Friday, 13 January 2012

Paths of Desire and walking with freedom

Over Christmas I started to make a book about walking, why we walk and ways in which we walk.

I first became interested in walking as a practice for exploring the world in 2004 when I began a project I called Paths of Desire in Corby, Northamptonshire.  At the time I wrote:
When we walk we are not bound by the rules of the road... Paths of Desire is...about the freedom to make our own choices about where we want to go and where we want to be...
Paths of Desire leaflet
For me, walking has always had an element of subversiveness to it, an element of individual choice and not going along with the mainstream.  When you walk you can cross many terrains, change direction suddenly, jump over fences and walk on walls.  Walking, as oppose to using any form of vehicle, liberates you from the necessity of having to follow tracks laid down by others.  For me, walking, like exploring, can seem rebellious.  This is when I first started reading about psychogeography and the Situationists.

I also received a beautiful gift of a compass over Christmas.  This got me thinking again about travelling without maps and why I have such a resistance to using a Sat Nav.  A map and a Sat Nav give you pre-prescribed routes, they miss out the detail and get you there by a route that somebody else (planners) have deemed to be the "best" way. Your choice has been removed.

Yes, brilliant for getting about quickly and not getting lost... but what do you lose in not getting lost?

I have done a number of motorcycle tours across Europe, especially in the years before Sat Nav had been invented!  My longest trip was to go to Brno in the Czech Republic and back.  We had a map but it only covered western Germany and ran out before we reached Dresden.  Completely lost and not knowing the language, we decided, well, we knew we had to go east... so we did it the old fashioned way, we just navigated by where the sun was and kept travelling more or less east until, sure enough, we eventually found Brno.

Who knows the route we actually took, I couldn't tell you now, even with a map.  But if we hadn't just followed our instincts (and the sun!) we would have been travelling the well worn main roads laid down by others, and not stumbled across the small villages, beautiful churches in the hills, broken down buildings and beckoning street-ladies that we came across.  As a result, my impressions of the Czech Republic at that time were multi-layered and fascinating.

The compass has the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost inscribed in the lid.  It ends with the lines:
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference."
On Monday my collaborator Carole and I start our new series of explorative walks in Northamptonshire, and we shall be blogging about it here:

On Monday we will be walking by water
I found a great Radio 3 programme by travel writer Ian Marchant, a good introduction to psychogeography, listen to it here:  Walking with Attitude.

Later Paths of Desire projects are archived on my Thinkspace website.

If you are interested in motorcycle tours, my friend Duncan runs European tours, see his website

Come on a night walk!  Dream Walking event, Friday 10th February, Nottingham, see the Sidelong blog for details.

1 comment:

  1. Just a beautiful Blog posting Jo. I have found that through walking the world is opened up in profound and mysterious ways.