A conversation with Author Jonathon Stalls
Walking means many things to different people. It can be a way to get physical activity, a path to mental wellness, a mode of transportation, and everything in between. The “how” of walking can differ amongst people as well.
Jonathan Stalls, author of WALK: Slow Down, Wake Up, and Connect at 1-3 Miles Per Hour and founder of Walk2Connect, has encompassed these facets of walking as a way to slow down and acknowledge the lived experiences and challenges of pedestrians.
Walking Across the Country
Jonathon spent 242 days walking across the United States in 2010 and has continued to move alongside thousands of people for thousands of miles. While most of us won’t walk or roll across the country, the deep wisdom and insights that Stalls receives from the people, land, and animals he meets on his pilgrimage have profound impacts on each of us. In WALK, he shares how walking deepened his relationship with himself as a gay man, offering deep and clarifying emotional medicine. He confronts the systemic racism, classism, and ableism that shape and reshape the communities he walks through. And he invites readers to become awakened activists, to begin healing our culture’s profound separation from the natural world.
Jonathon shared his inspiration for the walk after reading A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins. This book took him on an emotional rollercoaster and he just knew his own walk across the country was what he needed to resolve personal pains and challenges.
“This journey was to really connect with moving the way we’re made to move whether it’s on foot or in a wheelchair, one to three miles per hour (or faster or slower), and was primarily a mental health journey for me. This may be the thing that will help me recalibrate, heal some things, and connect with the world outside of a vehicle.”
Through this walk, he also fostered the act of unhurried movement. He speaks about this often in the book and in his teachings on meditative movement. He explained that this type of movement also brings attention to pedestrian mobility and navigating complex systems around our built environment. We should not only recognize these challenges but find out ways to engage in change.
Jonathon identifies as a ‘walking artist’ with his creative project, Intrinsic Paths, and he sees the world through this artistic lens. Pedestrian Dignity was created by moving with the community in walking events and walk audits and experiencing the gap around lived experience informing policy, connectivity, and racism, classism, and the built environment. As an artist and a person who was intentionally trying to reach youth through civic engagement, he decided to use social media to share short video clips of the stories of these lived experiences.
From the introduction to WALK:
These videos can tell stories of how pedestrian mobility has systematically been seen as an illegitimate form of transportation and an afterthought for many planning departments, budgets, and policy makers. Through TikTok, Instagram, and hosting in-person walks in the Denver area, he has seen the feedback and engagement from youth who are using this project to speak up in their classrooms and local government meetings.
“Pedestrian Dignity is an experiment on how to center the lived experience, not shaming people, but grounding in the harm, but also celebrating the positives as well.”
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Bringing others together who may not ordinarily cross paths through the lens of pedestrian mobility is a constant theme in Jonathon’s work. The creation of Walk2Connect follows this same origin story.
After his cross-country trek and moving with hundreds of people from all walks of life, he realized how openly he was finding common ground with others while humbly moving together in an environment. He wanted to continue this momentum and host more events to allow people to connect with others in an intentional practice.
“We started training leaders to focus on connection-based walking events as well as hosting events related to walkability, Pedestrian Dignity and accessibility.”
The work of Walk2Connect has been accomplished through mutually beneficial partnerships with local government agencies, mission-aligned non-profits, and private foundations. America Walks is proud to adopt the Walk2Connect program and continue the amazing on-the-ground work with frontline communities.