This blog and my books often make note of my challenges in getting outside. (Total paralysis on my right side from life-saving brain surgery that has partially resolved.) Many of you have your own reasons for seeking out Easy Walks. So… what has made the difference in helping me get outside safely? Family, yes. Friends, yes. People who are willing to drive me to far-flung destinations, yes. However, learning how to best use physical supports to aid me in walking outdoors has been a more challenging quest. Tools I have found useful have varied as my body has healed and become capable of doing more on my own.
In the initial days of my recovery I got around in a wheel chair in indoor spaces. A walker was another assistive device I tried, but boy, it is easy to get stuck in places with these four-legged things. A four-legged cane was my going home gift when I left the rehabilitation facility. Adding bicycle streamers to this colorless cane introduced a little pizzaz to my outings. You can read more about that HERE.
Hiking poles entered my life at my husband’s encouragement. First just one, then a second.
We began experimenting with cooling aids as I have become increasingly intolerant of the heat.
Perhaps the biggest gift in support of my hunger to enjoy the beauty in the outdoors has been our adaptive tandem bicycle. My husband provides the needed balance, so our tandem (with me on the back!) has allowed us to travel up to forty miles in a single outing on rail trails near and far.
Despite all these supports, my walking range remains restricted. Two miles per outing is about my limit. I recently sustained a probable stress fracture in my right foot after a walk that exceeded that range. Even walking in the house was painful for a time.
My discomfort while walking indoors has resolved, but I longed to get back outside. Walking with hiking poles did little to relieve the pain for even short walks.
We recently purchased a standup walker in the hopes it would be helpful for a family member. I wondered if it might offer me a temporary support while my foot heals. We took the walker out on our local rail trail for a test run–well, walk. After feeling some initial awkwardness, I found the upper arm support of this walker relieved pressure on my foot, allowing me to traverse a mile on the trail. Not back to my usual distance, but much better than what I had been able to do unassisted.
Asking for help can be very uncomfortable. Those of us on quests usually need a lot of help along the way. Folk tales often center around the hero (or heroine’s) journey, their quest. In these stories help often comes from surprising directions; people or animals, magic walking sticks, or even magical beings that appear on the journey and seem to have nothing to offer. One of the consistent messages these tales teach is that appearances can be deceiving. The apparently weak, unattractive, or uncooperative character often becomes an essential partner in reaching the quester’s the goal.
You came here for a reason. There’s something you are looking for. Inviting people to join you on a quest is a great way to make progress toward your goal and develop interest in whatever you hope to achieve. I have made some wonderful friends by using this simple request; want to take an early morning walk with me to (fill in the blank) to see what’s really there? The Easy Walks book series is all about offering support to others, and creating the tools that eliminate some of the barriers to participation that many of us encounter. You become part of my quest by simply reading the blog posts on this site and putting what you learn to work in ways you find helpful. My hope is that you both receive inspiration and acquire some tools that can open up possibilities in your quest, whatever it turns out to be for you. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.