

  12. Sources

  13. Acknowledgements


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