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Walking (against my will) in Europe

(Note: This is not a “feel-good” weight-loss story with before-and-after photos and an inspiring lesson. Nope, this is just the account of a woman who’s been forced to do something she’s has no interest in and begrudgingly feels good for it.)


 

I balked when I heard the suggestion “moving my body around,” possibly outdoors, could make me feel good. It sounds suspiciously like exercise, which I’m usually very suspicious of. Walking/running around Toledo, OH was depressing and demoralizing. It was the same suburban streets where people insisted on spraying their sprinklers on the sidewalk. Plus, I was always “busy.” There was something that I could have/should have been doing instead. I was exact opposite of my husband who grew up roaming and exploring. He’s carried that habit well into adulthood, enjoying a long stroll whenever he can get it.

I am the rock to his rushing stream. You know where to find me, planted solidly in our living room reading, writing, or watching television.

This became a problem when we went to Europe for the first time. While the women of Helsinki gracefully walked the cobblestone streets in stilettos, I begged my husband for more park bench time. My calves and ankles, once dormant, awoke demanding answers. “What are you doing and why are you overexerting us like this??” After our trip, I promised myself to get it together and start walking more frequently in Toledo.

I didn’t.

The next trip was to Ireland and while it sounded romantic to roam the rolling green hills of West Country, my body was like, “Nah, sis. I’m good.” It didn’t change the fact that I still needed to walk where ever we were. From Tully Cross, to Galway, to Dingle, and lastly, to Limerick, your girl was a walking fool. I trudged and marched like I was headed to the gulag, sweating and cursing as I went. After the Ireland trip, I vowed— You know what, let’s just move on.

It wasn’t until we uprooted our lives and moved to Örebro, Sweden, that I knew my life would have to change quickly. We moved here without a car and were not planning on purchasing one. In fact, Noah was quite relieved to never drive again. In this bustling city, the bicycles outnumber the cars and almost everyone walks or jogs. The public transit is everywhere and runs smoothly. In short, Örebro is a transportation utopia.

The first walk Noah and I took, was to the grocery store, located about 10-12 minutes from our apartment. I didn’t enjoy it. We got what we needed for our first night and walked back home with heavy bags. I didn’t enjoy that either. But feeding ourselves is apparently very necessary, so I quickly reconciled with regular jaunts to the grocery. And boy, are they regular. In Toledo, we could load everything we needed in the trunk and not have to see Kroger for a week. Now, we buy what we can carry. I have a feeling this might have long-term benefits.

This post does take a turn for the positive (thank you for sticking with me). It wasn’t until my friend from home begged me to start playing Pokemon Go, that I considered walking for recreation. Originally, she wanted me to download the game and use her log-in for rare Swedish pocket monsters. I said I would consider it. When I got off the phone with her, I downloaded the game. Thank you, Melissa, lol.

And thus began the daily 2 mile walks (on average).

I walked started walking everywhere on the our University campus, hitting up all visible Pokestops and raiding gyms, before volunteering to do the grocery runs by myself. Soon, it became necessary to extend my walks in the downtown area (there are far more Pokespots there). Since downloading the game (and adding a pedometer to my phone), I’ve walked 45 miles. Let me clarify: Since July 9th, I’ve walked 45 miles.

 

How do I feel now that I’ve forced myself to move? A lot better about living in Europe. Before, I was excited to travel, but dreaded getting around. A few days ago, my husband and I went to Götenburg for my birthday and we spent two days exploring the city. Even during Sweden’s strange heatwave, I felt like I needed to climb hills and see what was just around the bend. Noah finally had a exploration partner!

Because my phone battery struggled for most of the trip, I was unable to play Pokemon Go as I had planned. But it didn’t matter so much since I was enjoying the exercise. On my 34th birthday, I walked 6.75 miles. I consider that a gift to myself.

We’re going to Latvia and Estonia in a few days and I’m really excited. Not just because I want to try that famous Latvian honey, but because I’m ready to push myself. I want to see how far I can go. Like I said at the top of this post, this is not a super inspirational weight-loss piece. I have no idea if I’ve actually lost weight (though my calf muscles feel really firm these days), that’s not very important yet. I’m more concerned about getting active and staying active. I don’t want to walk like a senior citizen 30 years before I am one. I want to take advantage of the time I spend in Europe, one uneven cobblestone path at a time.

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