by Liz Jansen
Taking public transit for my doctor’s appointment yesterday floated briefly through my thoughts, before setting those thoughts free. I’d miss the joys of walking. It was three kilometers (two miles) each way and included some hills, but when you think about it, that’s really a healthy workout. I could dress for winter weather and embrace it, call a cab, or get on the bus. But why would I?
This winter’s been an experiment in managing without a car and I’m loving it. True, location, working from home, and other factors help make it so, but it’s working really well. These are but some of the body, mind, and soul benefits I receive every time I walk, about five times a week.
Given individual circumstances, you may not be able to walk to the same extent that I do, but I urge you to take small steps towards integrating more walking into your life. Do it solo or with a friend. You’ll feel the “walking love” too.
- Exercise. There are many documented benefits to regular walking. It can burn calories and control weight, improve cardio health, tone muscles, stave off osteoporosis, prevent dementia, boost energy, and make you feel good! And I don’t have to go to the gym. What’s not to like about walking?
- Awareness. You notice things when you’re walking. Orangeville is full of niche, locally owned retail shops, restaurants, and cafés, tucked into the facade of restored brick buildings. If you’re in a car, you have to make an intentional effort to check them out, first finding the time and then a parking spot. When on foot, the local creativity and flavor catches my eye and imagination, even if I seldom darken the threshold. It’s a friendly, charitable community. Yesterday I noticed the scarf exchange, which I’d heard about but not seen. Next time, I’ll take an extra from my closet and leave it there for someone else to enjoy.
- Connection to nature. My favorite walking is always in nature. In the area where I live, I love hiking in the hardwood forests amongst the trees, rocks, and streams. While I can’t get out there often without a vehicle, just being outside is invigorating—embracing the winter air, feeling the snowflakes, or gazing at the stars or moon as they light the sky. The maple trees that line my walk were resplendent in autumn finery when I moved in but are now solemn and stalwart in their nakedness.
- Cost. Walking is free. There’s no vehicle to maintain, no insurance, no parking fees, and no potential for tickets. The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) estimates an average yearly ownership cost for a compact car of $9,500. Read the article and follow the link to calculate your costs. I can rent a lot of cars, hire a lot of cabs, or take a lot of public transit for that cost.
- Organization. It’s easy to get in the car and “run to the store” for something you might have forgotten to pick up earlier when you were out. The organization required to plan shopping and errand forays spills over into making the rest of my time more effective too. If you plan right, walking doesn’t cut into your time as much as you might think. Last summer I decided to integrate moderate amounts of meat back into my diet, but only meat that’s antibiotic and hormone free, treated humanely—i.e. free range, grass fed, or wild, and locally raised. The butcher shop is about 3 km (2 miles) away so I don’t go on the same day as I walk the same distance in the opposite direction for other groceries.
- Mindfulness. If you’re walking, you think twice before heading out. I don’t enjoy shopping at the best of times so it’s always easy to talk me out of it. If I have to walk there, it’s even easier to put it off. I question whether I really need the item at all, if it can wait, or if I must put on my walking boots. It’s amazing how easy it is to consolidate trips and makes me realize how much frivolous driving I’ve done. It’s also ecologically friendly.
- Social connection. There are others out there walking. Some are hunkered down, heads bent and bodies braced against the winter wind, but more often, it’s a chance to smile and say hi, and watch it come back to you. It’s wonderful to see a smile light up a stranger’s face.
- Friend encounters. You bump into friends you’re not expecting. Yesterday on my walk down Broadway (the main street), it was wonderful to stop for a brief chat with Shirley and Steve, fellow adventure riders who live in town. Out for their own walking enjoyment and exercise, our paths, which haven’t crossed for a while, intersected that day. On the way back, it was another friend walking out of a store who stopped briefly and amicably before continuing with last-minute pre-vacation errands.
- Philanthropic. Often there are opportunities to show kindness or lend a hand to someone that needs it. Not long ago, I noticed a car parked across the sidewalk at an awkward angle and the young girl inside helplessly jabbing at her cell phone to rouse help. She was stuck in deep slush and afraid to get out and ask someone to help. I wasn’t in a position to help physically, but I did notice a couple of burly fellows across the road who I beckoned over. People started arriving from all over and she was out in no time—and got to meet her neighbors. And I didn’t lift a finger.
- History. I live in an old part of town and love walking through the tree-lined streets, lined with old red brick houses. It seems from the plaques identifying the year of construction and the occupation of the original owners there was a building boom in the 1880’s. It’s fun to imagine the streets filled with horses and buggies and think about the hopes and dreams of those who settled here.
The difference between walking and riding a motorcycle is akin to the difference between riding and driving. Being caged up in climate control, cruise control, bluetooth, and surround sound audio buffers contact with the outdoors and each other. While I’m not about to give up motorcycling, I will admit that getting off and using my own two feet for transportation is a whole new experience and one that I’m enjoying immensely. Try it! You’ll see what I mean.
Related Post: Going Carless