I went to make a pilgrimage to Santiago, Spain when I was 18, with my university at the time. I remember being embarrassed, along with the other students in my group, of the Americans who arrived by the bus to hike the Camino de Santiago. They greeted us loudly as fellow Americans, they were decked out in bright colors, they said, "hey we're all pilgrims!" We tried to distance ourselves from them but they were no less pilgrims than we were, because we also took a van part of the way breaking the Pilgrim's Law of covering the whole trail on foot. We just felt like they embodied the stereotypical tourist traits.

Sometimes I feel like a tourist in my own neighborhood. What are the feelings of the tourist? The feeling of alienation, being an outsider, not quite belonging to a group. Maybe they are feelings of being far from home? These feelings can be applied, I realized to my life, or anyone's life just as easily as they can to my neighborhood. I can feel alienated in places I am supposed to belong, with my family, at work, or school.

I am from Nashville, TN, a place most would assume is bordering on rural. It is however a thriving metropolis that is navigated almost exclusively by cars. I had a car there. I would often drive it to park in pursuit of some Thoreau-esque reverie, or just to exercise on something that didn't stay in one place and face towards a wall.

Chicago is a much larger city that Nashville, here I have no car. So, I walk here more. First, it was necessity and boredom at waiting for the bus, then I realized I was seeing a lot more of my adopted city.

The feelings of alienation, that I am relating to tourism, are enhanced by car travel. I find that, here in Chicago, where I don't have a car, I feel more like a neighbor, and less like the disembodied whirlwind that sped through Nashville. Even though I still feel out of place, in some ways, it is a lot easier to discover people and places by walking through, and around them than driving through and over them.

The natural exploration that I romantically fancied myself doing in the natural settings of Nashville's parks is much more immediate when applied to the natural urban environment. Abandoned trains yards, train tracks, partially demolished factories, gated areas, empty streets, or conversely rush hour, street fairs, alleys, and thoroughfares, these are all fair game for bipedal exploration.

 

- Bonnie Fortune