I subscribe by email to my favorite blogs, and this morning, right beside each other in my inbox, were articles from two of my favorite bloggers, Everett Bogue and Tammy Strobel, both writing about essentially the same thing: we all have a moral obligation to drive less. Both articles are excellent, and well worth reading. The disaster in the Gulf happened shortly after I completely stopped reading the news, so I actually have very little knowledge of exactly what has gone on so far. But I do hear bits and pieces from friends and family, and it makes me glad that I’m not reading about it on a daily basis… just thinking about it makes me feel sick. And makes me even more committed to biking, walking, or just staying home.
One of my favorite free-time activities is hiking. We’re lucky to live in a very beautiful area with lots of wilderness relatively nearby, and since I was a teenager I’ve loved heading into the hills for a day of wandering. There was a time when we would either hike or mountain bike at least twice a week throughout the summer and fall. But in 2008 we went twice, last summer we went once, and this year we haven’t been at all yet. One of the primary reasons is my strong desire to drive less. Although the wilderness areas are nearby, it’s still about a 45 minute drive to get to our favorite trails. Getting there by bike isn’t really an option – riding there and back would be a full day all by itself, and the road to get there is a winding mountain highway with about a foot of shoulder and then a 50 foot drop into a river. The only realistic way to go hiking is to drive to the trail head, and I’m just not comfortable with doing that on a regular basis anymore. Don’t get me wrong – I still thoroughly enjoy the one or two times per year that we head out to the mountains for some wandering, but these days I am actively trying to structure most of my free time around things that don’t involve driving (or shopping, for that matter).
So I’ve started “hiking” around our town instead. Our son rides in his little red wagon (it’s got awesome big knobby tires and will go over all sorts of terrain. My parents found it at a thrift store for $8 and fixed it up for him; it’s his favorite form of transportation) and the dog walks along with us. We usually go out for about an hour, and just go wherever we please. Sometimes we run errands while we’re out, sometimes we just look at flowers and birds, sometimes we follow the trail that leads through the huge organic farm by our house. No matter where we go, we have fun. It’s relaxing to be out walking, away from phones and computers, enjoying the sunshine. I’m not saying that the views around our town are quite as breath-taking as the ones in the wilderness areas, but the trade-off is completely worth it to me. The great thing about hiking from your own back door is that it can be completely spontaneous. All we have to do is put on shoes and sun hat, and we’re out the door. No need to prepare for bad weather or bring back-up food or drive for an hour before and after the hike. Also, since there’s no prep time or driving time, we can fit in a “hike” pretty much every day. Another great bonus: our “hiking” is completely free. No gas money or special gear needed… going for a walk is about as frugal as it gets for entertainment.
The reason I’m sharing this is because I agree with Tammy and Everett that we have a moral obligation to drive less. And sometimes that might mean giving up or cutting back on things we enjoy. But it’s always possible to find alternatives, and you might just find that you start to enjoy the alternatives just as much after a while. Whether your goal is to go completely car-free, car-minimalist, or just cut back your driving by 20%, I encourage you to check out the articles Tammy and Everett wrote today for a little inspiration.