The car-free lifestyle

I have been getting about 10,000 times more exercise than usual, lately.

It starts with the commute, of course. Instead of sitting in a car for two hours a day, I am walking, walking, walking. It’s really not all that much walking, maybe 3 miles a day, but that just highlights how little I was walking before. Also, a thing I noticed about taking the train: I’m always running to catch it. It’s not that I’m always late; quite the opposite, in fact, which is what gets me in trouble. See, there’s always one earlier train.

If there is a train that doesn’t arrive for 15 minutes, I could say, “Nice! Plenty of time to get to the train.” OR, I could say, “Hmm, if I can get there in 5 minutes, I can catch the earlier one.” When I see a train pulling into the station, I could say, “Oh well, I guess I’ll catch the one, arriving in 10 minutes.” OR, I could say, “I bet if I sprint and take the stairs 2 at a time, I can catch that train.”

But what I’ve really noticed lately is just a shift in mindset. In just 2 months, I’ve already switched away from thinking car-first.

Since the kids are often riding their bikes, we can go a lot faster if I ride my bike too, instead of walking. Sometimes I have to go somewhere after work, but it seems stupid to take the train all the way home, and then turn around and go back the other way in the car. Instead I have sometimes been leaving my bike close to a train stop and then grabbing it on the way home. I’ve ridden my bike around the neighborhood more in the past 2 months than the rest of the time we’ve lived in Chicago, combined. The other day, I even walked to get groceries, then took them home on the train.

Around the same time, we also replaced one of our house locks with a key-free entry (to avoid being locked out again). OMG this is the most psychologically amazing thing on the planet. Between that and not using the car, I don’t even take my keys with me anymore when I leave the house. It’s really just kind of…freeing, to just walk out of the house and go on your way. I don’t know how to describe it. I wouldn’t have thought it would make a difference, but it really, really does.

The less I use the car, the less I *want* to use the car. It’s not a conscious decision, but it’s more like I just don’t think of using it. The car has started to seem like more of a hassle, rather than the other way around. And the more I use the train, or ride my bike, the more I realize how convenient it is. In the last two weeks I’ve ridden my bike home after 10 pm. It sounded cold, awful, potentially even dangerous. But it wasn’t! It was actually pretty easy, and, dare I say, even refreshing.

And it has to be better for me, of course. I mean, I haven’t really noticed a difference, but it has to be healthier, right? Two months ago, I certainly didn’t think I could have run a 5k, and now I did. So.

It really feels good. Freeing. Healthier. Good for my psychological well-being. I wonder how much of the general, unclassified “yuck” of our lives (stress, I guess?) really just comes down to not getting enough of the things our bodies really need: fresh air, exercise, healthy food.

You guys: every day that goes by, I turn into more of a hippy.

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