“Walking and the Suburbanized Psyche” by Rebecca Solnit

In Rebecca Solnit’s “Walking and the Suburbanized Psyche”, she talks about how the development of suburbs and the advancements in technologies have impacted society. Walking was once used as a way of getting around when cars didn’t exist, it was also used as a recreational activity when most places were still rural. But due to the fast advancements in technologies as well as the fast-growing cities, the act of walking is fading. We are losing to what we used to observe in our day to day life, the way we interact with our surroundings won’t be the same anymore. Not only did it affect our means of transportation, but it also changed the society’s values and people’s mentality. I agree with Solnit’s point of view that suburbanization has drastically affected a society to simple acts of walking. Suburbanization has disconnected us to our surroundings individualizing our community.

Suburbanization has changed the way we interact with people. We can gain a lot of experience through walking. It allows us to connect with nature and different people. When I used to live in China, I used to take walks around the neighborhood. It was one of my favorite things to do because I get to interact with the people. I would call up my friends for a walk to a nearby store just so I can spend some time with my friends. This strengthens the bond between me and my friends because we can talk to each other. On the way, we would encounter people from our school and they would join us. Occasionally when I walk with my grandma I would find myself walking into another person’s tea party. My grandma would play poker along with other grandmas while sipping her tea and I would play along with the other kids that the other grandmas had brought with them. That’s how things work at my small neighborhood in China. I met a lot of people through such a simple act of walking. Eventually, I befriended a lot of people. It was a great way to socialize since it took away the barrier that I felt when I talk to someone inside a car. The bond that we create from walking strengthens and unifies our community. But nowadays people prefer to drive rather than walking. Last time I visited most people don’t walk around much anymore since the cities grew and it was just more convenient to travel by car. The areas were reconstructed so that more lanes for cars would fit minimizing as many sidewalks as possible. As the lanes for the cars grew, the distance between our communities also grew. Cities have grown in a way that made people “mingle less freely and frequently” (Solnit 57). We are losing the connection to nature and people that we gain from a simple act of walking. We might not notice since we are so used to this kind of lifestyle, but as a society, we are gradually losing that connection within our community.

Not only did suburbanization threaten to individualize our community, but it also changed our minds as well. People seem to judge a person based on what someone can own. Solnit (56) mentions that: “Walking can become a sign of powerlessness or low status.” Indeed, we tend to think that people who walk as their means of transportation are people who aren’t able to afford to buy cars. In the past, having a car was considered a luxury. Fast forward to now, cars are more affordable since most people have a job to support themselves rather than relying on the head of the household. But our society’s values have been distorted. We find ourselves judging on someone based on the materialistic items they own. When I was in high school, students who drove to school were considered the “cool kids”. The other students who transported with school buses and people who walked to school were not so much of a “cool kid”. This was apparent when students wanted to hang out with these “cool kids” instead of other students. Even people who transport using public transportation are thought to be inferior to those who own second-hand cars. I’ve seen a video online on a social media platform where they performed a social experiment to see how many people were willing to give their numbers to people who were standing beside cars and people who walked. As expected, people who have cars received more phone numbers. I find the results really disturbing. Since when has our society changed their values to judge people materialistically? Our society has developed a hierarchy that groups people into different social classes.

With public transportation so easily accessible, people are less and less willing to walk. According to Solnit (56), people have developed a “mental radius” of how far they are willing to walk. When cars haven’t been invented and when most people lived in rural areas, people had to walk miles and miles to get to their destination. My grandma used to tell me stories about how she had to walk miles and miles to get to the city to sell her produce every day; how my dad and his siblings had to walk miles and miles to get to school. Now it only takes minutes to get to where we want. Why walk when you don’t have to? It’s so much more convenient than walking. Walking takes too much physical strength. People have embedded these kinds of thoughts into their mind. With transportation so easily accessible, it’s easy to alter the way someone thinks. When I drive to a shopping mall, I see a lot of people that would wait longer to just so they can get a closer parking when they could’ve taken the parking lot that was probably only 100 yards further. People are simply unwilling to walk those extra steps. Suburbanization caused us to favor those that are the most convenient and fast while neglecting those that are less convenient. Suburbanization has reshaped the way we think about things, brainwashing us to favor the most convenient method.

Our mentalities and lifestyles have been changed drastically through the development of suburbanization. We are losing the connection we have with our community causing divisions within our community that was once more unified than it was now. Few people see the negative consequences of losing the act of walking as a cultural activity. Walking may not seem like a big deal until you notice how much you’re losing socially, physically, or mentally. You might be surprised to find how your mind can be changed by such a simple act of walking. 

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“Walking And The Suburbanized Psyche” By Rebecca Solnit. (2021, Jul 28). Retrieved December 7, 2021 , from

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