We are accustomed to living lives of convenience. We can take a plane across the country in just a few hours, can record our favorite television shows and watch them whenever we want, and we can grab just about any type of food from our freezer and heat it up within minutes. Let’s face it, it’s just a fact that we like things to be easy.
A coworker of mine just returned from Spain where she faced some serious convictions. She noticed the Spanish all lived intentional lives. They rode bikes everywhere, utilized their public transportation, and lived close to the city to alleviate need for more fuel in the small cars they did drive. Since coming back, she’s decided to simplify her transportation efforts and she’s done a great job at it. She rides her bike 2 or 3 times a week to work and has become more intentional about where and when she goes places.
What if we all looked at our lives to see how we could simplify our transportation? What would it look like if we had more need for bike lanes and less for gas station lines? What if we wouldn’t worry when revolution rises up in North Africa because it could mean higher gas prices? How would it affect our city if everyone chose to work around bus schedules and riding bikes home before dark? These are dreams I would love to see carried out. Here are some ways I think we could all simplify our transportation:
- Choose to take the bus, walk, or ride your bike just one day a week. If you can’t commit to anymore than that, just start small. Plan your route and how long it will take, check the bus schedule, or plan to just walk. Even doing this one day a week, you’ll quickly start to crave the fresh air and love the time to think before and after work.
- Set your life up to be small. You will be much more likely to actually do these things if you are close enough to work, home, school, the store, etc… The point is to set up your life in a way that you are less dependent on the things you don’t need. If you live 20 miles from work, it’s going to be almost impossible to ride your bike to work, but the closer you are to the things you do, the easier it becomes. When choosing a job, buying a house, sending kids to school, or other things that become major decisions, try to set them all up within a certain perimeter. Also, remember that the closer you are to the city, the closer you usually are to more amenities.
- Think public transportation. Even if you live too far away to walk or ride a bike, you can still take the bus or railway. Not only will you save tons of money in gas (the local bus rides in Denver are $2.25), but you will learn the intentionality that has to be cultivated to use public transportation. I hear a lot of people complain about how inconvenient the bus system is here in Denver, saying you have to wait at a stop for around 15-30 minutes and usually leave your house an hour before you would need to if you just drove. I always tell those people that the people planning the routes are only going to keep cancelling routes and time slots if people continue to not take them.
- Be practical. Invest in the right equipment and the right bike. If you get out of work later at night, make sure to have a light installed on both ends of your bike. I also use a bike computer so I can time myself and keep track of my miles per hour averages. In Denver, the weather is always changing and I’ve become accustomed to always having my bases covered. I usually have a jacket even if it’s sunny and clear when I go into work, and I usually bring a second pair of shoes or just wear tennis shoes to work. Also, if you plan on riding the bus or lightrail, buy a ticket book from the store instead of using cash. This will keep you from spending your bus money on other things and make it more convenient if you don’t happen to have the correct amount. Be practical in knowing what to expect and don’t underestimate knowing how to plan.
These tips are all baby steps when it comes to traveling around your city as a minimalist. But by starting with these things and perfecting a couple at a time, you will be surprised by how quick you become a pro at simplifying your life through simplifying your transportation.