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October 25, 2012

Walking, across the pond

One of the best reasons to travel is to get out of one’s cultural skin for a while. It is also a great way to pick up some pretty useful ideas. I have never been comfortable with the much bandied about term “American Exceptionalism.” Actually, I find it distasteful, counter-productive, and condescending. We have a lot to be proud of, but if one gets around a bit one sees that some pretty interesting and innovative stuff is happening around the world, much of it worth emulating — or at least worthy of some thought and implementation within the context of our own cultural

lives.

We have just returned from a trip to Ireland, England and Wales. Beauty abounds in all, although each is different, which is as it should be. No country can escape the effects of the recent global economic meltdown and each country is certainly struggling its way back to a reasonable level of economic growth and stability.

There is an ages-old English idea that has a great deal of appeal. It would be nice if we could implement some version of it here. Ours was primarily a walking/hiking trip. England has miles upon miles of public footpaths, some networks closing in on a hundred miles or more. No matter where one goes one comes across green arrow-shaped signs pointing the way to these public walking paths across privately owned lands. Implied in such an arrangement is a completely different view of private property. Owners set aside clearly marked walking paths, normally on the edges of fields often connected by stiles, so that one moves from property to property almost seamlessly. Some stiles a more easily negotiated than others, but by and large minimal effort is required. If one is new to an area it can be a bit confusing and we did end up on walks appreciably longer than anticipated, but that made it all the more enjoyable. One day after taking several wrong turns we found ourselves about a mile from the village we thought we would end

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