I didn’t really believe my sister when she said something vague about how commuting to school on foot/by bike would be a valuable experience. At least, I didn’t really believe it to the degree she rapturized.
But after two months of tramping around my small college town, completely car-less, here’s a summary of how awesome it’s been. Don’t worry; while I might subtly try to convince you to try it, I’m not going to bore you with the usual talking points about saving the environment…
Cute houses. At the risk of sounding like a total ditz… my favorite thing about urban areas is sightseeing among the one-hundred-year-old cottage-y houses. Probably because I grew up in a suburb where almost every house (except in downtown) was either new (boooo) or 70s ranch-style (blah). So one of my favorite things about walking around Newberg is seeing all of the cute old houses, wondering how big they are inside, keeping a mental ranking, and changing my mind on which I want to buy. Older areas of Newberg actually remind me a lot of older areas of Portland — except there’s the perk that you don’t have to live in Portland.
Exercise. For those of us who are extremely lazy, walking to campus and back and to the grocery store and back and to coffee shops and back and to church and back etc. etc. etc. is actually a really nice way to force yourself to exercise. And by nice I mean pleasant. Although I might have to revise that sentence in approximately two weeks when the rainy winter sets in.
My goal for walking Newberg is to be able to mentally map all four quadrants before I graduate school. I haven’t completed this project yet because commuting usually involves staying in the same area. But I have an adventurous friend who goes for hourslong walks with me on the weekends. If you don’t have an awesome friend like this, well, you need one.
Have you ever let yourself get truly lost? Without your phone?
Did I mention that I don’t have to pay car insurance, gas, oil changes, repairs, tire changes, gas, car insurance, gas, repairs…? Turns out, being car-free can be pretty carefree!
The weird thing about driving everywhere, which I didn’t realize as a spoiled suburban kid, is that you see the world in frozen pictures from your windows. When you walk or bike, you see urban life unfolding in video mode. You come across people doing some pretty wacky things. You notice random features of houses and yards that intrigue you and inspire some fun made-up mental stories. Sometimes you stop and have a chat with neighbors, which is awesome — who ever does that anymore? I’ve even had a stranger randomly stop and compliment my shoes.
Of course, it’s not always sunshine and roses. My hair stood on end the other day when a cop stopped to ask me if I had seen a person running by suspiciously. I clutched my pepper spray closer and stuttered out an answer.
Yeah, be a smarty and carry a weapon. And stay aware of what’s going on around you… My biggest advice is to never walk around with earbuds in.
Being street-smart usually means avoiding walking at night, depending on your neighborhood. But if you do find yourself walking home in the dark, take a minute to stop and stargaze. It’s true what they say — you can’t really appreciate the stars unless you’re out in the country (or a small country town, I might add). You will be amazed by how hard it is to find the Big Dipper. But more than that — you will give your soul a dreamy refresh.