I’ve been thinking about how walking here is on the one hand really nice and beautiful and how it on the other hand can be really difficult and on the verge of dangerous. It is very contradictory and I find myself battling with how to approach it.
In Sweden, there are two types of walking. There is one that is for some recreational, for others therapeutic, for some slow and others fast, but in either cases involves time set aside separately to go walking in a specific area that is most often beautiful, like alongside the ocean, in a forest trail, on a hill side with a view, and so on. This walk can be made alone or with company and it may or may not lead to a “finish line” such as a coffee or snack or just back to the starting point. If there is company involved it is most likely specifically selected for the purpose in other words involving the shared interest but also shared preference of walking pace. Walking recreationally with somebody who has a different opinion about pace is a disaster, for both parties. It pretty much takes the point away.
Then there is the second type of walking, the transport walking, meaning using your legs as a means of transportation. This type of walking is more diverse in its motivation but it always means taking yourself from point a to point b because you need to and choosing to do so walking, instead of by all the other available means of transportation. Again, the reasoning and motivation can be diverse, but some reasons or combination of reasons for choosing your feet can be to exercise, to get some fresh air, to get some alone time to think, that you missed the bus, that there is no taxi available, that you don’t live next to a bus stop and so on.
This type of walking is the reason why in Sweden you see men and women in suits striding around in sneakers with a multitude of bags on their shoulders – computer bag, office shoes bag, hand bag, gym bag. I am sure it is also a reason as to why it is becoming increasingly trendy wearing a suit with sneakers also in the office. Imagine, in the beginning the office shoes very simply forgotten at home, and then with everyday you keep on forgetting the bag, the look grows on you and simultaneously people around you are also getting used to it so they don’t comment, and then you think ‘hell no’ the next time you actually remember the shoe bag, cause who needs another bag to carry around, and you have already accepted the look itself and probably even have yourself convinced you look pretty cool, so you simply choose to go all in on sneakers with suit. And as us humans rationalize most of our actions quite efficiently, we are happy, and the notion spreads and becomes a trend and an ok behavior. Even a desired one.
In Portugal, the first walking type is recognized. It seems to be used by locals mainly as a way of exercising but is promoted towards tourists as a way to show off the impressive sea side with its stunning mix of wide open ocean view in combination with edgy and sharp cliffs. Considerable investments are made into creating inviting boardwalks along the softer coast line beaches and impressive walking lanes on the verge of stooping cliff edges on the sharper cut parts of the coast line.
As for the second type of type walking though, the transport walking, it is just not around. People don’t do it. At least not by choice. They drive or take the bus. And also, it is simply not a choice. Side walks are not always even available, and if and when they are, they are too narrow for two people to pass each other and too uneven making it too easy to trip. Not to mention the overwhelming amount of dog waste on them. Or that they are used as an area where to put garden waste. Or cars. Or trash cans. It is like the side walks are in reality prolongations of the walls surrounding the houses because it would seem strange to have the car street starting just next to the actual wall. And as temporary storage room for things you don’t want inside the walls. The side walks are simply not trustable so you don’t dare walk too fast which makes it less efficient as a means of transportation.
So in the end, could it be there is no real need for me to feel confused and to battle around walking half side walk, half car street, and in the end half killed. Maybe, instead, I should take in the fact that it is not part of the culture here to actually use walking as a means of transport? And just get into my car and drive of to wherever it is I wanna go. And go running on the amazing boardwalk another time? As simple as that?