Why the walking tour medium?

Walking seminars – exploring new places while questioning the spaces around us – offer us a unique journey. Apart from the obvious benefits of getting outside and into the real world and getting some physical activity, we have created these experiences to consider Ottawa in a new light.

First, there is the opportunity to ‘come and see’, as Mother Teresa told those who wanted to know more about her work with the poor in Calcutta. When your feet hit the pavement and you get to sweat a little or experience a colder chill, you are experiencing a special connection with your environment. Like eating, it is a personal and intimate experience.

Second, focusing on only one particular thematic lens while walking may bring about unexpected outcomes. You might have walked that same street every day for years, yet that one lens can allow you to zero in on the particular angle. I remember finishing the ‘feminism’ pilot one evening and walking home on Laurier Avenue by the Firefighters’ Memorial next to City Hall; I had been so struck by seeing Ottawa only in that way that my one reaction to the memorial was: ‘where are the female firefighters??’

Third, the streets of Ottawa are full of stories that will inspire you, encourage you to question some of your assumptions, and help you make connections between ideas you didn’t think had a link. For example, while many may think a visit to the Mint will be fairly important on the subject of money, few may consider visiting a ‘Big 4’ branch to engage in a transaction, and fewer still will consider tying in that visit with a trip to the Instant Cash Store next door.

The physical terrain found walking any city allows for endless props, impromptu interactions, and countless unique-yet-fleeting opportunities to interact with the complex topics we attempt to wrestle with as part of (de)tours. Finance, war/peace, democracy or food are interconnected, multi-faceted and multi-directional, much like our day-to-day interactions. (de)tours gives us all the luxury of revisiting the issues discussed along the way through a facilitated conversation over a meal or drinks. We can then later keep revisiting the same terrain during regular life, recognizing that we may have just added to our understanding of the way things are.

Written by Dan Monafu