At the end of 2020, I was introduced to the Facebook group One Million Women Walking by Amelia Marriette. It was inspiring to look at all the beautiful photos and connect with women all around the world who had discovered the benefits of walking. I had finished reading Amelia’s book Walking into Alchemy during the first lockdown and was eager to get walking more myself so when I saw that the group also had a Walking Challenge I pledged to walk an average of 5,000 steps per day in 2021, using the activity tracker on my phone as a pedometer. 5,000 steps may not sound like a lot but it was an increase of 25% on previous years and since my working days are quite sedentary, I knew it would take some effort to reach this goal.
I started strong in January and February, all wrapped up in winter clothes, with gloves and a beanie and new hiking shoes with a good tread for the snowy and icy winter walks. I loved being outside in the cold air and picture postcard scenery. Our small valley in southern Austria lies protected between the Koralpe and Saualpe, with a river running through it so there are plenty of walks to choose from. I would often pack a drink and a snack and head off on a micro-adventure without really knowing where I was going. I also enjoyed going on walking explorations of Vienna and Graz while visiting my sons who live there. Inspired by Amelia, I tried to experience my surroundings using all my senses. As the year progressed and it got warmer I kept going on walks in my free-time, but I also increasingly used walking as a way to get around. I would walk to work and any other destination within 45 minutes walk from home and when running errands – park the car on the edge of town and walk from there. Of course I always took the stairs instead of the elevator and when it was necessary to use my car, I often parked further from my destination and walked the rest of the way.
In spring I used my bike more often, so the 5,000 steps became harder to reach but I went on a long walk every weekend so I wouldn’t get too far off my goal. My favourite walks in the area are the “Wein-Lehr-Pfad” (educational wine track) or a book lovers walk to each of our town’s 5 open libraries. The nearby lake Klopeiner See also offers a walking track around the perimeter with the added bonus of a swim afterwards and mowing the lawn or doing housework also became more appealing to me as a way to keep my step count up.
Summer 2021 seems like a blur, as the Crowdfunding campaign to finance the german translation and printing of Amelia’s book „Alchemie des Gehens“ got underway. Euphoric and grateful after reaching the crowdfunding goal, the real work started when my son Markus and I, working closely with Amelia and her partner Katie, got down to the task of translating the book. Needless to say, it was challenging for us all and pushed each of us to our limits but at the same time, it was uplifting and a great learning experience. There were many highs and some lows, I got to know myself and the others involved much better and realised that German is an even more difficult language than I had already thought it was. During this time I still found time to walk but I lost sight of my goal a little and thought I wouldn’t be able to catch up. Was translating a book about the power of walking going to stop me from reaching my walking goal?
Autumn arrived with a blaze of colour, we finished the translation and the beauty outside was enticing and got me walking more again. I also began walking to our local Saturday market KuKuMa, where my husband has a small mobile café, to buy most of the produce we needed for the week ahead. I had learned from Amelia to appreciate walking the same route and observing the changes in the weather (those clouds!) and nature in general. My walks averaged at around 5 km and are no comparison to Amelia’s challenging 21 km apple walk but as we don’t live far from each other, the weather and landscape are similar and I was able to see familiar surroundings with fresh eyes. It’s of course exciting to walk in unfamiliar places too, discovering new things to see, but there is definitely wonder to be found in the familiar. Putting my hiking shoes on, grabbing my backpack and heading out the door again and again, taking one step after another and finding my rhythm while being outside made 2021 not just bearable – but quite special.
I am happy to say that I reached my goal of 5,000 steps per day in 2021, with a total of 1,849,455 steps, which is about 1,410 km in total. That means that I virtually walked the distance from Wolfsberg to the heel of Italy – over the course of a whole year. Naturally that made me wonder how much further I could `walk` in 2022 – maybe to Stockholm? That´s 2,000km from here, which meant increasing my step count to 7,000 steps per day this year. It’s Autumn now and I am again walking in the crisp, fresh air of the colder seasons and am well on my way to reaching my goal.
Amelia´s story of walking in nature has touched and inspired people all over the world. If you would like to meet her and find out more about her book – she will be holding 2 book readings here in the Lavant Valley over the next months. Author Martina Graf will read excerpts from `Alchemie des Gehens` in the Music School Bad St Leonhard on the 20th of October at 7pm. The second book reading will take place in the evening of the 18th of November in the Markussaal in Wolfsberg where Lili Preveden will be Reading. Lili is an experienced multilingual presenter and translator who lives in Vienna but grew up in the Lavant Valley. On the 1st of December Amelia, her partner Katie Gayle and well-known ceramic artist Andrea Unegg will be holding an exhibition at Badido, Bad St Leonhard, starting at 7pm.