h4h 400In March of 2011, I made the decision to join the “Hokies for Hooters” team to walk 60 miles in three days in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day for The Cure breast cancer walk in Washington D.C., held on September 23-25, 2011. I knew preparing for the event would involve fundraising and training, but what I did not realize was that foot travel is a really awesome way to see a city!

One Saturday in August, our team, made of moms and sisters, survivors and supporters, planned a 20-mile training walk in Roanoke, Virginia. It was a hot day, a very hot day. We lathered on sunscreen, laced up our shoes and filled our water bottles and camel backs with ice and Gatorade and headed down the street in a city once known as “Big Lick” due to the presence of salt marches (called “licks”) that attracted deer, buffalo and elk. That was then, today the city carries the name “Capital of the Blue Ridge” and is the 10th largest city in the Commonwealth. No deer or elk were sighted on our city walk. 

Having lived in adjacent counties on either side of Roanoke and having visited Hollins University, Roanoke College (actually located in Salem, VA), Virginia Western Community College, and was familiar with the Jefferson College of Health Sciences, I considered myself somewhat knowledeable of the city.

The Roanoke Regional Airport has, at times, been as familiar to me as my own home, and the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center has been the site of numerous conferences, meetings, galas and weddings. The Taubman Museum, itself is a work of art, let alone the beauty housed within. Plus, I knew where all the malls were — what more would I need to know about this city? 

It turns out that walking through the residential streets, past the sidewalk shopping plazas, and on the greenways gave me a much deeper appreciation for day-to-day life in this city. I took note of the number of families out with kids, bikes, strollers and dogs; the cafes and the natural foods market/co-op, the lovely neighborhoods with mature trees and wide porches, typical of southern-style architecture. I felt something I never imagined I would feel about another city…I felt I could live here.

Instead of the “take your shoes off and stay a while” approach to vacationing, try putting your shoes on and walking where the natives walk. You’ll have a completely different experience when you walk in the steps of those who live there — about 20 miles should do it (and, hey, while you’re at it, consider training for the 2012 Komen 3-Day, there’s one in a city near you!).  

Where have you visited or vacationed that left you with the feeling “I could live here”?

To learn more about traveling with, or for breast cancer, check out these posts from other traveling moms: