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Fawn in a roadside ditch
June 5, 2005

Vishwawalking Explained (sort of)

Prince Edward County, Clouds and tree, Summer, 2008

If you wish to see a country well, you must traverse it in other directions than those whither the high roads lead you.

— Charles Boner, Guide for Travellers, In the Plain and On the Mountain, (1876)


Field, east side of County Road #23, Prince Edward County, Ontario.
July, 2008


Walking around the world

On January 17, 2005, I wrote in my walking notebook:

"The world's circumference is 40,076 kilometres (24,902 miles) at the equator.

"Today I decided to walk around the world. Not all at once. I will start my walking tour around the world on February 3, 2005, when I turn 55. Considering I will want to stop often to meet people and I don't want to take the shortest route, this project could take some time. With all the ups and downs and 'round abouts, I could hike over 40,000 kilometres. That means I'd have to walk at least 1,000 kilometres per year to complete the walk when I am 94.

"This will take some dedication. I should buy a good pair of walking shoes."

Well, I did rack up a lot of miles. I was attempting to write my dissertation for my PhD at the time, and walking was a fine distraction. I never did finish the PhD. I stopped vishwawalking for a couple of years out of guilt. I still walked, but did not take notes.  After I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2015 I kept walking, but I stopped the formal vishwawalking process of walking in a continuous thread and of making detailed notes.
As many have done before me, perhaps I will have to do some conceptual walking. If I walk around the country roads around my home and map a parallel number of kilometres  through China (say) perhaps that will have to do.

Or live to 99 and get more rigorous in my walking schedule and my recording practices.

Or not.

The Rules

1. In general, any kind of walking for walking’s sake is vishwawalking. A stroll around a garden or around the block can be vishwawalking.

2. The following rules for vishwawalking are for those who want a more directed goal and a challenge. However, vishwawalking is not a contest. Anyone wanting to vishwawalk can set whatever goal they like. Or no goal.

3. More formal vishwawalking involves walking in a single connected “thread,” usually in a vague set direction, although threads can lead wherever the walker fancies. 

4. Different threads can cross each other, and threads can start (and end) wherever the walker likes.

5. A thread doesn’t count as an ongoing thread until it is at least 100 kilometres (or 62 miles) long. Shorter walks are threads in progress.

6. A 100-kilometre thread (roughly) counts as one “leg.” As threads get longer, walkers can refer to (for example) a “three-leg thread.”

7. Threads can be walked in any direction. You can walk a leg (100 kilometres) eastward, then meet that thread with a walk from 100 kilometres to the west. If you like the symmetry of one direction, then definitely you can make that a personal rule.

8. A walker can walk as short a distance as she/he likes in the process of building a thread. A .5-kilometre walk is just fine. If the walk is part of a thread, then the walk can be taken up from where the walker left off. If threads are neglected for days, weeks or years, it is not a problem as long as the walker keeps a record of where they left off.

9. Threads do not have to be put together without breaks. I can start a thread (say) in Kingston, Ontario and head westward for a hundred kilometres. I may then start a thread in Toronto and head west to Windsor. Years (decades!) later, I may connect my Kingston and Toronto threads to create a leg, or two or three.

10. Bodies of water. If a river is encountered it can be crossed, preferably by walking (over ice), swimming, paddling, rowing or sailing. However, motoring across, if that is the only logical alternative, is acceptable. Most lakes should be walked around (even most large ones) if they can't be walked across.

11. Oceans must obviously be crossed. However, threads can continue across oceans. I can continue a thread (say) through Nova Scotia to the ferry port, cross to Newfoundland, walk to the easternmost point in Newfoundland, fly to Ireland, then continue from (say) the most western point of Ireland, or wherever the closest large land mass might be in the direction I am heading. All of this can be one thread.

12. Any walker who paddles or sails an ocean as part of a thread gets a heap of respect from fellow vishwawalkers.

13. Vishwawalkers should chronicle their walks so others can try out bits (or all) of another walker’s thread. Listing road names, road intersections, directions, lakes, parks, etc. is part of the effort to allow fellow walkers to follow in your footsteps. This is hard to do and sometimes not productive, so this rule can be ignored.if desired.

14. While a walker cannot claim another’s thread as their own, sharing the details of threads is what it’s all about. Fellow vishwawalkers might want to walk the same route together to create their individual threads, or to encourage any fellow walkers to come with them for a section of their walk. Walking together is recommended. Vishwawalkers should try to weave their threads with other vishwawalkers' threads. That said, solo walking can be exquisite.

15. Suspending your thread to walk with another vishwawalker is highly encouraged. When creating a thread becomes obsessive, it loses the spirit of vishwawalking. Walking with friends and family or complete strangers should trump obsessive thread walking. Stopping to talk, change directions or change your mind is all part of the game.  If you can progress on a thread and walk with friends, etc. you’ve got it made.

16. Boasting about how many threads and legs you have completed is acceptable as long as it is not done to crush junior vishwawalkers. In fact, there are no junior vishwawalkers. Your first vishwawalking kilometre makes you an expert along with other vishwawalkers. So why boast?

17. Vishwawalkers must share information with other walkers. Vishwawalkers also have a responsibility to stop and chat with people along the way and to dine, party, and celebrate on all appropriate occasions. In fact, threads without the colour of adventures of all kinds are drab threads indeed.

18. All reasonable additions to these rules will be considered. The criteria for vishwawalking rules is that they must not be overly restrictive, but must not be so nebulous as to be valueless for the spirit of vishwawalking. All rules must have incorporated into them a gentle self-reflective awareness of the outrageousness, humour and boldness of walking around the world. Such a self-awareness also shields the act of vishwawalking from the ridicule of those who are under the delusion that such truly absurd and destructive activities such as career building, social climbing, starting or partaking in wars, nation building, class oppression, building corporate empires by wasting the lives of workers, women, men and children, etc. etc. are more important than vishwawalking. It is the vishwawalker’s duty to wean such souls off such immature activities.

19. This rule just took a walk around the block, and so is absent.

20. This rule is here to make a nice round number of rules.

21. This rule could upset this imaginary roundness

Algonquin park-leaf on logging road near McKaskill Lake ranger cabin
Leaf on the logging road to McKaskill ranger cabin
Algonquin Park, Ontario Canada
 August 8, 2012

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Page created: February 3, 2009
Updated: October 24, 2021