Walking and Locating the Self

Walking….as soon as I read about your project I thought about a conversation I had had with a friend recently. We talked about the space in between one place and another and how good it was to be aware of experiencing that interstice. I thought about how I had deliberately got off my bike lately to walk because I needed to think before arriving and was speeding along faster than I wanted my thoughts to go. This need to create a coincidence between interior and exterior reality was significant when I first came to Bristol.

Each time I have relocated I have felt excitement but also a fair amount of anxiety. Someone talked to me once about culture shock and I realised that my initial emotions mirrored the description of culture shock: disorientation, rejection of one’s surroundings, anxiety.

When I first came to Bristol walking the same routes every day became very important. It was only by laying down – sedimenting – layers of familiarity each day that I could calm these feelings. I was literally constructing my new reality in increments by habitual walking. With this ‘map’ established I could vary it, branch off at tangents, make discoveries, alter my routes, but I had to walk my own city skeleton before experiencing the tangible luxury of fleshing it out, before enjoying its more generous dimensions.

I’ve almost forgotten now that compulsion to tread a sense of reality, step by step. You can run a place, swim a place, dance a place and once you feel like you ‘belong’, not belonging seems less imaginable. However, I know that if and when I make move again walking my trajectory in that new place will be necessary.

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