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What You Will Discover in the Chapters (Steps) of Stepping Out

Introduction – Welcome to Countryside Walking
The introduction invites you to explore comfortable travel on foot and explains how the author, a one-time tenderfoot, evolved into a rambler. It asks you to join her on a walk “up hill and down dale” across the pages of this book and, perhaps, into the countryside, on the walk of a lifetime.

Step One – Unhurried Steps: Making Your Acquaintance
In the personal essays of Step One, which I hope will assure, amuse, and inspire, I share my initial reluctance to venture into the countryside on foot. I introduce myself (a tenderfoot-turned-rambler) and tell you who I am (a what-if, active, lover of comfort and routine) and who I am not (a brave, athletic adventurer).

You’ll find a set of questions to help you think about your own happy holiday ramble. To start us out on the same path, I’ve also included some definitions for several common walking terms.
Step One excerpt

Step Two – Gearing Up: Equipping the Tenderfoot
Step Two offers advice—embellished with personal stories and tips—about selecting, getting fitted for, breaking in, and caring for the basic equipment every walker needs (or wants). It also includes thoughts on how to shop for and use this gear.

We visit outdoor recreation stores where, together, we confront walls covered with boots, socks, and backpacks and try to decide which are the best for us. By reducing hundreds of choices to a manageable task, Step Two simplifies gearing up and makes the task something a tenderfoot can manage—and maybe even enjoy.

Step Three – Getting Ready: Kit and Caboodle

What will you need to wear on a walk of several days? What will you need to carry? You’ll find helpful answers to these challenging questions in Step Three.

Packing for a walk is basically a personal matter because the things we choose to take with us must do more than fit our bodies and wash well in small sinks. Our things must also become friends, keeping us comfortable and contented, in all kinds of weather.

The tips, commentaries, and alternative lists in Getting Ready will help you decide what to take and what to leave behind. After reading this chapter, you’ll be dressed and packed for a “walk on the mild side.”
Step Three excerpt

Step Four – Logistical Logic: Planning a Ramble

Step Four considers the essential decisions you’ll need to make when planning a ramble: Where to stay? How far to walk? How many days to set aside for a holiday on foot?

This chapter introduces the idea of establishing a base of operations from which to launch your countryside walk. It helps you locate the inn, hotel, or bed and breakfast that will serve as your “base camp” and smooth your transition from home to footpath.

Logistical Logic goes beyond details available on websites and in conventional travel guides and presents six principles for planning an itinerary, including: Rate X Time = Distance, the use of public transportation, and techniques for making and confirming reservations.

By sorting out dozens of details, the friendly tips and commentaries in this section will make planning a walk easy and stepping out a pleasure.

Step Five – Getting Set: The Countdown

Activity magnifies and intensifies during the final three weeks before a walking vacation. Getting Set is about living through these hectic days. Step Five addresses the thoughts, hopes, and worries that accompany final preparations.

With time running out, it is reassuring to know that the author, who once had more doubts than the reader, survived and managed—despite her worrying—to complete the countdowns for seven walking holidays, prepared and on time.

Step Six – Let’s Go: Leaving and Landing
As the time for our ramble approaches, we may begin to feel excited, but we still have some traveling to do before we arrive at our home away from home—the British bed and breakfast.

With comfort in coach class a thing of the past, it helps to remind ourselves that a night in “steerage” is a temporary condition that can build character—and that the philosophy of “focus on the present” has its limits. Economy class is one of them.

Step Six helps the weary traveler maintain a sense of adventure, a sense of humor, and a positive attitude, while preparing for, and enduring, the long lines and jet lag of overseas travel.

Step Seven – At Home on the Trail: Staying the Night
Step Seven focuses on bed and breakfasts (B & Bs): why some are good, how a few could be better, and which amenities are likely to make a walker feel warm and welcome.

You’ll discover what it’s like to stay in a different home every night and how to be a good B & B guest. For example, remember to praise the dog. (This shouldn’t be too difficult.) And, if you have to move your host’s knickknacks to clear some space for your own belongings (which you probably will have to do), remember to return these items to their original locations on dressers, shelves, and all the other places they seem to occupy.

This chapter also includes a description of the youth hostel (YH) experience, how it differs from a stay at a B & B, and why spending a night in a YH might make sense.

After reading Step Seven the tenderfoot will appreciate the uniqueness of each setting, and enjoy many pleasant evenings along a footpath.
Step Seven excerpt

Step Eight – Cultural Connections: Getting to Know You
Great Britain is a foreign country. This fact is easy to forget, lulled as we are by our shared history, a common mother tongue, and BBC accents on our tellies. A countryside walk, however, is a cultural reality check—an opportunity to observe up close and very personally the odd, but endearing, customs of our cousins from “across the pond.”

