In September 2010, David G. Allan of the New York Times opined that “Circumnavigating Manhattan is the ultimate and extreme city walking tour and promises the seemingly impossible: a path less travelled on an overly trodden island.” The article piqued my curiosity and occupied prime real estate on my fridge for many months till my daughter and I embarked on this journey making it a “hallmark” way to spend a birthday weekend.
While David describes the experience as “Half sightseeing tour, half endurance test”, the 40 mile (more than the stated 32 since we got lost), 9 hour trip turned out to be an amazing experience spanning four areas….Challenge, Companionship, Contemplation and Contentment (Yes the Four C’s).
Challenge – The physical challenge was certainly a draw and even if we acted like experienced warriors, towards the end, our legs started messaging us…first in little whimpers followed by some agonizing screeches! (Thank you Vaseline, though art a life saver and blister preventer!) But it felt so good to go the distance, to push your physical limits, to see your child do it for you and with you!!! And if you think that your story about the walk will make people look at you in awe, think again…many looked at us like we had a few loose screws in our head!
Companionship – Needless to say, I will cherish the time my daughter and I had to walk, talk, laugh, eat, joke and of course listen to our own playlists to endure the final course of the journey. But the walk was also a visual landscape of companionship in so many forms…..teens playing basketball in the early hours, fathers snuggling with their young children, a mother and daughter sharing the NY Times and relishing steaming coffee, walkers in all shapes chatting merrily with their companions, competitive bikers trying to outdo one another, families enjoying birthday celebrations with barbeques, an elderly couple doing “color by numbers” with their nurse, a couple chatting animatedly on a rock…..the list goes on. And getting lost in Washington Heights provided a colorful landscape of families in a completely different setting.
Contemplation and Contentment – Being one with nature and just “living the moment” provides a myriad of opportunities for contemplation. Here we were in a city famous for the divide between rich and poor, cramped living spaces vs. luxury penthouses, Michelin starred restaurants vs. street food…..and yet along this walk, nature seemed to be a great leveler. All one needed was an urge to be outdoors, a loved one for companionship and not much more to smile and be happy. I certainly saw more smiles per square inch that day than many months put together. Is money truly the key to happiness or do you make your own happiness with what you have? Contentment is a blissful state to experience and a tough one to describe….yet I would venture to say that the expression on people’s faces certainly made them look content…maybe for the moment, for the hour, for the day…..
”Content” was certainly the right word for my mental state at the end of the journey, a walk I would strongly recommend you try, even if it is for only a few hours.