Walking everywhere

“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.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

14 Responses to “Walking everywhere”

  1. Holly says:

    I hate American Apparel, their clothes are the most boring, overpriced shit going, their models always look like they haven’t eaten in weeks (or washed their hair for that matter, in an effort to look like a sad, lank little girl, the favoured AA aesthetic), and their head guy is a total sleazebag. I would like to see that poster, did you take a picture?

  2. Rob says:

    I knew you’d like that part.

    I didn’t get a photograph but I plan to walk in that general direction tomorrow. I’ll see if I can make a detour with a camera. (I already regretted not having a photograph to illustrate this blog entry). It’s a brilliant bit of vandalism: the Bodyworlds and American Apparel posters have both been ubiquitous here for at least a month: everyone has seen them, so it was a good merging of ephemeral icons.

  3. Alex says:

    I love your style. Suit, oxfords, very classy. I wear American Apparel because I like that the clothes are made 1000 miles away instead of 6000 and the workers are paid a living wage, but yeah their advertising is insane.

  4. Rob says:

    Haha. Thanks for the complements, Alex. I must admit to enjoy the juxtaposition of wearing a really nice suit while also being unemployed. People either think I’m nuts or that I’m some sort of business tycoon. I’m neither! I’m a workshy humourist.

    I don’t know much about AA: it’s the sort of shop I simply don’t go to. I understand that they have a very simple (minimalist!) style though, which I must admit to liking.

    On the other hand, I assume (maybe unfairly) that their products are quite expensive and are of dubious quality along the lines of Urban Outfitters and H&M (where I’ve bought adequate but ultimately disappointing clothes in the past). I’ll keep my indestructible and eye-catching tailor-made suit!

    As for their ads, I find them amazingly sexy (which is the idea behind them, I suppose). Unlike most people though, I remain waterproof to their siren song.

  5. […] – Read the final quarter of George Orwell’s Coming up for air. It was a library copy, which I had retrieved on foot). […]

  6. […] Walking everywhere – New Escapologist […]

  7. Monevator says:

    When I lived nearer central West London (Zone 2) I would routinely walk all the way into the West End – 1.5 hours – and sometimes halfway home again.

    People looked at me at dinner or the party or whatever I arrived at like I was mad. I looked at them like they were fat, stressed, or beauty-blind.

    Not recommended for summer social events, though!

  8. Mark Wentworth says:

    I recommend The Lost Art of Walking by Geoff Nicholson. He lives in Los Angeles so if he can do it anyone can.

  9. Rob says:

    The summer thing is so true, especially here in Montreal. I’ve had to invest in some shorts and a water flask. This is fine for grocery runs etc but not so great for social events, you’re right.

  10. […] resolution to walk everywhere, however, is still in full force. Resolve was tested on Thursday by the prospect of a long walk in […]

  11. […] low-budget date. I would cook a delicious meal for us at home and then we’d enjoy a leisurely walk to a downtown cinema. We would take advantage of the citywide Tuesday discount by enjoying […]

  12. Dana says:

    I have a car, but tend to walk everywhere. My husband won’t let me remove the insurance, because he says it isn’t practical. I must admit, I don’t work either, and as a result, I’ve spent (no lie) $20 on gas in the past 13 months. And that was on the way to get my car fixed as the breaks on it were piss poor.
    Every time I tell my parents or sister (who live 1.5 miles away) that I walked there, or to the farmers market, etc, they say, “why? I would have picked you up,” and I always say, “I like to walk.” People always think I’m crazy for walking somewhere that I could just drive, but I find the way other people drive to be too stressful, and people’s stupid tricks and actions while driving make me drive worse than them, and by the time I get that mile and a half I’m so angry that I’m shaking. If I walk, I get there calm, happy and maybe a little sweaty/cold.

  13. Ken says:

    I decided to start walking on nice weather days since I had my stroke a couple of years ago only due an irregular heartbeat, (cause of that unknown I know that walking regularly)probay even delayed it even further(had my stroke at age 54 & in good health overall, ate no salt foods, not diabetic, not overweight, etc., but without the walking, i believe I would have been a lot worse-health wise.I mean have you ever seen what a stroke can really do to an individual?I believe my walking kept me healthier, but recently i decided that walking everywhere or at least more frequently gave me the feeling that I was not helpless should I miss a bus & can walk to many places, mainly locally.If its really too fsr, I’ll get a cab somewhere, or wait for the next bus, but i’m sure the extra walking can help me where a bus can take me and longer distances, I’ll use public transportation, or make other arrangements.Overall, if its raining or pouring, or not easily walkable, I’m for walking, but I’m also reasonable

  14. Brian says:

    I want to be able to walk everywhere i need to go.

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