Cultural Connections is a lighthearted look at some native customs, beginning with the meaning of “proper”—the gold standard of British behavior, which protects tradition, maintains the status quo, and defines how things ought to be done.

In Step Eight you’ll enjoy a full English breakfast, lunch on the path, afternoon tea, and dinner at a pub. You’ll learn how to keep warm indoors and speak a foreign language—(British) English.

After reading Cultural Connections, you’ll venture forth—your confidence, humor, and enthusiasm honed—along a beaten path in a foreign, yet familiar and friendly, land.

Step Nine – Dampened Spirits: Aches, Pains, and Rain

Even the best walk has its share of worry, discomfort, and irritation. Step Nine deals with this reality—the experience of coping with the lemons in a rambler’s lemonade. This chapter’s personal stories, describing unpleasant miles, will cheer wet and weary walkers. Its tips and advice will help the discouraged rambler slog through difficult days and finish with a smile.

Dampened Spirits is also about honesty, about stepping away from denial toward accepting the disagreeable. It recognizes valid reasons to whine, but suggests that, after indulging in grumpy feelings, we need to accept a bit of discomfort and move on. Helpful tips in Step Nine suggest ways to prevent and treat blisters, while amusing stories encourage us to crawl back into our damp rain gear and climb the next hill, sore feet and all.

Step Nine helps readers discover ways to alleviate discomfort. Sometimes, all that is needed is perspective. Sometimes, a human or furry friend can help. And, sometimes, simply stopping to admire the countryside is reason enough to smile and ramble on.
Step Nine excerpt

Step Ten – Best Foot Forward: Trail-wise Trekking

This mixture of stories, hints, and commentaries, gathered over a decade in which the author walked the length of seven long-distance paths, focuses on the “basics” of stepping out. Best Foot Forward looks at the essentials of rambling, including: enjoying the rhythm of daily routines, traveling with a buddy, layering for comfort, repacking daily, shopping for souvenirs, doing laundry, answering calls of nature, and avoiding stinging nettles. The chapter concludes with her personal suggestions for happy rambling.

Armed with this information, readers can confidently set out, put their best foot forward, and anticipate a successful and satisfying walk.

Step Eleven – Walk in Progress: Comments from the Path

Step Eleven is a collection of impressions and journal entries written along several footpaths. In this chapter we savor the perfect day, climb stiles, sleep in unfamiliar places, use trail guides, and visit an old bakehouse.

Walk in Progress adds tips and advice to journal notes and personal commentaries. It presents a “you are there” opportunity to sample the fun of rambling.
Step Eleven excerpt

Step Twelve – Finishing Touches: Coming to an End

How will you feel after completing a journey on foot? Like celebrating, of course. But much more. At the end of a path, emotions are a mixture of joy and relief, ecstasy and regret. You may feel ready to stop, but a part of you may want to keep on rambling.

Finishing Touches is a collection of thoughts about the last steps of a ramble and the experience of reaching its final waymark. The chapter reviews several destinations you might wish to consider for a day of transition after a walk. Then we return to base camp and the experience of winding down.

Step Twelve concludes with some reflections we can carry home and tuck away—until picking up our walking sticks, we set out once more.

Step Thirteen – Soul of the Foot: Reflections from Home

A countryside ramble lifts spirits and evokes memories long after a walker arrives home. Its enduring effects and benefits are described in Step Thirteen. We reflect on several rambles as we unpack, return to our routines, and dream about stepping out again.

Soul of the Foot answers common questions that friends often ask about the experience of moving slowly through history and across another culture on a long-distance footpath. This chapter considers the possibilities of curtailing a walk and altering plans. It summarizes what we have learned about living well and walking gently, and reviews lessons gathered underway, which we now can apply to our daily lives.

Soul of the Foot marks the end of our ramble. Here we separate, hopeful that we’ll meet again on other walks along other paths.
Step Thirteen excerpt

Step Fourteen – Facts Afoot: Information Please

Step Fourteen is the reference section for Stepping Out. It provides basic information: phone numbers (and hints on how to dial them), websites, organizations, and optional services. It also briefly describes seven paths and reveals the author’s favorite.

Detailed, useful, and written in the same tenderfoot-friendly, informal style as the thirteen preceding chapters, Facts Afoot answers ten frequently asked questions on topics such as walking tours, luggage transfer, shopping outlets, and favorite clothing.

Facts Afoot is a practical way to conclude Stepping Out. In fact, its brief afterthought suggests that walking often brings solutions to problems. Or, as St. Jerome, writing in the Middle Ages, put it: “Solvitur ambulando.”
Step Fourteen excerpt

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