It’s raining this morning. That steady, relentless Spring rain that soaks everything and lasts all day. On Monday and Friday mornings, I walk to the gym for my PT session, and then walk home again via the local coffee shop. I get my almond flat white and wander home along the stream, sometimes stopping to meditate somewhere along the way. Once I get home, I shower, cook myself a big breakfast of eggs and avocado and greens or mushrooms, and settle in to work or study for the rest of the morning. It’s a routine I really love.
I almost didn’t walk this morning. I thought about rearranging our schedule so that I could get a ride – if we weren’t still in level 2, Diogo could have taken the kids to preschool early for a play in the playground, dropping me off on the way. But I love the walk – it wakes me up and warms me up, and I listen to my podcasts on the way. So I put my jacket on, stuffed a spare pair of socks in my bag, and headed out.
And it was fine. In fact, it was really nice. The birds were singing, the kōwhai were blooming. I got a bit damp around my toes and the bottom of my jacket, but otherwise it was more or less like any other walk on a cold morning.
At some point, I’d started thinking of rain as some sort of insurmountable obstacle – like having damp socks or wet hair would be a day-ruining cataclysm, an enduring misery to be avoided at all costs. It turns out, rain is just a bit wet. Who knew?
As a teenager, I had to walk from the train to school and back. I didn’t have a car until I was 25, and then promptly moved to Canada where I went straight back to catching public transport everywhere. When I came home, for one reason or another, I mostly didn’t have a car until Diogo moved in with me, bringing his car with him. Then we had a baby and acquired a second car, to “make life easier”.
Our logic was sound but also absolute bullshit – because I got paid by the hour, it made sense to get me where I needed to go as fast as possible, to “maximise my earning potential”. This is also the reason that we ended up adding a cleaner, and a gardener, and a Roomba, to “free me up” to do as much paid work as humanly possible. In our modern society, this is a sound and sensible plan. But over time, it was steadily becoming apparent that I hated it. In theory, I was making more than the car and the cleaner and the gardener cost – but somehow, it didn’t seem like it. We were both tired and stressed and run down, so all the extra money seemed to go on cafes and takeaways and wine.
I was resenting the work, but also, who wants to clean when they don’t have to? Who enjoys commuting on the train?
Turns out, me. I always enjoyed the train. No stressing about being on time – it was all out of my hands. I could read books or listen to music and there was absolutely no way to do anything else, or feel bad about the time I was “wasting”. On the other hand, sitting in traffic fills me with tense and impotent anxiety. I find parking in the city stressful, and I arrive everywhere frazzled and on edge.
We sold our second car about a year ago, when it didn’t pass its WOF and it wasn’t worth paying to fix it. It was originally a bit of a trial, but once it had gone, the adjustment period was actually quicker than expected. We needed to be a bit more organised about who had to be where and when. We bought a bike with a child seat so we could do drop-offs and pick-ups without the car on fine days. I started walking more… and more… and more.
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve started taking the kids to school on the bus, even on days when I have the car. It takes longer, but it’s so much nicer as a way to start our day. There’s no rushing, except to get out the door in time to walk to the bus stop, which is about 15 minutes away at 3- and 4-year-old speed.
We start our day with a walk outside, checking out the river and the birds and the trees. The kids run backwards and forwards and play with sticks (and/or complain and ask to be carried, depending). The bus is more fun for them than the car – it’s big and interesting and there are people to look at and buttons to press (we’re working on at what time and how often). We’re always at the gate on time, so they have a bit of time to run around with friends before heading inside, and then I put my podcast or audiobook on and walk back home, which takes me about 45 minutes if I’m direct about it (sometimes I’m not). Everyone wins.
Is it inefficient? Sure. Is it a waste of time? I really don’t think so. I might even try it when it’s raining.