Walking with Thoreau

In Thoreau’s essay ‘Walking’ (1862), the emotionality of walking is similarly bound up in notions of escape and freedom. Thoreau says:

“If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again, — if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk”
— Thoreau, 1862

Familial and societal detachment is a necessity to walk like Thoreau. He is a purist, an extremist, a walker enraptured by the romanticism of an imagined wilderness. This urge to flee, characteristic of explorers, hikers, backpackers, and artists alike, echoes throughout literary history. Thoreau’s wilderness, his imagined destination, is not necessarily an actual place just beyond the horizon, but is rather a poetic, spiritual, or metaphorical terrain lying somewhere illusive nearby, and also within.