Adventure 1/12: A Stroll Through the Neighbourhood

Around the time I began planning my first adventure of the year, I stumbled upon this video: A Mile with May: Backyard Adventuring With My Daughter by Beau Miles. In it, Beau (an Australian builder, writer, and all-around legend) plops his one-year-old daughter down in a wheelbarrow armed with snacks and a few tools, and proceeds to walk a lap of the block, a journey exactly one mile long. The walk takes about an hour, and as they go about their journey they take a few detours: to clear out some blackberry weeds, talk to the cows, and pick a few plums to replenish their energy in the shade of some gum trees.

There’s this one part of the video that I had to pause and rewatch a few times. In it, Beau explains the following: “This block to May right now is as big as a continent - it is full of wondrous places”. The map he marks out shows what he means. This one mile block is everything that May knows exists. For her,“broken letterbox #1”, or the “big trucks” that turn off at the far corner, are significant parts of her world, just by virtue of the fact that her world is so small.

May’s entire universe, featuring a lot of trees.

While I don’t think we should all try and revert back to our one-year-old selves, I think there is something really valuable here. With the right perspective, anything can become a source of wonder. The very street you walk down everyday could be lined with plants and people and broken letterboxes begging for your attention. All it takes is the right perspective — in the case of May, the perspective of a one-year old who doesn’t know that the universe is so, so much bigger than the block she lives on — to craft it into a world teeming and alive with wonders.

With May in mind, I decided to create my first adventure of the year on a small scale. No jumping out of helicopters or hitchhiking through the mountains just yet. The brief was simple: turn my neighbourhood, the few streets that make up my local block, into a source of adventure. The plan was as follows: open Google Maps and define an area that constitutes “my neighbourhood”. Spend a few hours on foot, without leaving this area. Just walk. A few hours is enough time to do at least a hundred laps of the block, so I figured it would be ample time to find a few things I don’t normally notice in my daily life. No music, no podcasts, no company. As simple as it gets.

The area I decided constituted my neighbourhood block. Don’t ask why.

I set out on a rainy, humid Saturday morning. Exactly my least favourite kind of weather. It also happened to be the weekend in the middle of the Lunar New Year holiday, so most shops and restaurants were locked up. A drizzly, hot, ghost town. Perfect.

After sourcing a classic coffee and milky bread combo from 7–11 for breakfast, I started making my way around the block. I decided the best way to go about it would be to do a lap of the perimeter first and then work my way in, thinking that by the time I’d explored all of the streets it’d have been a few hours and I’d be good to head home. Very quickly I found out that this area looks a lot bigger on Google Maps than it is in real life. About half an hour in and I’d walked every street in the zone. Some twice. Two and a half hours to go, still raining, all the streets already covered. Again, perfect.

As I sat on the side of a playground wondering why I was sitting in the rain walking in circles early on a Saturday morning rather than snoozing in bed - as is oft the case when you’re feeling down on your luck - my fortune changed. A huge, shaggy, mess of a dog came galloping towards me. This guy was the exact dog I’m hoping to adopt when I’m settled back home — a golden retriever crossed with a Bernese Mountain dog. A golden mountain dog. A big ol’ heap of joy. He stayed around for a good pat before his owner caught up with him. If there’s one thing that will always serve as a pick-me-up, it’s an overly-friendly, under-trained dog. Stoke restored, I picked myself up and ventured onwards, this time walking much, much slower. Over the following two and a half hours, these are some of the things I found:

So, am I glad I decide to turn my neighbourhood into a Saturday morning adventure? Absolutely. It wasn’t adrenaline-pumping, and didn’t make for anything Instagram-worthy, but it changed the way I relate to the streets I walk along every day. I got a glimpse of what it would be like to be May, and treat a small section of alleyways and buildings as the entire universe. I hope it means I’m not on autopilot quite so much as I make my way to and from my little apartment. Paying close attention is a skill, one that accrues huge dividends in small quantities. The closer you look, the more details you notice, and the more you notice, the more chance you have of stumbling upon little pieces of wonder.



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