From suburb to city, the journey is just a walk away
Posted October 9, 2016
Last Saturday, my oldest son and I set out to run some errands.
Our first stop was the local bakery, owned by a member of our congregation who supplies the weekly loaf of sacrament bread.
From there, we popped into Office Max to pick up a piano book I had left on the copy machine.
Finally, since my son is 14, growing six inches a week and requiring sustenance about every five minutes, we dropped into a little café where he ordered a burrito the size of a small puppy.
Perhaps it was the autumn air, or the sun on our backs or the spontaneity of stopping for a late lunch, but it was one of the best afternoons I can remember.
Perhaps it was because instead of driving in a car, we walked.
Our family spent the last 10 years in the suburbs. There were so many things to love: our proximity to parks and lakes, the cul-de-sac brimming with neighbor kids and the wide expanse of lawns for backyard ball and marshmallow roasts.
Yet, anytime we ran errands, from the library to the grocery store, doctor’s offices, schools and music lessons, it meant strapping in behind the wheel of my minivan.
In the years before that, we lived on Miami Beach. Equipped with only one car, I spent my days pushing 60 pounds of kid in our double jogging stroller. We went everywhere in that thing: the beach, pool, grocery and library. I used to joke that I clocked 200,000 miles on that stroller. My pediatrician, who also lived in the neighborhood, would tell me, “I see you everywhere.”
With this recent move, our family decided to return to that walkable lifestyle. It was an experiment of sorts: Would it increase our quality of life? Could we tolerate, and even embrace, both the conveniences and inconveniences of being slightly more urban?
So far, we’re completely in love with the setup. Our teens walk to the middle school down the street. We walk to the dentist, the bakery and the grocery store. My husband bikes or walks to work at the university.
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes walkability so attractive. It may be the neighborly feel. If you’re out, you’re greeting people, instead of parking the car in the garage and heading straight to the kitchen with a sack of groceries.
It might be the open sky. Multiple studies and articles have addressed how getting out in nature changes the brain. A walk down our tree-lined street may not be the same as a hike in the woods, but still, there’s something about the fresh air, the wind on my face and the crunchy autumn leaves underfoot.
Perhaps the best thing about walking is how it seems to slow time. When you walk someplace, you have to allow for a buffer of time. Instead of dashing into the car and screeching down the hill to the dentist, pulling up one minute before the scheduled appointment, I have to plan 20 minutes on either side. I have to alter my mindset toward a belief that the journey is as important as the end destination.
With my kids in tow, we walk, pointing out our favorite homes, commenting on the changing leaves, the moving clouds, the sudden rain shower that sweeps across the sky.
Removed from the urgency of my to-do list, the never-ending household tasks and even my laptop, everything seems to relax. My boys are talkative, sharing pieces of their inner thoughts. We talk about future careers, moving, computer coding and a new awareness of girls.
When we arrive home, fresh-faced and windswept, it’s as if we have been on an adventure together, even if just for a loaf of bread.
I walk past my minivan parked in the driveway and give the hood a friendly pat, happy to leave it right there.
Tiffany Gee Lewis runs the website Raise the Boys at raisetheboys.com, dedicated to rearing creative, kind, courageous and competent boys. Follow it on Instagram and Twitter at raisetheboys. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org