The Current

In a fast-paced world, walking is a 'radical' act, says Norwegian explorer

Norwegian author and explorer Erling Kagge believes walking is a radical act that can unleash your creativity, help you know yourself better, and even help you to create more time in your life.

Erling Kagge was the first person to reach the North and South Poles and Mt. Everest on foot

Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge says walking encourages creative thinking and helps you know yourself better. (vvvita/Shutterstock)

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In a world that's constantly asking for speed and efficiency, walking slowly is "the most radical thing you can do," according to Norwegian explorer and author Erling Kagge.

Kagge, who is also a lawyer and book publisher, knows a thing or two about walking: he's the first person in history to have reached the North Pole, the South Pole and the summit of Mount Everest on foot.

In his latest book, Walking: One Step at a Time, Kagge makes a case for this simple activity, even if you're not headed out on a rugged polar expedition.

He spoke with The Current's host Matt Galloway about why he thinks everyone should make time for walking. Here's part of their conversation.

How much have you walked already today?

I walked to this studio, which took about 25, 30 minutes, and I walked to my office in the morning, which was about 35 minutes. So it's you know, it's quite nice. 

What's the walk like in Norway these days? I mean, describe what you're walking through and what it feels like.

In Norway, like Canada, things are very much about speed.

Everybody tells you, you know, "I'm short on time." And I think walking like I did this morning to this studio ... seeing the buildings, people-watching, [smelling] the air, [feeling] like that you're kind of moving slowly, it's kind of the most radical thing you can do today. 

Erling Kagge is the author of Walking: One Step At A Time. (Simon Skreddernes)

The most radical thing you can do today?

I think it is so, because the government would like you to speed up, all commercial interests would like you to speed up, the education system would like you to speed up and everybody's speeding up. 

In Norway today, probably like in Canada, people spend about four hours every day on social media, and they should live until 84 years old [on average], which means that you will spend 13 years of your life, day and night, on social media. And then you kind of hurry up in between. 

That's one of the beauties of walking.

What do we know about the connection between walking and thinking? 

Today, we know quite a lot.

In the old days, like in Greece with the great philosophers 2,000, two-and-a-half thousand years ago, they walked all the time. 

Socrates, of course, he walked the streets. Aristotle walked the streets. And the reason they walked so much was because they knew they were thinking so much better. It was super good for creativity. I think any advice that has lasted for more than 1,000 years, we should take seriously.

Today quite a few American universities that have been doing research on how walking influences creativity. And it's kind of confirmed what Socrates experienced — that as soon as you start walking, you don't need to walk for more than 15 minutes [before] your creativity will increase by something like 60 per cent.

You tried to walk across Boston. What happened there?

I had a few hours extra and I tried to walk from a hotel in downtown Boston to the airport. That was quite complicated, actually. I followed Google on my phone, which I think, you know, quite often it's a mistake because you will never lose your way; you will always be punctual. You always follow the best route, which I think is a mistake. 

But on this occasion, I followed Google Maps. It took me straight into the river in Boston. And I couldn't cross the river. So I had to actually give up. 

I managed to walk to the North Pole, but I didn't manage to walk to the airport from Boston.

Is there some charm in getting lost? I mean not ending up in the river, obviously. But is there some charm in going for a walk and not knowing where you're going?

Yeah, I think so. And I think because today, when you see people in the forest or in the city, quite often they just look down at the phone all the time.

Partly because either they're texting ... or they're navigating. And then you hardly experience anything. 

To use your mind to navigate and also kind of get the feeling that sometimes you're lost … it's a great feeling. And if you use Google Maps all the time, you're not getting that feeling.

A lot of us will go for a walk and we'll have the headphones in, the earbuds or whatever, and we'll be listening to a podcast. Is that time well-spent when you're out walking?

I think it's time well-spent if it's a great podcast, but I think it's even better spent if you're not listening to anything. That you're kind of listening to yourself, because that's what we do too seldom today.

Kagge believes it can be good for you to allow yourself to just get lost walking sometimes. (Alex Polo/Shutterstock)

To a lot of people, this might sound really interesting, but also a complete fantasy — they live busy lives. What would you say to people who say that they just don't have time to walk?

In general, I would say they are wrong. But of course [there are] exceptions ... of course, if you have three kids going to three different directions, et cetera.

So maybe for some periods of your life you're simply too busy for walking too much. But of course, you can still walk the stairs. You can still walk a little bit between meetings.

But then on other times of your life, you'll have more time to spend. 

You write in the book about this idea that walking creates time. What do you mean by that?

If you walk, time is prolonged because you experience so many things while you're walking. So you feel that the time lasts much longer. While if you drive, you hardly experience anything and you feel like time is short. 

And we need this variety in life because when do you get as old as I am — 56 — not to mention if you're 60 or 70, 80 years old, your friends start to complain a lot about life being short, and they're so unhappy about life being short. 

But the thing is, life is long if you use it in a good way.

Written by Allie Jaynes. Produced by Peter Mitton.