Turning 16 was supposed to be the ultimate. The key to freedom was just on the other side of 16. My 16th birthday was the day I would have the right to go where I wanted, when I wanted, without having to ask. I envisioned long, lazy drives with my girlfriends, singing Britney Spears with the wind in our hair…I dreamt of stretches of land without a car in sight…I imagined Disneyland, always within my reach! Hey, I was a kid after all 😉
What I didn’t conjure up in my mind was the day to day of getting from place to place, the traffic, the chores, the responsibilities and the stress. Now, this is not a plea against driving, because truth be told, I absolutely love driving. It can be relaxing, therapeutic almost. But something big happened when I decided to use my own two legs instead.
After that fateful 16th birthday, I got a car and along with it the freedom I had imagined. I could go anywhere (sort of) and do anything (sort of). What happened? I tried. I over-committed, I said yes to everything, no to nothing, and I tried to fit in all my errands in impractical amounts of time. Because why? Because I could get around faster!
Fast forward a few years later, I got a scooter to zip around San Francisco. No more wasting time looking for parking, no traffic…now I could really do everything! Plus, what isn’t awesome about a cute little scoot?! What happened? I over-committed even more, I made several plans within an hour, thinking I could do it all because, hey, I thought I could! I was late all the time. That’s the irony, right? I knew it would only take me 5 minutes to drive to spin class so I left 6 minutes before it started. This might sound dramatic, but I sucked as a friend because of my desire to fit it all in. I was late for this party, then late for that dinner, then a no-show at that concert because I was too late to the dinner to leave right away! Even though I genuinely wanted to make everyone happy by being a YES friend, I made no one happy by being a flaky friend.
Then, I went sailing. For a year, I traveled at a max speed of 5 miles an hour. I moved slow and there was nothing I could do to go any faster. I had to learn to appreciate slowing down. Seeing as how most places I visited were the definition of remote, my own two legs were the only method of transportation…and I loved it. I explored, I experienced, I felt like I was part of my environment. Now that, my friends, was the ultimate.
Readjusting to life in San Francisco, I have decided to take a slower approach to the fast pace of city living. I walk. Everywhere. With the hills of San Francisco being as steep as they are famous, the temptation of hopping in a $4 Lyft can be pretty strong, but I have realized that in forcing myself to slow down, I am actually a lot happier…and my friends are, too.
When I commit to less, I can really give and get the most out of what I do decide to do. I can be present. My mind isn’t stressed about the next thing or feeling guilty about the last. I take new routes to familiar places, I see the details in the streets that used to be a blur as I zipped by. I get to soak in this city as if I were a visitor. And if you know anything about San Francisco, you know that there is always a sight to see.
So sure, maybe it takes me an hour to walk to a Sunday picnic, maybe I have to leave the house earlier or just wait to go to the post office tomorrow. So what? I do less but I experience more. That, my friends, is what travel happy is all about.
I dare you to give it a go! Even for a week. Enjoy your own two legs, take your time and explore a place you think you already know.