What is a Walkabout?

Wisdom Through Wandering

Storytelling is an integral part of learning for Indigenous Australians. From an early age, storytelling plays a vital role in educating children. The stories convey wisdom: they explain how the land came to be shaped and inhabited; how one is to behave and why; where to find certain foods and remedies; they provide direction both physical and spiritual.

Then, as children grow into young adults, the lessons become more complex: more of the history and culture is revealed, more is taught about how things came to be and how others are to be treated. Many of the stories are navigational in nature, and are conveyed by means of what are called songlines, which are memorized instructions to traversing the ancestral terrain. The hearers, when they become adults, take responsibility for passing on the stories to the following generations. In this way, stories and culture are handed down over thousands of years. Many of the stories come from or are confirmed by wandering.

Indeed, there is something in the Australian spirit that motivates individuals to wander, to go for a trek without any real destination in mind. The Aborigines refer to such a journey as a ‘walkabout.’ An individual just “ups and goes” on a kind of spiritual wander. In a sense, their feet are like umbilical cords to the earth, nourishing their soul with each step. Along the way, they might encounter landmarks or have experiences that evoke stories, meet other individuals and share stories, then return to wandering alone. Eventually, they return to their home tribe as a more complete individual…with more song and wisdom to share.

In their wanderings:

They focus on the journey, rather than the destination.

They uncover the spirituality embedded in the land.

They share with others stories that embody the lessons they have learned.

They discover, through their walkabout, keys to wisdom, freedom and joy across physical, spiritual and mental domains.

Walker’s Walkabout progresses in the same spirit. As I wander through the organizational and human landscape, teaching, leading, learning and garnering experience, certain landmark events, spoken wisdom, encounters by choice and by chance will arrest my attention. Some of these, though very, very small in the collective scheme of things, will become songlines that may mean everything in the wisdom they might speak across the domains that both separate and unite us. These I will share.



  1. The Ride of Silence

    Every year since 2003, cyclists from around the world participate in the Ride of Silence, a short (6-10 mile), slow, silent ride in remembrance of cyclists who have been killed or severely injured while riding. I have participated in the ride for the past three years here in Kansas City in recognition of the biking deaths of a friend of mine and his granddaughter.

    We typically get over 100 riders here in Kansas City for the ride, and have a van with large signs on both sides signifying the ride and the purpose. We all gather for a few minutes to memorialize those who have been killed by reading through the list of names and talking about the purpose of the ride. The van then leads the “convoy” of cyclists, clad in multicolored, easy-to-see jerseys and black armbands, through several significant and highly visible areas of the city.

    This year, May 19, 2010, it was raining, and expected to rain all night. Consequently, we only had about 40 brave souls willing to participate. The organizers decided that rider safety was paramount, and cancelled the ride after the gathering. By this time it was raining cats and dogs. One gentleman who obviously had been greatly affected by the death of a friend, said he was going anyway, and anyone who wanted to ride could follow his tail light.

    And all 40 of us followed. We all felt, What’s a little rain…we can still ride.

    Afterward several groups of riders got together at various restaurants in the area to continue the camaraderie and remembering those of us no longer riding. We all felt completely uplifted, and found it incredible that so many would still ride in this type of weather.

  2. Great concept. But I must admit that I do most of my “walkabout activity” inside airports. I love airports. The energy, the little mini-dramas and comedies that pass by like a kaleidoscope of images as you run to your gate. I have little vicarious joyful moments watching people drop off and pick up the one person in the whole world they are just devastated to let go and thrilled to see again…a soldier coming home to balloons and signs, little kids greeting their parents, lovers reunited. It’s a little glimpse at what makes human beings so great-all inside a big concrete building.

    As I type this, I am sitting in the airport having a staring contest with a six-year old sitting diagonal to me. She laughed once already so I know I have her on the ropes. Oops-there she goes, victory is mine. She’s in full giggle. Her father is over near the window laying into some nameless airline person on his cell phone. She is undaunted. She will be an airport aficionado someday, I can tell.

    Your wanderings sound far more exotic.

  3. Charlene…..I so loved reading your reply. I was stuck
    in the Las Vegas airport for over 14 hours after a “mom’s
    getaway with two best girlfriends of mine.” They fly home
    separately and had no delays. I must admit I ended up having
    a somewhat great time although I was getting sick and had to buy
    two boxes of kleenex. I sneezed 500,000 times that day. I digress.
    I found the day by myself fascinating as I watched the people. An elderly couple came up to me as I was sitting by myself eating in a corner area of the
    airport. They showed me pictures of these wooden cars they make for
    charities….very beautiful and elaborate. Told me all about them. I felt like
    they needed to tell me this and I felt very drawn to them and captivated by their story. Then a bit later I saw this man go up to the wall where there was a little cove area so to speak. He went into the area and started touching the walls. It was bizarre for sure. I think he had an obsessive compulsive thing going on. It was a long day but it was peaceful and interesting. My mind wandered all day thinking about the people I saw and the impressions they made. Loved your story!

  4. I met a passenger on one of my flights who sent me a link to your website. As I was looking through my old emails, I decided it was way pass time for me to go see what was being recommended . I enjoyed reading your stories.

    • Sarah,
      Nice to hear from you; glad someone shared…I am starting up the Blog again…just started a whole new career, teaching college, and time has been at a premium. But life continues to offer many teachings that I am inclined to share.

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