As I've mentioned, we moved about a month ago from our suburban exile to an older, denser, more walkable neighborhood. Now, this isn't DC, we're not kidding ourselves; it is definitely not the "pop out the door at 10 PM to pick up a bag of chips" kind of convenience we're accustomed to, but that being said, so much about our new life here over the past month has been so glorious.
Walking is once again our go-to form of transportation. For quickness or convenience, we might jump on a bike or grab the bus, but for shorter trips to the park or grocery store, we need look no further than our own two (or four, or six) feet.
We're meeting our neighbors and others in our community. We walk past their houses, they walk past ours; we see kids and size them up for playmates. The denser neighborhood, sidewalks, and multiple walking destinations mean we just see our neighbors more.
We are developing systems and building up our resources. This sounds very unromantic. Let me explain: as opposed to driving a car, the car-free life is ultimately about problem solving. Still not romantic enough for you? Everything eventually falls into place and becomes second nature, but starting out in a new place (especially now with two kids, which we didn't have in DC), every trip requires an assessment of what methods will be most efficient - kids in the double stroller? Baby in the single stroller, toddler on his bike? Toddler in the single stroller, baby in a wrap? Walk? Bus? Bike? While it sounds tedious, I feel like this way of thinking makes me an active, thoughtful participant in my daily life and challenges me, keeping my brain from getting flabby. In this way, we also build up our repertoire of strategies for various key trips and our own personal resources for getting around and just dealing with life.
We feel healthier and stronger. Especially with the hills around our new home, it took only a few days for both of us adults to start feeling trimmer and stronger - no gym membership required for our needs. When movement is integrated into daily life, we're more likely to stick to a fitness routine (you know, the one called "life"). Our 2.5-year-old also gets a lot more opportunities to ride his little balance bike to "real" destinations (as opposed to riding in the driveway) because there are sidewalks anyplace we need to go.
Our kids get to see walking as the default form of human transportation. I'm often surprised when I bring up the importance of walking and walkable neighborhoods with new acquaintances, and after a blank look crosses their face, they clarify, "Oh, you mean like walking for transportation?" Well, yeah, like using your legs to get somewhere that you need to go. It's amazing that we have turned the most basic form of human transportation into an exercise regimen or a leisure activity. It is both of those, to be sure, but it is wonderful for kids to be able to see real grown-ups walking as a way of life.