Walking to work has changed my life for the better.
I developed a ‘fuck it, what can we do anyway?’ attitude.
I care deeply about the environment and humanity’s role in it. In 2018 I joined the 2050 Climate Group’s Young Leadership Development Programme to pick up important skills to support Scotland towards an environmentally conscious future. It was a fantastic experience but a difficult one too. As I began to learn more about the gravity of the situation facing us, I became incredibly angry. I developed a 'fuck it, what can we do anyway?' attitude. I lost hope.
Then it was Christmas, and my wife was generous as always and gifted me a number of books. One book was titled 'Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution' by Peter Kalmus. It’s a book about climate change, it’s honest about the reality of the challenge facing humanity. Furthermore, Peter’s book is practical. He provides concrete actions an individual can take to limit their contribution to climate damage and how it can actually be a joy. This book lifted me out of my environmental funk. It changed my perspective, and while I am still angry, I have found hope again. One thing Peter talks about that got me reflecting on my own life the most was his life changes to limit his reliance on fossil fuels. He did this by adopting an active travel lifestyle. I figured this was a good place to start. I finished Peter’s book in January, and February I started walking to work.
I’m pushing 250 miles.
I challenged myself to walk to work, every day, for the entire month. My commute is 2.5 miles, it’s not a ludicrous distance but 5 miles a day 4 days a week (In February I was also experimenting with a 4 day week, more on that in a future blog post probably) starts to add up if you keep at it. It’s now the beginning of April, and I’m pushing 250 miles. I’d like to share how this challenge has fundamentally changed my life.
Two months on and I’m still walking every day. I feel fantastic. More than that, I feel like I’m thriving.
I’m fitter than I have ever been and I’ve not had to step foot in a gym. Walking to work gives me the exercise I need to keep physically healthy. The mental benefits have come in spades too; walking each morning is good for the mind.
I thought the time commitment would be a strain on my ability to do things for my family: cook, get groceries, post letters (what is this the 90s?), etc. But it hasn’t. It's now easier. I now shop at independent local businesses more than ever because they’re on my route home. I don’t have to fuss with getting off at the right bus stop, because the right stop is where I make it!
I feel more confident with environmental activism than I did before. Walking to work has empowered me to challenge others and engage more in the fight to protect the biosphere. I used to shy away from confrontation and seethe silently, now I have constructive debates and feel my arguments carry more weight than before.
The last surprise outcome I want to share is the discovery of a new hobby. I have a camera, and this camera had sat more or less unused since I bought it. For one reason or another, I decided to dust it off and start photographing what I see on my walks to work. My slow commute to work can now extend to over 2 hours! I’m spending a good portion of my time photographing the beautiful things I’ve started to see thanks to slowing down. You can find some examples of my photographs at the end of this post (for more check out @beardoptics on Instagram).
Everyone lives a busy life, and time for whatever reason always feels a scarce resource.
While it has been more or less as simple as putting one foot in front of the other, there has been one significant challenge: time. Walking 2-3 hours a day isn’t insignificant. Everyone lives a busy life, and time for whatever reason always feels a scarce resource. I work full time (4 days didn’t last), I have a dog that needs walks, meals to cook, and a wife I adore and love to spend time with. That’s a short but important list. Importantly, it’s a short list. If I want to walk to work every day and take photos as I go, and make good on my commitments, then my priorities had to change. I’ve cut out a shed load of other things I thought I was interested in or had to do. Truthfully though, when I assessed my priorities and passions in life, cutting out all the stuff that kept me busy has been a marvellous decision.
Walking to work has got me fit, made things easier, got me politically active, and brought out my creativity. It’s helped me prioritise my life and made me appreciate the importance of the limited time we have. It was an easy decision and the time investment has brought me riches. Active travel has been fundamentally life-changing for me. This article, this blog I’m starting, has been set up to share my experiences with active travel and how the action of slowing down and putting some distance between ourselves and fossil fuels can make a difference.
Thank you for reading.