You Will Discover in the Chapters (Steps) of Stepping
– 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
Step One excerpt
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
After reading Step Seven the tenderfoot will appreciate
the uniqueness of each setting, and enjoy many pleasant
evenings along a footpath.
Step Seven excerpt
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
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
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
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 Ten – Best Foot Forward:
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
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
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
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 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