A forest in winter, with snow in evergreen branches and bushes.
Courtesy Jon Mooallem

Jon Mooallem’s Walking Podcast: Like Receiving a Butt-Dial From a Nature-Loving Friend

By Aileen Kwun
January 25, 2020
2 minute read

As everyday life becomes increasingly enmeshed with technology, our attention spans fragmented by constant distractions of the attention economy, one podcast makes a case for unplugging and simply taking a hike. In his Walking podcast, journalist and author Jon Mooallem doesn’t interview guests, host any celebrities, or sound off on current affairs. Instead, with a recorder in hand, he simply takes us along for a walk.

There’s an odd and contemplative comfort in listening to the nearly hour-long episodes, each filled with the ASMR-like rustle of the wind and the crunch of branches, leaves, and gravel beneath footsteps, as Mooallem meanders about in the woodlands of the Pacific Northwest. (Occasionally, he’ll run into a friend, making small talk about “clearing his head” or cleaning out the chicken coop.) Part Calm session, part random core, it’s like receiving a transcendentalist butt-dial from a nature-loving friend, or the #oddlysatisfying audio equivalent of playing with slime.

Mooallem has said that walking is an exercise in self-reflection, and he is in good company. Considering famous walkers in history and literature in Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit muses that “walking articulates both physical and mental freedom.” Writers have long linked the mind with the feet, and according to The New Yorker, taking regular walks (especially in nature) not only stimulates the growth of new neurons, it actively sharpens our memory, attention, and thinking: “Because we don’t have to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking, our attention is free to wander—to overlay the world before us with a parade of images from the mind’s theatre.”