19.2.19

WHY I STOPPED
FAST WALKING IN LONDON


I often get asked how do you like living in London? 

I frequently reply with I love it, I hate it, it's everything and anything, it's chaos, it's beauty and there's nowhere else I'd rather be at this point in my life. 




From the very first time I visited this city in 2014 to now — six months into living and working here — I've always been hyper aware of the chaos that ensues. Despite evidence stating that London remains one of the world's least dense big cities in population terms, there are still over 8.7 million people living here. Which is still six times more people than my Canadian hometown of Ottawa (1.3 million people). 



My perspective is unique — coming from THE land of vast, open spaces. Even after spending six months living in London, I am still in awe of the amount of people, the narrow streets, and THE. TUBE

I started to notice a trend on the streets and on the underground. 


People. 


Walking. 


Very. 


Fast. 




Whether it's on the way to work or to meet friends, switching platforms on the underground, choosing a cashier line at the grocery store, or walking running up and down the escalator. These people are SWIFT! 


At first I thought ah, they must all be very late for work or an appointment. But then I started to notice it wasn't just a few people. It was a collective rush. Every single person is LATE!? This can't be. There's no way they rush from place to place just for fun!


In London, especially within public transit, it's not uncommon to see everything and anything. I feel like I've ~almost~ seen it all but nothing amazes me more than this constant buzzing phenomenon. 




London often gets compared to its American equivalent, New York. While NYC is famous for it's fast walkers, it turns out that they've been out-run by some of the European cities. A number of years ago, a study was done that ranked the fastest walkers in the world by city. Turns out New York ranked number 8, with London at number 12, and Ottawa, Canada OF ALL PLACES actually made the list at number 20. I guess fast walking isn't such a foreign concept to this Ottawa-native after all. 


Fast walking didn't actually seem that bizarre to me until one day I noticed that I, too, was fast walking. I felt like a fish that got swept up in a school of fish in a current that I couldn't escape from. It wasn't until I was sweating and panting — after manually climbing up the entire escalator — and realizing that I wasn't late, I didn't even have a job yet, and I was rushing for no reason — that I noticed a problem. 


Here's the problem with rushing. When I rush, I become hyper focused on the destination. My brain jumps to the future. I feel anxious and nervous about not arriving at said destination on time. This can sometimes lead to a spiral of negative thinking — and coupled with the heavy breathing and lack of mindfulness — makes me feel kinda shitty. 


For what? 




Ok, I've been late. Many, many times. And I know for sure that by the time I realize I'm late, there isn't that much I can do about it. When I'm late for something, it's almost always because I took too long getting ready and lost track of time. Rushing to my destination will only ever save me minutes. Mere minutes. That's all I get. And I've gone and rushed — putting my body through stress. 




As someone who's had a history of anxiety, I've figured out that fast walking is not for me. I have to work everyday at improving my environment to be as conducive to wellness as possible. Alas, this is why I've stopped fast walking in London



Sometimes I get caught up in the collective wave of rushing but I'm getting better and better at stopping myself. I'm aware that when I rush, I lose touch with the present moment and I become less mindful. I forget things more easily, I stress over pointless things that are out of my control, and it makes my breath fast and shallow. And if my yoga journey has taught me anything, it's that the speed of my breath dictates the speed of my thoughts. For me, the antidote to chaotic and catastrophic thoughts is slowing down my breath. 



PHOTOGRAPHY // LEANNE DIXON 
I've talked about how London has been the best teacher for me. Living here has forced me to face myself in a way I've never had to. It's been humbling to start at square one and I've had to rely on me, myself, and I to figure this big dream out. Living and working here has brought my anxiety levels to a place I hoped I'd never see again — but it's also cemented my self-care routine to the top of my priority list. It's never been more important for me to do the things that keep me feeling well. I'm still not very good at asking for help but by doing what I can to stay well, I'm feeling better. Starting with walking at a slower, more mindful and relaxed pace. And I don't care who passes me.














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