When I was a kid, I would go on walks every evening after dinner with my mom. As time went on and the two of us got busier, this was one of our first traditions to go.
The further I grew from my childhood and the practices that molded my earliest memories, the more I felt called to return. Maybe it was a diasporic urge to crawl back to what had been left behind.
During my freshman year of college, I began to go on walks without a destination. Instead of feeling overwhelmed with choices about where to walk, I found that my feet wandered just as my mind did. These scattered steps — the literal translation of 散步 sàn bù, which means “to stroll” — were what grounded me.
I never knew where I was going, but my body did. I trusted it to get me home safe, and it does.
But there were moments in time when I wanted to go somewhere my body couldn’t take me — at least, not without the help of a car or plane, and an endless supply of time and money. In fall of 2020, I stumbled into the habit of going on digital “walks,” with the help of map software and street view settings.
I’d mouse around and scroll down streets I used to chase my friends through, visit old hotels I remembered only faintly, explore the neighborhood where my grandparents and I used to live in Shanghai with fresh eyes. Sometimes, I clicked randomly until I was somewhere in the middle of a country or state that I had never been to. Unlike most painters, I experienced the landscape through the screen.
The following images are from the digital walks that I remember most fondly, alongside watercolor impressions of the scenes.