Design a site like this with
Get started

Stage One of ‘a philosopHER walks’: Pedestrian at Best

[Content note: swear words]

All I want to do was walk. Me and my pack and (my first thought) the entire south west coast of England. From the official website, it looks like all of the national trail can be walked right now, and a further website welcome that it could be walked by all of us right now. But no, not by me. So I look again. Closer to my current home, I find a ‘new’ old pilgrimage trail along the south coast of England. From the official website, it looks like it can be all be walked right now, and could be walked right now by all. But again, no, not by me.

Why? We are told that walking is for everyone. Indeed, everyone should be walking (or counting our steps, at least). And especially, out in nature (have a mindful moment hugging a tree and save yourself and the NHS)! So…WHY NOT BY ME? Well, because I am poor. 

I have always been some kind of poor, on benefits in education, working poor, adult financial dependent, destitute; now that my precarious employment has run out I am currently living on benefits below the poverty line. I don’t really think of myself as poor, it has never felt like a defining part of my identity. For me, it is just the accident of my circumstance. 

While it makes my life difficult and different in ways my more financially secure and better socially connected friends and colleagues just cannot and often fail to imagine, rarely does being poor stop me doing what I really want to do. After all, I did move to the other side of the world to do a self-funded PhD in Philosophy from a highly competitive, world class university, located in one of the most expensive cities in the world, in a country whose government is proud to have a ‘hostile environment’ for an immigration policy. (And significantly, at no point did I worry if I deserved it or doubted my right to be there or thought how ‘lucky’ I was to have ‘made it’. I just did not think about it that way.)

Surely, then, I thought, as a somewhat experienced long distance walker (I can claim crossing the Yorkshire Dales in an 8ft snow drift carrying a full pack on the Coast-to-Coast), walking England’s southern national parks and trails during this mild October-November, would, for me, in every way, be a walk in the park. But no, it turns out, not for me. 

Even if I could actually get to a trail-head, public transport permitting (what public transport?), I could not afford to walk these trails. There was nowhere for me to stay. No campsites, no youth hostels. All shut down for winter (I discovered, standardly, shut 1 November to Easter). Strictly, no wild camping. Even the new sanctuary system on the pilgrimage trail is yet to balance its Christian charity with corporate officious-ness. Despite the multitude of welcome you year-round Bed and Breakfasts along the way, there was no remotely affordable, nor attainable accommodation options, for me. 

For all the explicit claims and genuine beliefs about everyone being free to walk, walking for pleasure, for health, for life, for why-ever the fuck you please, or for no fucking reason at all, walking is a real and insidious privilege. 

The notion of privilege and walking is particularly seen and discussed in the important, growing literature on women and walking. It is a counterpoint to the more familiar history of men walking, freely and especially philosophically. The struggle for women to walk freely, even nowadays, is real. And as a philosopHER, it is central part of my project to expose, challenge, subvert and transgress the social, cultural, and even physical barriers to women walking, and relatedly, philosophising about walking. But, it occurred to me (fittingly, while out walking) that there was a problem, a gap, a point of ignorance, that no one really addresses class. The deep cuts it makes through society might be acknowledged, taken for granted even, but rarely tended to fully by those with the privilege of reflection. I have noticed in these books on walking there is always reverent talk of the workers who fought for the right to roam. However, the related implications of class, privilege, and freedom, seem to be forgotten, when describing the noble, bravery of all these noble and brave upper and middle class people, man and woman, alike, choosing to ‘live like a tramp’. 

Choosing to give up a life of privilege, regardless of its strictures, for the supposed freedom of ‘tramping’ is very different from never having the privilege to choose any other life to begin with. So far, I am yet to read about or see any real discussion of these sorts lives. In no way do I claim extreme poverty, it is something I have never known. Yet, because I do not ‘see’ myself as ordinarily poor, it took me a while to realise that what the literature was missing, was me. I could not see me, or anyone (even anything) like me, in the lives of these ‘noble and brave’ women who nobly and bravely walked. 

So, for the first stage of my ‘a philosopHER walks’ project, I have decided to walk this literature into existence. I am going to be a pedestrian. I am going to embrace it in both its senses of ‘on foot’ and being ‘commonplace, ordinary’. I am taking the pejorative ‘pedestrian at best’ and turn it into the best of pedestrians. My aim is to test the limits of walking as poor. Here is what I plan to do:

The Basic Principles
  • I shall travel by bus on the Brighton and Hove bus network only
  • I must be able to return to my flat in Brighton every night
  • I shall stick to a daily budget based on standard Universal Credit income
The Budget
  • Daily budget is £8.50
  • Calculated:
    • I am ‘single and 25 or over’, so the standard monthly allowance is £334.91, I.e., (334.91×12/365), £11.01/day
    • Rent and council tax are covered separately through Universal Credits
    • I have to calculate for and deduct my utilities and regularly debited expenses, I.e., electricity (no gas), water, home internet, mobile phone, Netflix, I.e., £2.50/day.
  • The budge must cover travel (bus), all food and drink (every coffee, pint, cafe stop, pub lunch, eating out, take away, home cooked dinners, packed lunches) and any other expenses (entry fees, souvenirs, there will be no souvenirs)
  • I shall run an accumulative tally, where £8.50 is added to the budget every day. So what I save one day can be used the next, or an overspend is deducted from the tally. I hope to save up enough to have a pub lunch at some point.

I plan to be strict with the budget to show what is really possible on it. Optimistically what extraordinary things can be done, also pessimistically what ordinary things just cannot, and never possible for the working poor and people on benefits. Also perhaps give a sense of how much energy goes into every purchase, every decision, how much calculating and future planning goes into every spend.

Each day I plan to record the bus and walking route, variously on social media Twitter/Instagram, as I go, and more detailed irregular accounts and reflections on my blog.

Day 0, Wednesday 26 October 2022: Preparation

Today I did some shopping so I could make a packed lunch for tomorrow and prepare something warm and filling for my dinner after the first walk in the evening. However, I have already blown my budget. I spent £9.05, it was the very ‘necessary’ chocolate (£0.69) that did it.

I have decided on the bus route and where I shall walk to and from it. Now for a sleep!


One response to “Stage One of ‘a philosopHER walks’: Pedestrian at Best”

  1. […] an important sense my choice, this purpose, has been borne out having no other choice. Yet again, all I wanted to do was walk. Just put one foot in front of the other. This time on the streets of […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: