Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ahhhh . . . the Joys of Car-lessness

I'll admit it -- the title of this post is a bit misleading. I'm not car-less. In fact, I recently traded cars and am enjoying my new vehicle immensely. But several days a week, I act as if I don't own a car.

About 6 weeks ago, I moved, and I'm happy to say that I now live within walking distance of every place I go even semi-regularly except my place of employment. I'm even within walking distance of my church, but because I wear a dress and want to arrive looking half-way put-together, I've been driving to church.

I'm within walking distance of the "downtown" area with its cute mom-and-pop stores and restaurants & coffee shop. I can walk to the public library in about 7 minutes and the city park in 5. I'm a few minutes away from a small shopping strip that houses a used book store, a market, a Hallmark store, Buffalo Wild Wings and at least one other restaurant, and other cute shops, and within 7 minutes I can be at the gym.

In short, for a couple of days a week, I can live the walking lifestyle I've wanted for the past several years. And I love it!

Even when temperatures were lower, I walked. With a warm coat, scarf, and mittens, I was quite comfortable. When it rains, an umbrella does just fine, or I stay home.

I wanted to drive less and walk more for the obvious reasons: save money due to lower gas consumption and enjoy a more healthy (less sedentary) lifestyle.

I've found, though, that there are other benefits.

First, I don't eat out as often. I don't know why that's true, as I can quite quickly count at least 2 dozen restaurants or fast food places within walking distance. For some reason, though, when I checked my (Dave Ramsey) online budget program yesterday, I saw that I had eaten out only three times in the last month; for me, that's a huge change.

I also haven't done any impulse-shopping in that same 4 weeks. When I have free time, I don't jump in the car and make a Starbucks run or visit the local Barnes & Noble (the site of most of my spur-of-the-moment purchases). I've shopped, yes, but other than buying 2 skeins of yarn and some stitch markers yesterday at the local wool shop (which, I'm so happy to say, is only a 20-minute walk from the house) I've only purchased necessities. I've never been much of a shopper, but rarely has a month gone by in recent years that I didn't do at least some shopping and made spur-of-the-moment purchases.

I learned from my stay in Canterbury, England last Spring that walking allows me to slow down and appreciate & enjoy my surroundings, and I'd intended to walk more & drive less when I returned to the States. Early last summer, I did just that, but I slowly fell back into my old habits of driving almost everywhere I went.

Now that I've moved and can walk so many places I need and want to go, I'm again enjoying more relaxed, less-stressful lifestyle that comes from not dealing with traffic, long waits at stop lights, and drivers who don't operate their cars the way I wish they would. :)

I'm also finding that I am interacting with other people more than usual.  That interaction usually consists of just a smile and a nod, but a smile and a nod in place of . . . well, the glare of the sun on a car window. I'll take that any day. Sometimes, though, there's more.

On my short walk to the wool shop yesterday, for example, I enjoyed 3 brief conversations. First, just a block or two from the house, I neared a home where an older gentleman was mowing the yard. When he looked up and saw me approaching, he turned off his mower so (I assume) the grass wouldn't blow all over me. As I got closer, I smiled and said "hello"; he responded with a big smile and, "Isn't it a great day to be alive?" I slowed and responded that it certainly was and wished him a wonderful day. After I passed, he turned his mower back on and went back to work.

A block or so later, I came to a small house where a young woman and a girl of about 4 sat in the grass. I smiled at both of them, and the little girl chirped up, "We're rooking for 4-reaf crovers! Wanna help?" I stopped, and she and her mother and I chatted for a few minutes while I helped look for the lucky charms before I moved on again.

Finally, a college student stopped me and asked for directions to a local business. He was polite and appreciative of my help, and we quickly went on our ways.

Three brief encounters, but each one brought a smile to my face and joy to a day. A smile and joy I wouldn't have experienced had I been in a car.

If I could, I'd live within walking distance of my place of employment; for now, though, that isn't an option. Until then, I'll walk as much as possible and hopefully rely on my car even less than I already do. I hope you'll join me!

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