This past October I introduced the Walk and Talk into the Grab Your Group and GO repertoire. The question has been asked, “Why the Walk and Talks?” But I think the better question is, “What took me so long?”
I have been doing Walk and Talks for years (too many years to share really wow – it is a shocking number of years). In my San Francisco days, as a perennial dog owner, I would invite friends to join me for walks (and talks) with my sweet stray named Putter. During my New Jersey publishing career years my most favorite thing was to swap out a meeting for a Walk and Talk. I was also keen on cutting lunches short in favor of allocating that time to walk and talk with my friend Marcia as we looped around the super uncool New Jersey office parking lot. While the terrain was lacking in greatness, our conversation never was.
My next team for Walk and Talks were my infant children. I had no idea really what to do with them all day. So I put one in a Baby Bjorn, the other in a snap and go, grabbed my sweet deaf dog Addie (who would eventually migrate to the basket of the stroller), and we walked for hours in Montauk and in Central Park. And I got to do most of the talking! Miss those walks. Ha.
The subsequent chapter we will call my Volunteer days. So many volunteer jobs tucked into those all hands on deck child percolating days. At every opportunity, I would turn requests for coffee or lunch into a Walk and Talk. I firmly believe more gets accomplished in your brain when you are moving and walking side by side.
Our driving goal with Grab Your Group and GO (GYGG as we call it for short) is to connect humans via the value of the shared experience. Our mantra is but 6’sh words long, but is the driving force behind every thing we do. The Walk and Talk is about as emblematic of our purpose as it comes. No smoke and mirrors. No show to hide behind. No financial transaction to muddle over. No agenda. No rules. No rushing (love the no rushing). Just random humans meeting in the park to explore (and celebrate) Central Park – the all shades of green oasis that is absolutely fundamental to each and every New Yorker’s existence. (It is my firm and heartfelt belief that New York City would literally not work without Central Park.)
On a recent walk and talk a new joiner asked “How does this work?” To which I replied with a smile, “This is it. You walk and you talk with the people we have assembled. And if no one is talking to you – I will.” And away we went.
My goal with these walks is to connect New Yorkers to brand new terrain in the park they think they know so well. As a result, I am finding new routes, paths and hills to climb each and every time we head out. I am constantly in awe of the variety of landscapes to be explored in this glorious leafy gem at the center of our city.
My brave joiners are throwing caution to the wind and meeting a group of random people to spend an hour plus with on random trails in the park. This can be a scary proposition for people who like to control their environments (so to speak). I will admit for our first Walk and Talk I had pre-party jitters. But as we walk and we talk and we gaze and we explore and we stop and we admire and we laugh and we climb and we learn; fast friendships are being forged with each and every step. We are connecting people through the value of a shared experience. Ba boom! Mission accomplished.
I have made 5 new legit friends through these walks. Five! Not just Facebook friends or insta followers – five new friends that I have added to my phone contacts and look forward to spending more time with around town, at shows, or on these walks.
This as a pretty remarkable gift to receive from the simple activity of going on a walk. Right? Maybe people are who are joining are self-selected as open to meeting new people? Maybe the act of being thrust together with no other activity to do but talk helps the situation? I don’t know, but good and powerful things are happening – things that I could never have predicted – on these Walk and Talks. I am also uber enthusiastic about the experience of learning more about Central Park as we head off in our random and circuitous directions. Terrain I look forward to sharing on future Walk and Talks. Central Park is our theater and there is much drama of nature to be explored.
It occurs to me as I write this that I am making these things sound like nirvana. They kinda are, but I don’t want to oversell it because what if someone comes on a Walk and Talk and the chemistry doesn’t click? I had this same concern every time I took Addie on one of her therapy dog visits (my most favorite volunteer job ever). Before I crossed each threshold I thought – what if today is that day where the visit is a dud, a waste of our time, where no connections are made and Addie doesn’t stir up some sort of magic moment by just being a warm, friendly furry entity? Never happened. Not once. And we went on hundreds of visits over the course of her 8 years as an active therapy dog. Let’s hope this is the case for the Walk and Talks too.
Want to start your own Walk and Talk group wherever you happen to live? It could not be simpler. Pick a place to meet. Invite your friends. Launch your group on a walk, and then talk. The first few times, I would chart our path the day before. For one of our walks, we had a docent in training guide us (thank you Christine M.). Last week my awesome new friend Melody lead the charge (she brought a guidebook so we learned lots of new helpful facts about Central Park – nice value add Melody). Lots of ways to slice and dice these things, but the first step is to start. Always the most difficult! But Grab Your Group and GO! Good and powerful things will happen. Promise.
After each walk I try to send along a photo with names so people can then greet their new friends by name when they see them in a different venue. Connecting NYC peeps one Walk and Talk or theater experience at a time. 🙂