I must admit that I depend on my car for transport a lot. Too much really – as my workplace and local shops are within easy walking distance. This year I’ve been having fun with changing my routine around a bit and driving my car less. My aim is to walk to get to local destinations when possible and some weeks I succeed more than others.
My favourite walk is walking my child to school. I love the time for conversation together that this creates. In recent weeks I’ve also ventured into catching the bus one day a week for work, too far to walk all the way but a healthy walk to and from the bus stop is involved. All the boxes are being ticked – less pollution, less petrol-guzzling, lifting the heart rate and fitness level in the process. Worthy benefits all of them. The extra bonus though, has been the connection with community that I’m experiencing when I travel outside the bubble of my car.
For example today I walked to work then accepted a lift to a meeting with a colleague – and so we got to have a chat that we would have missed if we travelled in our separate cars. I then caught a bus back from the meeting and I unexpectedly met at the bus stop someone I had worked with 10 years ago, and we had a great catch up before getting on different buses.
And last week two “strangers” and I stood waiting together at the bus stop near home. Our view of approaching buses was blocked by road-works, and after a few minutes a conversation arose between us about our shared uncertainty of when the next bus was due, and we debated whether it had already been – a simple, friendly conversation. Then, fearing that I’d run late if I had to wait for the bus any longer, I told my ‘bus stop buddies’ that I’d need to drive after all. I hadn’t walked very far when I heard them both calling me back – for the bus had suddenly appeared from behind the road-works as I had turned towards home. How cool that relative strangers can turn out to be allies! Such simple experiences build faith in community.
A novel I read years ago was set in the late 19th century and opened with someone from a rural area commenting that – “Towns always unease me with all them folks walking around, acting like they didn’t see you”. And that can be the case nowadays too – but not always as my story shows! For when we share simple activities, eye contact and conversations with relative strangers in our local area, connection can start to form to strengthen our sense of community.
I wonder it you too enjoy some car-free travel in your week, and whether you experience a bit more “community” on those days?
PS The photo here shows an early sign of spring that we noticed on our walk to school today.