nyc marathon

My One Thousand Mile Walk

I didn’t actually walk it all at one time.

But I do love walking. On any given day I walk anywhere from five to eight miles, depending on what level of activity I’ve done earlier in the day. It’s my quiet time when I do all my thinking, planning and mental relaxing. The mileage is correct when taken from the day of my layoff until present day.

Aside from the health benefits, walking is the most fundamental activity that humans can do. Our bodies are designed for upright mobility. Unfortunately, most of our time is often spent at white-collar jobs buried in cubicles. One of the first things my fitness class instructor said when I began my exercise regiment was “30 years in an office, right?”. They can always tell because of poor posture.

poor posture


In my first experience as an expatriate, getting out for my daily walk wasn’t so easy. Nine months of cool to cold weather in Western Canada can make even an experienced marathon walker curl on the couch with a bag of chips and a few hours of mindless television. Living in a planned subdivision meant a drive to the park and an adventure in how to dress in layers.



Standard Canadian dress for a January day. In this picture it’s Minus 31.

Fortunately, Contra Costa County, which lies to the east of San Francisco, has the most open space per capita in all of America. California is experiencing one its worst droughts in recent history. In 2104, this meant endless sunny 70 degree days all winter instead of the normal seasonal rain and cool temperatures. Connected by miles of broad walking trails that crisscross each other in an organized fashion, the county’s outdoor activity opportunities abound.

I walk a large portion of this trail every day

Many of Diane’s friends felt sorry for me and wonder what I do every day while I pass away
18 months until my 50th birthday, the earliest we can file for a Malaysian residency visa. Truth be told, it took a little adjustment and some real reflection to accept the role of house husband.  Living in a Mediterranean climate means there’s almost always maintenance on the jungle of growth that surrounds our ¼ acre lot. The back yard has about eight different types of trees, several flowering bushes, and two of the world’s most messiest trees, magnolia and California pepper. They never stop dropping their leaves and seeds.

My neighbors hire cheap workers that arrive in beat up trucks with anciently used equipment to handle this never-ending maintenance. I am healthy and come cheap so I do whatever I can myself. This takes up a few hours several days a week and it’s harder than  my old job. I also cook dinner every day, vacuüm, dust, take out the garbage, make the beds, clean the dishes and almost everything else that Alice did on The Brady Bunch.


I am my wife’s Alice

Inevitably, however, one can’t spend all day doing house chores. So I walk. Every day. By the time I get home from the gym, have coffee at Starbucks, read a good book for an hour, do some chores and make a healthy lunch, it’s already afternoon. The sneakers go on and the feet get hopping.

You never know what you can find when you walk. With the mind clear and no schedule you’d be amazed how many things might be in your own back yard. One day I came across this guy walking with his pet parrot perched on a stick that looked built just for that purpose. Apparently he found the stick in his yard. He let me pose with the bird

On another day some ducks decided they were thirsty during my lawn’s watering cycle. It must have been faster than flying to the pond and they spent about an hour bathing and drinking. There are also families of wild turkeys that live on a golf course not far from my house. They’re chickens for such big birds and don’t really like being approached.

One of my favorite times of year to walk is late spring when the baby geese and ducks follow their parents around. We also have thousands of adorable but dumb tree squirrels. Too often they get smashed by cars. Our local park supports a healthy population of cormorants, fascinating birds that have to dry their wings after they’re in the water because nature didn’t make their feathers waterproof.

During the entire three months of winter, there were perhaps five days of precipitation when there should have been 25 or 30. Thanks to our drought, almost every day was sunny  and unseasonably warm with while the East Coast of America suffered through one of its worst winters in memory. I had fun posting pictures for all my Facebook friends stuck in the snow.

There was even a summer rainbow in July, a highly unusual occurrence.

summer rainbow

An extremely rare site in July where it never rains in summer.

My walks take anywhere from two to four hours. By that time it’s time to check the day’s finances, make any adjustments and read the some news. I also play 20 games of Words With Friends at one time.

Is this a boring life? Well, yes, kind of. Retirement at age 50 in the suburbs leaves you 20 years behind the golf course gang and the stay at home moms view childless men in a park on a weekday as stalkers or freaks. You need relative independence to make it work. But that’s why we’re fleeing to an exciting place with a vibrant culture, large expatriate crowd and phenomenal food choices. If the time ever passes.

Six months until the house hits the market for sale. 210 days until my 50th birthday. Perhaps I’d better go take a walk.

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