Landscape architects refer to the natural paths that form between the paths that are planned and built throughout an outdoor space as desire paths. Desire paths are naturally worn as people create new ways to get from place to place. They can guide a person to a feature (such as a secluded lake, waterfall or mountain overlook) or simply through areas of dense vegetation that would otherwise not be accessible.
Desire paths are so named because they are the direct result of someone creating a new way based on their personal desire. Desire paths do not stand in direct opposition to constructed paths – they often weave in and out of constructed paths, acting in concert with the flow of how people use them. Some people believe many current roads started as desire paths.
The metaphor of the desire path can be explored from the perspective of life in general. Our lives can be viewed as a beautiful combination of constructed and desire paths.
What can we learn from desire paths?
Desire paths make new discoveries possible.
Creativity happens along the desire path. Entrepreneurial fearlessness lives along the desire path. Possibility blossoms on the desire path. The desire path embraces both success and failure. Curiosity is a tool commonly used on the desire path.
There is a rebel attraction to following a desire path.
Fun, adventure, and joy can be part of the desire path. The desire path is where your edge, the place where you are just uncomfortable enough to grow and learn, feels safe enough to spread it wings and fly. You can ask, “Why not?” along the desire path. You can dance barefoot on the desire path. You can climb mountains, sail oceans, and find hidden treasure (whatever that may be) along the desire path.
The desire path allows us to stay close to what matters.
When you think about how you make decisions and navigate your day-to-day, are you on a desire path? Do notions of responsibility, commitment, and fear play into your desire path? Often, the desire path requires examination and rethinking, trial and error, and dusting off our butts after a fall. The desire path is a flexible route that listens, pays attentions, changes, widens, and narrows in concert with the still small voice that lives in each of us.
The desire path is the heart of the constructed path.
Desire paths reveal a conversation between the natural and constructed world. They are not mutually exclusive. Think about hiking trails in beautiful parks. The constructed path often leads to the desire path. The constructed path points the direction to the desire path. Both paths can lead to amazing places. Both paths require the the first steps forward. There is a story being told between the paths. Imagine it. The constructed path offers, “Head this direction.” The desire path responds, “Hey, look over here!” The constructed path explains, “I will make sure the way is clear.” The desire path says, “Lets see what we can find.” The constructed path smiles, “I will be here when you be get back.” The desire path exclaims, “I will touch that rainbow.”