I’ve been a real estate broker for 16 years. Every time someone asks me about a neighborhood, I give the same advice:
In today’s world, it might seem like there are more efficient ways to learn about a neighborhood.
You can study Google Maps and use street view to see photos of the area. You can use virtual reality to take a tour. If you are willing to leave your house, you can drive around.
All of these methods can provide you information.
But if you really want to know about a neighborhood, and know your way around it, there’s no better way than walking it.
It’s cliché, but true:
The map is not the territory.
Maps are only heuristics. They are representations of what the reality is like, but they are not reality. A map gives you information about where places are relative to other places and relative to where you are.
A map cannot tell you the qualitative feeling of its terrain.
Modern maps may tell you how to get to different places, but they don’t tell you how that navigation will feel.
If you’re walking, will you be walking uphill? Will it be noisy?
Virtual reality is a simulation. It doesn’t put you in the actual environment.
Driving keeps you at a distance. You can’t get in closer to explore something in detail when you’re sitting in a car. You drive by too fast to take it in.
Why does it matter?
It matters because environment is everything. The quality of your life is based on the quality of your experiences. And the quality of your experiences is determined by the environment in which they take place.
Walking an area is the fastest and most efficient way to learn about it. Walking puts you in the center of your circumstances, in the middle of the environment.
When you walk, you get an embodied understanding of how the territory lays out. You find shortcuts that you’ll never see on a map.
You may realize, for example, that a place that seemed far from you is actually much closer when you walk, because you take a different route there.
I love maps. I love to study them and plot paths on them.
But maps are theory.
If you want to truly know something, you must give yourself the physical experience of it.