Strolling with attitude

A rewarding experience need not be about being in an awesome location. It can be about connecting to where we are, wherever it might be.

Seen in the right way, stumbling along the bank of a stream behind the local supermarket can rival the Inca trail to Machu Picchu.

This is the promise of “drifting”, where we enrich our experience by connecting more fully to our environment through adventurous acts of walking.

It is a practice championed by psychogeographers, who include writers Peter Akroyd, Will Self, Iain Sinclair, and writer and filmmaker John Rogers.

Walking has an enormous power to stir memories of old haunts, as well as trigger new thoughts, feelings, narratives and meanings.

Go your own way
True to its avant-garde roots there are no rules. One early proponent reportedly walked through part of Germany guided by a map of London.

I improvised my own drift on the way to write this by tossing a coin to decide between possible turnings.

But we often don’t need an external input to get ourselves pleasantly lost. We can just go whichever way we are drawn.

Eventually we may start salivating at the path yet to be taken, or cooing over the rusty remains of a Victorian lamppost.

Reading about the areas we walk through can also help send us off in new directions and shed new significance on what we see.

Deepening connection
Drifting grew out of left-wing thought, and a desire to question our relationship with a capital-driven urban environment.

But its psychological effects do not rely on our having specific political outlook. It puts us in the moment, focusing on our our journey not our destination.

And setting out with the attitude that everything is interesting, means we can never be disappointed.

This can all help enrich our relationship with the world outside our door, through our curiosity, interaction and feelings.

My own wandering has has been enhanced by acknowledging it as “a thing” which others do, and have done for generations.

Drifting may never spark a revolution, but it can deliver a reminder that valuable experiences are available to us for nothing. ■ 

The latest in a series exploring uplifting things to do alcohol-free for no money, having previously looked at improv and cold showers.

Giveaway: What’s in a name?

Alcohol awareness is fast becoming the new normal, embraced by people of all walks of life. But our language is struggling to keep up.

A recent story in the Telegraph, for example, offered a tricky choice between being a part-time non-drinker, “woke abstainer” and “alcobore”.

To crowd-source alternative ideas I am offering free copies of Alcohol Companion, the ideal starting point for the budding alcobore.

Stories can be as serious, funny, personal, technical or broad as you like, but please try to be accessible.

How would you call yourself? Are you a mindful drinker, a soberista, soberisto, alcohol aware, health conscious or something else entirely.

Or does it not matter? And how should we approach this issue of drinking, labels and identity as a whole?

Is being an alcobore socially acceptable? (Asking for a friend.)

More generally, are labels for drinking habits helpful to us, or should our drinking choices be treated as incidental or private?

Please submit as an when using the form below. Your work may be published on and elsewhere, in whole or part.

Some free copies of my book will be sent in thanks and appreciation. ■

Alcohol Companion, video, April 2019

Might real ale enthusiasts back minimum pricing?
Take the Alcohol Quiz
Rethinking the connection between liberty and leisure

If you would like to support my work Patreon
More about the book Alcohol Companion

Alcohol quiz

Test your knowledge of key facts and curious details about alcohol and us, as explored in the book Alcohol Companion.

For most of its history alcohol was considered a medicine.

Do today’s medical professionals recommended drinking alcohol to treat or prevent any physical or mental health complaint?
Is Guinness, or any other stout, a good source of iron?

From which language does the word “alcohol” derive?

Do species other than humans develop alcohol problems in their natural environment?

Which organ's behaviour do we seek to influence when we drink alcohol?

How many kilometres of “wiring” are there in the human brain?

What percentage of the body’s power does the human brain typically consume?

Which of these does the brain control? (Multiple answers)
Do we sleep better after drinking alcohol?

Which of the following alters our response to alcohol? (Multiple answers)

How much more often do people with alcohol dependent parents become alcohol dependent themselves?

Which of these is more likely to happen after we have a “placebo drink”, like an alcohol-free beer, that might be mistaken for an alcoholic one?

Which food group’s calories compares most closely to alcohol?

On what percentage of the times that British men drink do they "binge", by having four or more pints?

And what proportion of times do British women binge in an equivalent way?

Drinking more alcohol makes controlling the amount we drink...

Roughly what proportion of people develop some degree of alcohol dependency after five years of heavy drinking?

The top 10% biggest alcohol drinkers drink roughly what percentage of the total?
Being inebriated tends to do what to the factors we feed into our decisions?

The dopamine neurotransmitter, which alcohol can trigger, is most accurately associated with which of the following sensations?

Roughly what percentage of violent crimes were committed drunk?

What is a realistic time-frame to recover from the primary symptoms of alcohol dependency?

Only if you want the results emailed

“Losers” is a Netflix winner

Losers”, an eight part series on Netflix, offers welcome and uplifting insight into the rich rewards of failing.

There are hardly any winners among us so it is extraordinary the extent to which they hog our attention.

The exceptional is curious and curiosity attracts audiences, but making an exception a media staple makes for an exceptionally warped outlook.

Comparing our running to Usain Bolt’s, our business to Warren Buffett’s or writing to Mark Twain’s is a recipe for feeling pretty ordinary.

There are necessarily 99.999%, or more, losers in most rankings, most of which we never even get a chance to join.

It is inaccurate and harmful to believe we operate in a meritocracy. Luck plays the largest part in any success we have.

Redressing the balance
“Losers” helps by telling the story of sportspeople who were near the top of their field, but were lucky enough to miss the number one spot.

It offers joyful tales of the suboptimal from boxers, ice skaters, dog sledders, curlers, ultra runners, footballers, golfers and basketball players.

Being denied the pinnacle in one narrow area, we learn, is often a helpful reminder its pursuit comes at the expense of other things.

French ice skater Surya Bonaly (right) found it impossible to secure Olympic gold, I knew. The fact she prospered afterwards, I did not.

So the heroic failures in this series led to new types of goal and new forms of success, typically better than being breifly number one.

Dominant winners will typically only get this chance when they get over the hill. Losers get this chance handed to us early.

Reevaluating dedication
Our dedications are praised, while our addictions are often scorned, but they can be seen as two sides of the same coin.

Dedication to something, just like an addiction, can obscure the negative effects it can have. Losing is a lucky chance to take stock.

“Losers” offers a range of inspiring and engaging stories about how our misfortunes can turn into new kinds of winning.

Point-scoring helps keep us entertained and motivated, but is an extremely unreliable measure of success. ■

Alcohol Companion, video, March 2019

This episode: We should not be surprised alcohol harms poorer people so much more; Toasting brewing giants’ alcohol-free successes. And the unique challenges of alcohol’s popularity. And the unlikely comforts of cold showers.
– Book and resources
– Poorer Scots 13 times more likely to be treated for alcohol-related psychiatric disorders
– The unique challenge posed by alcohol’s popularity
– Finding joy in cold showers…/cold-showers-resilience-on-tap/