I’m currently humming “these shoes were made for walking” and realised that I know only the few lines following that sentence. But gladly I know a lot more about walking in Helsinki than I do about song lyrics.
Let’s talk about walking
As of late I have been thinking a lot about Hetamentaries and what on earth will I do with it. Due to the current circumstances I am surprisingly enough not traveling but also my way of traveling had evolved a lot in the past years. And I was becoming increasingly annoyed at my own thinking at “travel” as something that had to happen outside the country I resided in. I have always been an avid walker. When I was young I would walk around my home town with our dog. Then when I lived in Scotland I would venture to the nearby towns and cities. When I returned to Finland and eventually ended up in Helsinki I had become a walking enthusiast.
Last year (2019) I walked almost 3 million steps. This year so far I have taken almost 2 million steps. In kilometres that is about 1 200 km in half a year. And 95% of that has happened in Helsinki where I walk every week.
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Walking as a lifestyle
In 2016 my girlfriend went abroad for the summer and I was working an internship but outside of that my calendar was empty. Which is why I started walking. I would come home from the office, make myself dinner, put on my trainers and leave the house. I rarely had a direction. At the time my mental health was on shaky grounds so walking became my therapy. Most of the time I would not even have headphones with me. I would just walk. It started from 5 kilometres and slowly grew to 12-16 kilometre walks around Jyväskylä. And that’s how walking slowly became a lifestyle for me. And it has been that ever since then. Two weeks ago I walked 30 kilometres around Helsinki. I know it might sound insane, but after you start walking it is hard to stop.
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Walking around your city is great exercise
When I originally got interested in walking was 19 years ago. I was finishing upper secondary school (or high school) and I had gained 20 kg’s in two years. I had always been into sports but life had swept me off my feet and burgers and late-teens had done their duty. I needed an easy way to get my life back on track. I basically wanted to do something that would fool my mind into “exercise”. And so I started walking our dog. And the rest is history. Even though my weight has fluctuated even after that it has never gotten as bad as I have had walking to keep me stable. I have done various other exercises like running, gym, yoga and else but nothing has stuck to me like walking has.
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Every city has something to see
We have lived in Helsinki for two years now. And still I spend at least 40 km a week walking around this city without getting bored. Here are my tips for getting more out of walking around your city. Even if I speak of Helsinki do most of these tips apply to any area anywhere.
5 tips to get more out of walking in Helsinki
So these are all things I do to get myself walking around this city. Sometimes all of these apply to my walk sometimes just a few.
- Pick a destination: If there is a cafe or store you have wanted to check out but haven’t? Check how far it is and walk there instead of taking public transport. Having a destination makes it a lot easier to motivate yourself even on longer walks.
- Take your camera or a dog with: I don’t own a dog but I take my camera on walks with me about 70% of the time. I love photography and I want to document the world around me. If photography is not your thing you can always grab a partner, your loyal pet or a parent to come with you. It is more fun to do things together.
- Adventure to a new place: A great way to get walking is to go somewhere you have never been to before. I use Google Maps regularly when planning new routes. For example I like to see parks and nature so I look at the greater Helsinki area and pick what looks interesting. My latest Google Map wonder led me to this incredible Solar System Scale model here in Helsinki.
- Take a mental health break: Not all walks have to go far. You can head to your nearest park or store and walk around. Leave your headphones at home and listen to yourself. Check out how you are feeling and let your mind wonder.
- Listen to the latest podcasts: This is what I am doing currently. I am not good at listening to things when I work or study so walking time gives me a chance to get up to date on my podcasts. I am currently listening to the Finnish podcasts Kaikkien koulu and Mimmit sijoittaa, and I’m learning Swahili on this English-Swahili podcast.
Walking is an easy way to see your city or any place you venture into. You don’t need to go on walkathons like I do rather than figure out what kind of distance works for you. I do suggest you try walking though as it is an affordable way of getting to know your city a little bit better.