Get off the beaten path

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.