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I didn’t start walking until I lived in New York. Before that, if you asked me to join on a walk, I’d probably tell you to fuck off.

I know so many prolific walkers. Unless you have a dog, I just never saw the point. I hated the idea of getting up to go on a walk. There are, in my mind, a separation of people. Just like those who love cilantro, and those that can’t stand it because it’s in their genes. To me, “taking a stroll around the neighborhood” is just as terrible as eating soap.

When you're on a vacation or in another city with no car is an exception (say, in Florence to get a cute gelato, as I did daily for weeks). As a normal practice to just "get out," all animosity applies.

Walking for pasta or gelato in Rome.

When I moved to Brooklyn, walking was a non-negotiable. I’d be tromping in brown puddly “snow" to grab a roll of toilet paper from the bodega. When I had a high fever, I crawled my way to a medical center during a pretty stark February, where I saw a woman step in line after hauling a stroller and three crying children from the subway (we let her skip to the front). The thing about walking in New York is you see everyone doing it, whether they like it or not. It feels like you’re in the trenches together, which is a small comfort when you hate it.

Brown sludge shockingly omitted from most NYC Instagram pics.

Walking Brooklyn in winter.

The other thing about walking in Brooklyn is, you exist in a walking mood board. Every block is interesting, even if you get the shit scared out of you by a rat dragging a slice of pizza from the street garbage. Even she's living boldly.

After leaving New York, I stayed in Oaxaca for a month. Water would sometimes shut off for a few days. I carried jugs of drinking water up a giant hill before 8 am. If I went later, the market would be sold out, and I’d have to walk further to another market in the treacherous heat to see if there were any left; no guarantees. New York and Mexico had destinations fueled by necessity.

These continual patterns of walking shifted something inside of me. I stopped judging walkers.

A few months later, a big life thing happened. I ended up in Hawai'i, somewhere I hadn’t lived since childhood.

Now I walk around 6 am. Here, I found a reason to actually enjoy it besides necessity.

I moved to Hawai'i for many reasons, but a major one was to unpack the massive weight of un-belonging that has wielded so much restlessness in my own life.

Arriving here doesn’t mean I am healed. I am reminded everyday of how little I know about my own culture. While wedging myself into a place I’ve felt my otherness so viscerally, walking has become a small grace. I love walking because it requires nothing of me.

This is how I came to start my day with a walk. I put on my visor, a comfy t-shirt, linen shorts and slippas, and I’m out the door.

At 6 am, there is a vortex of calm in the neighborhood. I enter the portal.

Sometimes the walks are misty. The occasional hazard of living in the tropics are you never know when it might rain. It’s deliciously calm. A breeze whips through as red-crested cardinals, geckos and chubby Native birds create symphonies. I pick up soft yellow Puakenikeni and star-shaped Hawaiian Gardenias that have fallen on the ground.

Hawaiian Gardenia, or naʻu freshly fallen on the ground.

People say “good morning” and mean it. I am a part of the ministry of walkers.

Not all walks are alike. It’s not that simple for me. My body will have an allergic reaction if I call it “stress management.”

The essentiality of a walk to work for me is that it cannot feel forced. It needs to come from a place of joy.

It begins with my relationship to routine. I changed my morning routine to a morning ritual.

Ritual is ceremony; it is self-care and recalibrating. They are gems of mindfulness. A morning ritual to me, is the most precious gift in my life. When did we stop believing its vitality?

And this is how I look at it. Ritual represents prayer and personal peace.

I recently heard a quote; “before you let the world in, be not of this world.”

And so I keep my mornings sacred. I guard it aggressively.

Here are a few things I did to make it a part of ritual. Maybe it’ll help you become part of the anti-walkers that walk club. If it doesn't, that's okay too. I get it.


A guide to a walking ritual


Do it Early.

The most important thing to me is doing it when the light feels sacred. That means sunset or sunrise. If I don’t, I might find it boring again.


I bring my tea, so it feels as if I’m doing something along the way.

Small steps.

My walk is 35 minutes. I make it longer if I decide to.

Hold the calls.

I put my phone on do not disturb, or don't bring it at all.

Curated music.

I make soundtracks for walking. Sometimes I play them; sometimes I walk in silence. Here’s one I use for Hawai'i. I feel playlists inspired by environment are best. In New York, it was a lot of improvisational jazz.

Small Pleasures.

I have tiny vases sitting on my altar and around my room. I find little flowers for it. Many are ones I find off the ground. Baby daffodils, tiny purple wildflowers, fuchsia bougainvillea. It’s a simple pleasure.


I know we do not all have 35 minutes every day. It could be a few times a week, which I do set aside. I try to remind myself it is 3% of our day.

Sometimes inviting friends or lovers on a walk can feel like an intimate adventure. My abuelitos, in their 90s and many years in their dementia, took daily walks around my parent’s home. They lived here for over a decade in my mama's care, and never missed an evening stroll. Abuelita would briskly walk in front, looking behind every so often to make sure Abuelito was still there. They knew this path even though they could remember much else. Abuelito had a slow pace and sometimes wandered. But he did remember to do one thing every single day.

He would pick my grandma flowers. Sometimes these would be from a neighbor’s yard. He would scurry up to his "Yoya," place his arm around her and present them ever so gallantly. Sometimes they were weeds; it didn’t matter. She would always give a crinkly smile meant only for him.

Mis abuelitos showed love through their daily walks.

Today as it stands, walking became a non-negotiable because I need my peace. Not my toilet paper (there are no bodegas in Hawai'i).

And I’ll do anything to keep it sacred. Along with telling myself this affirmation: Begin each day as if it were on purpose.



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