“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”Henry David Thoreau
The world around us is moving at such a hectic pace that we often forget to slow down and smell the proverbial roses. Even our walk is at high speed, pushing every inch of haste we can get out of what is otherwise the most leisurely of modes of locomotion. It isn’t just an opportunity for us to remember to walk. It is, more importantly, an opportunity for us to take a genuinely relaxed tack to the day, and choose to saunter.
History of Sauntering Day
This holiday was formed by W.T. Rabe (fun fact: his son, John Rabe, is the local host for All Things Considered at KPCC in Pasadena) in 1979 as a response to the sworn enemy of the Saunter, jogging. It is thought to have started at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Michigan, USA. The hotel has the longest porch in the world, measuring a lengthy 660 feet, or 200 meters if you work in metrics. The whole thinking behind the day was to get people to slow down a little and take more note of the world around them. He was also the press relations office for the Grand Hotel, making it a pretty good bit of publicity for them!
The definition of the term ‘saunter’ is ‘to walk along in a slow and relaxed manner.’ The likely source of the word is the Middle English word, santren, which means “to muse.”
In 2002, Rabe’s son told journalists, ‘Sauntering, as my father would say, is going from point X to point Z, which means you don’t care where you’re going, how you’re going or when you might get there.’ The idea, he said, was to smell the roses and to pay attention to the world around you.
Jogging, in his view, was a grueling attack on the body. Rapidity and effort drained all the joy out of movement by making each step as painful as possible. Sauntering – the art of free movement from one location to another – was, in his view, unquestionably superior.
Over the years, Rabe gained a significant following. Other people began to see that he was onto something. Jogging might be what heart health professionals recommended, but it was draining people’s lives of joy. Where was the fun in the activity? Where was the relaxation?
Sauntering doesn’t just mean walking how you might if you were on your way to work. It also encompasses the idea that the weight of the world has been lifted from your shoulders. You walk free from stress and strain and can focus on the pure joy of the act. It is the antithesis of jogging – a painful act that robs you of your experience of the outside world. It is more meditative and contemplative. You have the opportunity to experience life to the full instead of feeling puffed out and tired.
Sauntering Day is your opportunity to head out into the world and approach it with a deeply relaxed air, a moment of pure clarity and joy, all while enjoying the beautiful world around you and everything it has to offer.
How to celebrate Sauntering Day
Give yourself plenty of time today, and do so with the intent of relaxing and truly enjoying your journey to wherever it is you have to go. Saunter casually with pure relaxation, and take in the scents and sights. Greet others, and don’t let their urge to move quickly infect yours. In fact, see if you can get them to slow down and join you on your happy little saunter. The world will be better for it, and you’ll be happier for it. Sauntering Day is your opportunity to leave all the rush behind and just… Saunter… through your day.
Other things that you can do to celebrate Sauntering Day include:
- Taking a break at lunchtime and going for a stroll around your local neighborhood or through the park
- Getting off the bus, train, or subway a stop or two early and taking a leisurely stroll the rest of the way to your destination.
- Wander along to your local coffee store and chill out with a hot cup of Joe in hand, watching the world go by.
- If you can’t get out for a walk, you can chill out at home too. The concept of sauntering melds with the Danish and Norweigan idea of Hygge. You are free to experience moments of contentment in your life without external pressures in whatever form they arrive.
DID YOU KNOW: It would take about 225 million years to walk one light-year at the pace of a 20-minute mile?
While you are away on your gentle walk on Sauntering Day, consider the following:
Should being busy be your raison d’etre? Is running around all day, from one activity to another and never really pausing to take stock, really what you want from life? Probably not!
Celebrate Sauntering Day by standing still for a moment or slowing down. Not only will you feel invigorated, but you may spot things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise – the birds singing, the flowers blooming, or the love of your life brushing past you in the street.