As I’ve begun telling friends about our plan to walk 150 miles through New York City in just five days, the most common question I’ve been asked is, “Why would you want to do that?” While I’m sure I’ll be asking myself the same question over and over again next week, for now, I’ll try to explain my motivation.
My answer to this question will differ from Matt’s, as I’m approaching the walk from the perspective of a tourist, while Matt has spent the last couple of years living in Brooklyn. I’ve never spent more than a few days at a time in NYC, and I’ve never been there in any capacity other than as a tourist.
As a tourist, when I think of New York City, I tend to think of the endless sea of skyscrapers, the crowded streets and sidewalks, Broadway, the Yankees, the Statue of Liberty, and other similar tourist hotspots. While these tourist-laden areas are certainly part of what makes New York such a great city, planning this walk has made me realize that the vast majority of tourists never have the chance to experience about 95% of the city. While everyone has visited Times Square and looked out from the top of the Empire State Building, few have been to the many beaches, islands, and parks that comprise a significant portion of the city.
This walk, to me, represents an opportunity to see the New York that the average tourist doesn’t get to see. Among many other things, I’m excited to swim at the beaches, sample numerous different authentic cuisines, stroll through a wide variety of neighborhoods, and meet an even wider variety of people.
At this point in the conversation, the friend usually states, “You know, New York City has a perfectly good subway system. Why walk?”
My answer, while somewhat cliché, is that it’s impossible to truly experience the culture of a city any other way. Any more standard method of transportation simply moves too fast.
“Ok, I can buy that…but why 150 miles in a week?”
I could get into deep psychobabble about wanting to challenge myself both physically and mentally, but instead, I'll rely on the tried and true, “Why not?”