Saturday, August 26, 2017

Why I've Ditched My Car and Walk To Work Instead

This past April, I decided to stop driving the 2.5 miles to work and start walking instead. I eased myself into it, walking on some days and taking the car on others, depending on the weather, my mood, and how many times I'd pressed the snooze button that morning.

Walking accessories: good shoes and a large cup of coffee
Then my parking pass expired, and I faced a choice: pony up for a new pass, or dedicate myself to hoofing it, rain or shine? I made the leap and selected the latter. Now I walk five miles (about 1.5 hours in total) each day. It's a commitment. It takes planning, not to mention an earlier wakeup time and some trusty rain gear. But I'm finding it beneficial in a multitude of ways:

(1) I'm not spending money on parking or gas. A year-long parking pass at my work is nearly $450, which seems exorbitant given that it essentially means I'd be paying my employer for the opportunity to sit in my cubicle all day. No. (In the past, employees would avoid buying a pass by simply parking in surrounding neighborhoods, but now that the city has established a pay-to-park program - which I generally think is a good idea, despite its inconvenience for locals - that's out of the question.) Plus, I'm spending less cash at the gas pump. In the grand scheme of debt repayment, $450 isn't a lot - but every little bit helps when it comes to making our plan materialize. 

(2) I get daily exercise. I enjoy working out, especially running, but when life gets busy, it's one of the first things to go. By walking to work, exercise is incorporated into my routine and becomes non-negotiable by virtue of necessity. Do I want to get paid? Then I have to lace up my shoes and start hiking.


(3) I don't get stuck in traffic. You'd think this wouldn't be an issue in a small town, but it is. Few things are as frustrating as spending 30 minutes in the car when your destination is less than five miles away. That's exactly what happens here: between busses pulling over at every stop, parents driving their kids to school, and the trains bringing traffic to a halt every ten minutes or so, commuting here is nothing short of exasperating. Take it from me: being able to sashay past a line of cars snailing their way towards a stoplight half a mile down the road is a delightful experience.

(4) I'm being kinder to the environment. As an Earth scientist, I feel a particular obligation to avoid blasting greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere if and when I can. Again, it was one thing when I lived tens of miles from work and needed to drive. In this small town, though, it just feels wasteful, especially when we have access to miles and miles of sidewalks, urban trails, and bike lanes. 


(5) I get to take advantage of small town life. We moved to this community in part because it's not that big. You really can walk, bike, or bus anywhere you need to go. Small town = small commute. Why not take advantage of that, in true Mustachian fashion?

(6) I have time to transition into, and out of, a work mindset. On the way to work, I contemplate what I need to do for the day and prioritize those items. On the way home from work, I reflect on what I accomplished and try to process any feelings of frustration, stress, or worry. Walking helps me focus. It allows me to be more present in the moment.

(7) It gives me precious time in my preferred environment. A Twitter friend recently asked followers what they would do if they had the time and money they needed to do it, and my response was that I would spend all of my waking hours outdoors. In reality, that's not an option for me. My job requires that I'm inside, in a cubicle, basking under fluorescent lighting, for at least eight hours a day. My walk to work is my compromise, and it's one I relish.

Fellow commuter
Tell me about your commute. Do you walk? Bike? Bus? Drive? Ride a train? How do you use your commute? What would you change about it, if you could?

Disease Called Debt

10 comments:

  1. I really applaud you for changing over to a walking commute. I'm retired now, but spent a good portion of my career commuting by car over an hour each way and it was no fun, plus it cost a fortune. And $450 for a parking pass is a big deal! But the worst of it is traffic, and if your 5-mile car commute ever took half an hour, than walking's definitely the way to go.

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    1. Thanks, Gary! I used to live in the Bay Area and had a 2.5-hour commute each day. Nashville was almost as bad. Being able to walk to work feels like a real luxury!

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  2. I love this post! I'm so glad you find so much value in this one decision and it is enviable in a way to me. That is certainly a commitment especially if it is raining or hot or cold. My commute is about 30-45 minutes depending on route and time of day. It is one of the few downsides to our house purchase but it is still worth it overall. Another part of this is that you have to get to work and by walking you get to replace driving with this more enjoyable activity. It doesn't mean it doesn't have its downsides but you've essentially hacked your commute to integrate other items that benefit you.

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    1. "Hacked my commute": that is a great way to put it! Reflecting on your comment, I realized just how much I value that time each day. It gives me some work boundaries, too, which I really appreciate. All the stress gets left by the side of the road (literally!)

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  3. I think that's awesome that you can walk to work! I've been commuting into NYC from NJ on the train lately and it's really not my favorite thing. It is nice to be able to read or do other things. I think the people who drive in are just crazy.

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    1. Driving into NYC?!?! Wow... Braver people than I am. I used to take a bus to work, so I understand your feelings re: the train. So many pros AND cons.

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  4. This is awesome! Totally not as green, but I used to have an hour and a half commute each way and I did appreciate that time to get my head straight. We tried reducing to one car for about a month total last year, and I was disappointed in myself for not being able to pull it off. Love that you have!

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    1. It really is all about the distance from work! Before this, we lived in Nashville, and I commuted 45-60 minutes each way (depending on traffic). Ideally, we'd like to buy here - but I'm afraid that would mean purchasing something over 10 miles away, and that would mean a driving commute, too (I'm too afraid of cars to bike every day).

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  5. Although I have only a 5 minute drive to work , I enjoy being able to go home for lunch, let the dogs out and read where no one can bother me. We purposely chose this rental house because of the close proximity to work and being able to give the dogs some "mama love" mid day.

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    1. That does sound ideal! What a lovely way to break up the day and reset!

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