The last few months that I lived in New York I walked a lot. A lot. I'd been a walker in the past and would often walk to or home from work in the spring and summer, but this year I reached a whole new level. Inspired in part by my disgust for the MTA I would regularly walk to and from work, a round trip of 8 miles that saved me about five spiteful dollars a day. Since I was no longer purchasing a unlimited monthly transit pass, I became VERY tightfisted about paying for trains or buses. If it would take me an hour or less, I'd walk instead of ride. If I wasn't carrying a cumbersome load: walk. Not raining? Walk. Raining but not pouring? Put on my wellies and walk. One day I walked 12 miles, round trip, to the dentist. I was committed.
I learned a few neat things on my walks. For example, Williamsburg was much closer to my apartment that I'd thought, and almost as fast to reach on foot as it is via the train. Also, the Williamsburg Bridge is Pepto-Bismal pink. And I'm no good at distance walking while carrying a coffee. And my fingers puff up like hot links when I walk for more than an hour.
The neatest thing by far that I learned was that the city seemed to shrink when I walked. As areas once new to me became known to me, my sense of neighborhood expanded. Places once a hassle to get to now seemed to be "just over there." Also, when you walk, you get none of that disorienting "where the hell am ?" feeling that often arises when you pop up out of the subway (usually in an outer borough). When you walk, you know where you are because you saw where you were going and how you got there.
In the midst of all my walking fervor, I moved half way across the country to Minneapolis, a city I know, but not terribly well. And I don't have a job. So I walk. Not like Forrest Gump (that a shitty movie), but for two to two and a half hours three or four days a week. And it's been awesome! I saw a great blue heron, realized Minnehaha Creek isn't far from me, stumbled upon the local Dairy Queen, learned that rabbits are almost as ubiquitous as squirrels here (which are like rats in NY, which is to say: disgusting), have found streets where I would LOVE to own a home and streets where you couldn't pay me to rent an apartment.
All this is to say that in walking, I'm getting to know my neighborhood. And my neighbors. Yesterday while walking I ran into a fellow I'd seen walking a dog two days earlier and he asked me if I'd gone to a local high school, as I was apparently wearing the school's colors. No, I replied, and he proceeded to tell me that he'd graduated from there in 1988, had three brothers, was walking the dog for a friend of his who had terminal cancer and that he himself had gender identity issues, had inherited his house from an aunt so it was paid for and he knew someone who'd had gender reassignment surgery in Thailand and was now so happy and asked if I was happy being a woman. "Yeah, it's working out pretty well for me," was my truthful response.
So, Tip For You: Get out there and go for a walk! It's healthy and you'd be amazed at the things you can learn.