Everyone walks in Granada, Spain, which might not seem notable or important, but trust me — it’s very noticeable here.
Let me elaborate: It’s not just that everyone walks, but it’s the way people walk and the culture around it. Here, walking is a social event that happens every hour of the day and night. You see clusters of families eating helado (ice cream) as they walk through the main plazas, friends going window shopping and old couples strolling hand-in-hand along the river. Sometimes there is a destination in mind, and other times there isn’t.
It is a certain kind of walking that doesn’t have a hurried or rushed quality to it. One of my Spanish friends tried to describe to me how she could spot the American students by the way they walk. She said Americans always walk so quickly and with such determination, as if they are dead-set on getting to a location without any detours or distractions.
I have always been a fast walker. My friends and family have definitely asked me to slow down more than once. I have always walked to my destination with my eyes straight forward, set on getting to wherever I have to be. But being in Granada has made me pause every once in a while. Sometimes I still get annoyed when a group of 10 people is taking up the entire walkway and just strolling, but I often find myself slowing my pace to take in the things around me.
I have lived in or near big cities all my life and Granada is small in comparison to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland. But somehow, Granada has the magical characteristic of seeming both big and alive because everyone’s always outside yet remaining small enough to walk everywhere.
Maybe by the time I come home I will have learned to slow my pace a little and not just hurry to each of my destinations. I am not making any promises, but I am trying.