Pandemic walks

Sunday 7 February 2021

Since last March, we’ve had my son Nat living with us, and the three of us have been doing what everyone is doing: staying to ourselves, working from home, and a lot of Zoom.

Nat and I have also been doing a lot of what we’ve always done together: walking. We both need exercise and a change of perspective, and Susan needs some time without expectations.

So we walk most mornings, whenever the weather and our schedules allow. Our distance has gradually increased, up to about six miles each day.

We’ve been walking since the pandemic started in March, but I only thought to start tracking and mapping the walks at the end of April. To keep it interesting, I’ve planned routes to take us down new streets every day, with the goal of visiting “every” street, whatever that means.

Here are our 191 walks totalling 1025 miles (so far!):

Animation of a map showing every walk we've taken

Part of the fun of this has been learning more about mapping tools, but I’ll save those details for another blog post. (Now at Mapping walks.)

I’ve really liked seeing places close to home that I have never been to, neighborhoods within walking distance I never had a reason to visit. I’m lucky to live in a varied area: to the west are some of the most expensive properties in Massachusetts, to the east are true urban areas, north-east is an upscale shopping district, south is expansive park land.

Because this is Boston, there’s plenty of history. Here are a few tidbits I discovered along the way:

While walking I listen to lots of podcasts, since Nat is not big on talking. I try to keep alert for interesting sights, even if they are not History. Some of those go on my Instagram.

I watched The World Before Your Feet, a documentary about Matt Green walking all 8000 miles of the streets of New York City. Parts of his effort were familiar to me, but there were differences. Of course, the scale of the undertaking. But also, my walks always begin and end at our house, so there is a lot of repeated ground. Nat wants to walk fast, and we have Zoom calls to get back to, so leisurely chats with storekeepers are not an option. I envy Matt’s ability to stop and really look at things in depth.

But even so, walking these neighborhoods has given me a shift in perspective. You can notice things while walking that you’d never see while driving. I find now that even when I drive through these neighborhoods, I see things more as a walker would. Will that wear off once we go back to being more car-centric? Or will all this street-level familiarity stick with me?

People talk about the silver linings of the pandemic. For me, these walks, the things I’ve discovered, my different relationship to the neighborhoods, and the routine with Nat, have been a definite silver lining. I’m not sure what of these walks will persist beyond the pandemic. I hope some of it does.


That map gif is so neat! I've been going on lots of long walks too, although I've mostly been staying at my parents' place out in suburbia so there's not very many sights to see.

hi, that is cool, like it. Many years ago I developed an algorithm that I called random walker. This algo led me through the city randomly (of course with many repeated paths), but I kept finding new ways all the time. The algorithm was especially interesting in unfamiliar cities. It was so funny to strictly follow the suggestions of the algorithm and people kept wondering, what this crazy men was doing, lol. well, this was before the web and it’s fantastic new technological possiblities like gps tracking and stuff. Like your blog! Sorry for my bad english. Berny

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