The year 2020 was a year of countless new things. It was the year of 1pm briefings and glitchy zoom calls. The year we learned about statistical modelling and how to feed a sourdough starter, when we read dozens of books and watched hours of Netflix and finally got around to cleaning out that clutter cupboard.
However, above all, for many, it was the year we rediscovered the humble joy of a good walk.
Every weekday evening or weekend morning New Zealand seemed to collectively take to the streets, pounding the pavement in pursuit of something different, something new. Something other than the view from our kitchen table "desk". We walked to break away from the mundanity (or insanity) of the day-to-day and remind ourselves of the big, rich world we live in, and to explore how we fit into it.
In order words, we walked much for the same reasons we used to travel.
It may seem a stretch to compare these daily wanderings to roaring down Route 66 or trekking through Nepal. Most of us would no doubt jump at the chance to fly over waters wider than the Cook Strait. To feel that distinctive mix of apprehension and awe as we find ourselves in unfamiliar cities with unusual customs and foreign tongues.
But the upside of these last few weeks? We still have one final form of adventure, even in Auckland's current Level 4: our walks. A simple pleasure with big benefits when it comes to mental wellbeing, physical health and a craving for travel.
How can this be you ask? How could the mundane map of roads we travel every day provide anything close to the thrill we experience when we're oceans away from home?
The magic is in the mindset.
In his novel The Art of Travel, British author and philosopher Alain De Botton writes, "the pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to."
The assumption that a certain destination guarantees certain emotional experiences is one every traveller will make at some point or another. A miscalculation that always stings when we eventually find ourselves heartbroken in Paris, gloomy in Barcelona or bored in Tokyo. Although places can absolutely encourage a particular emotion, be it adventurousness, creativity or peace, it's up to us to cultivate these mindsets no matter our immediate circumstances.
Fortunately, this means a simple walk around the neighbourhood can provide the same exciting uncertainty, unexpected delights and novel moments if we simply adopt the right mindset. One that is open to seeing, not new places, but with new eyes.
So, here are some tips for turning that regular walk into a trip of a lockdown.
Few things are more fun than dreaming and scheming ahead of a big trip. From friends and travel magazines to travel blogs and social media feeds, we hungrily collect lists of what to do and where to eat, when to visit, where to explore. However, as the saying goes, many of us become experts in every other city except our own. So, treat your walk like you would a great adventure and make a plan to visit the status, parks, historical features or natural attractions that may be hiding just outside your door.
For some travellers, expensive overseas data plans or twisted time zones are a blessing; allowing days or weeks of freedom from the constant pinging and ringing of a device. Whether you're touring the Louvre or your local park, it's difficult to enjoy the surroundings when your phone keeps making bids for your attention. On your next outdoor adventure, try leaving your tech at home (or on flight mode) and see what happens when you give familiar routes your uninterrupted awareness.
Take a camera
On the road without a phone, what happens when you encounter a view begging to be photographed? Try simply enjoying the moment, undocumented (fellow millennials, I promise you'll survive). Or, dig out that dusty Canon and properly play the part of a tourist as you search for beauty hiding among the ordinary.
Abandon the map
Travel long enough and you'll certainly endure the rite of passage all good explorers face: getting yourself completely and utterly lost. Disorientating as it may be, stumbling off that beaten track and away from our plans is often the start of all great travel stories, whether they're of surprising joy or comical disaster. Get the same thrill with your next lockdown walk, taking side streets you always drive by or venturing into the tiny reserves, seeking out as much newness as you can.