We walked a lot. A lot more than I expected and yet my feet rarely felt sore. My body was physically yearning for this. Both the walking and the seeing. The experiential learning. Our miles of walking for the past eight months solidified how much more you can see when you walk, and how much more you can learn when you walk. You have the ability to stop and take a look at things or go into shops and cafes that are inviting. You can walk through history, monuments, and memories. You can make memories.
I was always a walker. While growing up, the bus cost $1 to $2, so I preferred to save the money and walk. It was also therapeutic. I could think about my day or talk to myself in circles. It would take longer which gave me more time to think about things or mentally prepare for some test or presentation. Other times, I enjoyed walking because it would spike my hunger so I would be utterly hungry when I got to whatever restaurant. Walking was perfect.
But, on this trip, some days it was harder than others to be in the mindset to walk. Other days, I didn’t have the extra time to walk because I was overwhelmed with homework or we had a field trip at a particular time. But, the days I walked, I (we) saw so much more on the walls of the shops and feelings exchanged between people. Walking through these towns reminded me of walking around the cities I grew up in.
On this program, some of our classes consisted of walking tours. Sometimes, we were guided by a tour guide through their city, listening to their own narratives and experiences, while also getting a historical context of the neighborhoods we were visiting. We walked by monuments in Moscow, through cemeteries and shrines in Japan, historic sites in China, neighborhoods in Singapore, our professor’s childhood nostalgia in Kuala Lumpur, dodged motorbikes in the colorful Old Delhi, and walked through the Himalayas. The streets of these cities became our classroom and our desks were no longer still. We walked from place to place, scribbling in notebooks, sitting on sidewalks, and buying snacks along the way.
Walking became a way for us to connect with a city but also each other. We had conversations with each other on our many walks, getting excited about the puppies we walked by or a street stall with food we wanted to try. We could get to know one another, through the objects we walked by inviting memories of our childhood that we wanted to share. Or perhaps, our professor wanted to take us for a walk to tell us their own experiences living in these countries.
With all this walking, I decided to dedicate a video to all the walking we did this year. We started walking in Russia, and we walked through the Pacific Rim, with our bags, friendships, and determination, taking us to the end where we walked through India.
As the trip comes to an end, I will remember the walks we took, as a group, in pairs, at night and solo. We got wet sometimes, and other times we found ourselves running across highways unsure how else to get to that one cafe. But, we got there, and we got there by walking. And now, as we say goodbye to one another, we got to these last days by walking and we will walk away from each other and walk away from this experience with nothing but self-growth, memories, and knowledge that we wouldn’t have gotten in the classrooms. We are able-bodied, and for that, we have the privilege to walk around Asia becoming globetrotters that will forever be a part of our identities.