Walking Isn’t Boring, Part 2: Mundane Journeys


General note: This series of entries is inspired by the idea that walking in even the most ordinary of places can be interesting.

San Francisco, being a popular tourist destination, has inspired all sorts of guidebooks. Most of them cover at least some of the popular landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, and the Transamerica Pyramid. Kate Pocrass’ book Mundane Journeys does not mention any of these places. This tiny book of tours (which all start with “Walk, bike, or public transit to…”) suggests ways to look beyond the obvious and find interesting details in ordinary places. On a trip to the popular tourist area of North Beach, for example, you will play hopscotch on a playground and look at dot patterns on a sidewalk. In other locations, you will look at garage doors, apartment buildings, sidewalk patterns, window displays, and more. These ideas can be applied wherever you are walking, and can inspire thought and questions. In the photo posted here, for example, the building number appears three times on the front of this Berkeley apartment building (at this size it is hard to tell, but the number is also on the glass front door). This amused me greatly, and I wondered why three times and in what order and under what circumstances was each set of numbers installed on the building.

The other emphasis of Mundane Journeys is interacting with people in shops and businesses. Some of the stops on her journeys having you entering small businesses and asking questions or considering getting something interesting to eat or drink (such as a Cuban soft drink or coconut mochi). I find this more difficult to do. Often I will say hello to people in residential neighborhoods who are pruning their roses or weeding their gardens, but I have hesitated to walk into many of the businesses. Recently, though, I was walking on Telegraph Ave., and had two nice interactions with business owners. I used to avoid this, thinking I was bothering people unnecessarily, but there is a difference between wasting someone’s time and being genuinely interested in their small business. Even if I am not there to purchase an item or service now, I will remember it in the future or recommend it to someone else who needs the service. Also, many people who have small businesses (especially those offerering a service) just seem to enjoy talking with other people. It is unrealistic to think that one could have the same experience in a large urban area as in a small town, but there is often still the opportunity to create some connection with the people who live and work there.

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4 Comments »

  1. Spike said

    Also, many people who have small businesses (especially those offerering a service) just seem to enjoy talking with other people.

    Noticed that here as well.

  2. amey said

    this is one of the best things about exploratory walking… the opportunity to find something interesting or enchanting even in simple, unexpected circumstances. I also think about this a lot when I am doing yoga… and that feeling of curiousity and lack-of-expectations that we have on a good exploratory walk, and trying to bring that into the postures (even if it’s a posture I’ve already done a thousand times).

  3. […] in awhile. Today, as I was scrolling through the Walking Berkeley blog, I was happily reminded it of it in this post. I loved the subject matter and the beautiful illustrations–I found the book interesting […]

  4. professorwalton said

    Kate rocks. Everybody should experience her work.

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