Cover: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryWhen country singer Patsy Cline went out walking after midnight, we can be fairly certain she wasn’t after getting from A to B, nor was she looking to slim down and get fit. No, Patsy was after some soul searching. And walking for the soul has just hit its bookish straps. This is a soul walking blog with no mention  made of pedometers or lycra. Just strap on your metaphorical hiking boots and let’s get spiritual.

Many moons ago when I had long permed hair, listened to Woodstock Festival music and wore floaty tie-dye dresses, I read The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananada. It was all mind blowing, but I remember best the descriptions of spiritual walkers (lung-gom pa) who could take giant steps and sort of fly over the Himalayas. I wanted to do that so badly.

More recently I have stumbled on book after book where the main character just ups sticks and walks off into the wide blue yonder. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a lovely, gentle read about a man who walks the length of England to make a long overdue apology, and in The Lighthouse, by Alison Moore, the main character, newly separated from his wife, goes on a “restorative walking holiday”. Both books made the 2012 Man Booker Prize long list. Is that a sign of the times or what?

But wait, there’s more … In The Year of the Hare  by Arto Paasilinna, a man involved in a minor car crash walks away from his career, his marriage and his friends and wanders around Finland with a hare in his pocket. All the men in these novels learn a lot about themselves, to the dismay/rage of their left-at-home wives.

Walking for the soul has a long history that shows no signs of dying out. In fact, it’s starting to look as if we are hardwired to want to do it. For example, the popularity of pilgrimages to locations such as  Santiago de Compostela has increased over time and the library has many resources to inspire pilgrim hopefuls.

How about you, have you ever wanted to walk out of the house – alone – and keep going until you can go no further? Have you wanted to slow right down and think your thinks while placing one foot in front of the other? And, most importantly, have you remembered to arrange for your significant other to come and fetch you when you have had enough?

If any of this has crossed your mind, maybe 2013 will be the year when we all seriously decide to walk the walk.