Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How to Retire Early: Walk

Lets talk about cars. I love my car. Who doesn’t? Its comfortable, convenient, and opens up an entire world of possibilities: a world of go anywhere/do anything possibilities. Just last week, my family and I jumped in the car and drove up to the snow to go sledding. That experience was priceless and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I do, however, think that - perhaps - we as a culture depend too much on our cars (ducks to avoid the throwing of rotten fruit). Hear me out. Driving a car around is more than just the price of gas. It is the cost of wear and tear on your car and each little piece that keeps it together. These all have a finite life span and every mile you drive moves you closer to that end. Not to mention the cost to the environment with all the pollution in the air.

I came across this profound piece of advice from a blogger that I follow: Cars don’t cost you money per month, they cost you money per mile”

We are so trained to think, “well, I pay $xxx for my car loan so I might as well use it as much as I can.” Wrong! You pay $xxx for your car loan and THEN gas and deterioration PER MILE.
With this in mind, Adam and I made a deal to only drive the car if we were traveling further than 2 miles. (At some point we will increase this number once we get the little one more comfortable on a bike, but for now, its all on foot).

By keeping the car in the driveway and using our legs to transport us, we discovered something truly amazing:
  1. Our bodies are getting more fit. Instead of sitting, we are now moving more - yea for exercise!
  2. We are connecting more. In a car, there is music and traffic and cell phones and a million other things that distract you from the very simple joy of spending time together. When you are on foot, all of those distractions disappear and you find yourself marveling together around a leaf changing color or a caterpillar building a cocoon. We talk together. We laugh together. We may even sing and dance together (yes, we are that geeky).
  3. We save money. We didn’t buy our car on credit, but we are saving money on gas and repair.
  4. We connect with our neighbors. We happen to live in one of those magical neighborhoods where everyone knows each other so a walk down the street invariably results in an unexpected conversation with someone who lives nearby.
  5. We are more connected to nature. Now, I know this sounds a little woo woo, but being in touch with the changing seasons and sounds of the birds fills my soul in a way that listening to music in a car never will.
  6. We shop local which supports our local economy. Most of the businesses around us are local shops run by local people. So, by limiting ourselves to what is within walking distance, we inevitably support those local business.
  7. My daughter gets exposed to multiple opportunities to learn. Why do the ants walk in a straight line? Why do some trees lose their leaves while others don’t? What makes something a weed? There is so much wonder in the world around us and by simply being in it, my kid is asking all sorts of questions that we then build on later.
  8. We appreciate what we have more. When we have to physically move to go get something that we want, we end up seriously considering if we actually want this thing.
  9. We buy less wasted food. There are four grocery stores within two miles of our home. We carefully make a shopping list every time we go because we know that we will have to carry whatever we buy home. That box of crackers suddenly seams a lot less appealing when you have to carry it two miles on your back.
  10. We get to explore more. When we are driving, there is usually a pretty strong emphasis on getting from point A to point B. When we are walking, however, every new street becomes a chance to explore something new. We discovered that the beach is less than 2 miles from our house over Thanksgiving, as is a movie theatre and an amazing wooded park.
In my quest to retire early to spend more time with my family, I am discovering ways to do just that within my current life. There are so many conveniences - cars, restaurants…etc.. - which have actually disconnected me from the people and world around me. By simplifying my life, I am getting back in touch with the things that really matter to me.

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