On walking

Given my druthers, I’d only ever walk.

Walking is by far the best mode of transportation, if enjoyment constitutes the primary ranking criteria. (Where time and distance are concerns, it has obvious limitations.)

Trains make a close second, and among vehicular travel are clearly the most civilized way to see the world: plenty of space, the ability to walk around, refreshments readily available.

Busses are awful. You can never be really sure where they’re taking you. What if they make an unexpected turn at the next intersection? Suddenly, you find yourself in a strange part of town with no connection to where you were before and without a convenient map to help you get back to where you came from.

Trams are much nicer, because you can always follow the tracks backward, which might be practically unfeasible, but it lends some psychological security to the adventure.

There is here, of course, a distinction between private and public travel. Things like trams, busses, and trains can only take you places where many other people also want to go, which is limiting. But then even private modes of transport get sticky.

Bikes and I share a strained relationship. I’m sure they’re fine for many, but I’m equally terrified of being hit by a car or else hitting someone with a car myself.

Cars share the freedom of bikes and walking, but with the added responsibility of being terribly dangerous: they’re the only method of transport I engage in where I stand a reasonable chance of accidentally killing another human being though my own negligence or ill luck. It doesn’t help that I judge the risk of every activity relative to that of driving a car: while it helps mitigate my fear of statistically unlikely events, it has made me more anxious of driving. Really, the biggest benefit driving holds over other transport is that you can sing super loudly and be reasonably sure no one else will be bothered if you miss a note.

Singing while walking is an excellent pass time, which I highly recommend if there’s no one around to overhear you. I once had an awkward moment when singing “Wish You Were Here” while walking down the road, only I didn’t realize there was someone behind me until she was too close and I was already too far in for me to stop without it being awkward, so I kept going as she slowly overtook me, and then passed me, and then slowly moved further ahead of me down the street, and it was just the two of us the whole time, her not even looking my way, and me singing Pink Floyd.

But, awkward encounters aside, walking is glorious. When I’m home and driving everywhere, I often begin to feel listless after a week or so. I feel like my mind gets fuzzy, as if the humidity in the thick Michigan air is soaking into my brain and slowing everything down. But I’m beginning to think it’s because I walk less. Which means less sensory input: no ground beneath my feet, no wind in my hair, no sunshine on my face. Fewer smells as I travel through the world in the sealed-off chamber of my car. And so much more freedom to think.

You can’t really think when you drive, because part of your mind has to be focused on not killing yourself or others. And most public transport requires similar taxes on your awareness: when’s your stop? Who’s around you? And waiting is tedious. What’s the point of walking from point A to the station, waiting for transport to arrive, taking said transport from one station to another, (possibly switching stations in between,) and finally walking the last distance from the station to point B, when with a little more effort and possibly equivalent time you could just walk the whole way?

I walked at least twenty miles this weekend, and I haven’t felt this rested in months.

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