In Chicago, walking in my daily life functions primarily as a mediator of transportation; it is seldom I walk without a destination in mind. Walking in this sense constitutes a majority of my regular physical activity, as I walk thirty to forty minutes daily between home and school or work. In Barcelona, walking enables daily access to local resources such as markets, parks, and jobs in the neighborhood. Access in Chicago to me refers more to the availability of transit by bus or train; it is quite common to commute a considerable distance to get to work or school. The difference in proximity alone between the two cities means you can walk for ten minutes and observe a gradient in demographics of people and environment, but walking the same amount of time in Chicago, there is little to no observed shift because it’s likely you haven’t left the area you were walking in. I never thought to challenge the notion of walking solely being functional, but over these past few days’ excursions, I found myself walking with a different frame of mind.

This week we experienced different types of “derive”, which is a French term for “drifting” in which emotional connections between the social environment and the person are observed. What I found was that working with a large assigned group on Monday on a “structured derive”, having specific destinations to meet within a timeline made the trek quite stressful: I felt more pressure to meet a deadline, and less in-tune with my surroundings and less explorative. On Wednesday, we were randomly assigned a partner and given a proximity to work within as well as a set timeline. The difference was that the destinations along our route were completely up to us to determine, which granted us more more freedom in our decisions. When we got to the Barri Gotic area, we got lost pretty quickly due to unlabeled street signs. At that point, we had a general idea of where we were, so Stacy and I decided to go with one direction until we saw signs prompting us to take another direction. In doing so, we saw local shops, restaurants, and more of local life than we did on Monday, which made the experience for me more personal, as if we were seeing another face of Barcelona. Being someone who likes to work towards set goals, I was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable I was with getting lost and falling off the beaten path. I felt I let go of some control I try to have over my life, and just gave myself over to the process.

I find this notion of freedom applicable to most areas of my life, but particularly as I navigate what I am want to completely pour myself into. and mapping out steps to get there. After taking these derives, I feel that I know myself better – I feel more comfortable with myself, more confident, and all the more willing to let go and trust that everything will work out as it is meant to in all walks of my life.

Photo credit to Stacy Rodriguez and Suma Maizer