Vanny Mwamba: Limitless Sides to Outside

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There are so many ways to enjoy time outside. This is one of many unique stories we’re sharing as part of our effort to highlight the Limitless Sides to Outside.

My name is Vanny Mwamba, and walking has always held a special place in my life. Walking is a radical opportunity to express freedom and to occupy space. For me, walking has been the cornerstone of my intellectual pursuits. Paved to unpaved roads, narrow to wide streets—they act as canvas to lay my thoughts and explore my mind. 

One step leads to another, psychogeography unfolds as I explore the landscape of my city of Cincinnati. My eyes scan over every corner of my neighborhood, making it more comfortable for me to live here and safer for my community to also explore. Through walking, I’ve learned “when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, say something!” 

I’m the co-founder of the Urban Hikers. We are a network of inner-city walkers who explore the city’s streets on a weekly basis. Walking, as we practice it, is not “pedestrian permeability,” it’s not about going obediently along the enclosed path between stations to your preferred café or hangout space. We encourage an impulsive, directive approach to walking, permitting the individual the freedom to explore uncharted discovery. Leisure walking hasn’t been accessible to the poor due to place-making. The lack of inspirational aesthetics in poor neighborhoods makes walking an act of bravery instead of a leisure activity. 

The pandemic has introduced a new social challenge, an inestimable cost to our social equity. Urgently, it’s becoming important for us to constitute a social rescue plan to combat mental, intellectual and social isolation, as well as stagnation. Through urban hiking, our walking has become like a ‘crusade for connection’ that can lead us to the promised land of community connections.

From a sociological perspective, people are born into inherent expectations that family, culture and society established. These expectations impact the ways that we are able to explore the world. For me, walking is my survival mechanism, and it allows me to trace my journey from where I’ve been to where I’m going. Walking is one way to exercise restlessness into freedom. Walking helps me combat, with extreme vigilance, the fear that someone or a system may take away my freedom without consent.   

Pursuit of happiness is a dignified human right for all. How do we navigate our own happiness while making sure our pursuit doesn’t violate other people’s rights? Through urban hiking, which is the act of walking together, we discover the boundaries and possibilities within our discovery of happiness. We often discuss: How can we become resilient for all, and thrive at the same time? A theme for us is, “Let’s walk and discover our inherent resiliency!” 

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