“Why don’t people, instead of the idiocies they do spend their time on, just walk round looking at things? […] all the while the sort of feeling of wonder, the peculiar flame inside you. It’s the only thing worth having and we don’t want it.” – George Orwell. Coming up for Air
This month, I decided to eliminate the expense of public transport and to walk everywhere instead.
Before June, I had been recharging a travel card each month. Admittedly, the ‘Opus Card’ is a snatch at 70$ for unlimited access to excellent bus and metro services, but that’s still 70$ per month (£46 in my native currency, representing 2.5 hours of labour) I could use on something else or leave in the bank, so I decided to pick up the gauntlet (or rather my shoes) and start walking.
As I’ve said elsewhere, the cost of shoe leather is negligible (especially when you buy handmade shoes for something in the region of 250$ and can have them re-heeled occasionally instead of buying poor-quality new shoes every couple of months).
I’ll admit that walking everywhere is pretty extreme action. Most people would struggle to get by without a car let alone forgo public transport as well. But, again, it’s only your circumstances that dictate this and circumstances can be modified. I know that people have to get to work in a timely fashion and that those who live in the suburbs or countryside can’t rely on public transport, but that’s (bluntly) the result of choices you made and can still change.
Since I do not work, I have the time and energy to walk anywhere. In my favour, Montreal is a small city and I have so far not found the need to spend more than two hours walking from our apartment to any significant location.
If it rains or snows, I either dress appropriately or simply change my plans and stay indoors. If it’s hot, I make sure I take along a flask of water (refillable for free at public drinking fountains – that’s what they’re for).
So far this month, I’ve caught two busses due to being pressed for time on one occasion and submitting to peer pressure on another. Total cost: 5.50$. Even projecting forward another two busses in the second half of the month, I’ll still have saved 59$ over the course of June and 413$ between now and the end of the year (half the cost of a flight to London).
This is ostensibly a money-saving exercise but there are also physical and intellectual benefits to walking:
Walking makes me fit so I don’t have to burn time and calories on a treadmill. Choosing different routes also allows me to discover and enjoy previously uncovered parts of the city.
You see things differently than if you were in a bus or a metro carriage: the other day I saw a culture-jammed advertising poster morbidly combining an ‘American Apparel’ model with the skinless corpse currently promoting Gunther von Hagens’ Body Worlds exhibition. Brilliant.
When walking, you can enjoy some downtime. You can process your thoughts and the information you’ve acquired since your last walk. It clears the mind. Personally, I do not listen to music as I walk, preferring to engage exclusively with the sounds of my thoughts and the city.
Like most people, I sometimes have trouble getting to sleep. Thankfully, having a tired body and a clear mind after a daily walk has curbed this problem.
Try it. Eschew transport for a while. Go à pied.