This is a diary entry from Sarah Noack (aka Urban Nomad) about how a divorce transformed her life–by helping her to shed possessions and rely on sharing through her networks and communities.
I have kissed my car goodbye, and said hello to my feet.
It's hard to convey exactly how this change has affected me, except to say that when I say "I walk everywhere," I mean that on many days, I walk in excess of three hours a day, in all kinds of weather. Fortunately the weather has been mostly nice lately, but we have had some storms. I walked in them too. I have a bright yellow PVC raincoat and a dollar store umbrella just for those rainy days. And I pack a change of shoes in my courier bag, which replaces the dead-body-size trunk of the big green Lincoln I once drove.
I walk to work (1/2 hour) and back, I walk to Jeni's babysitter's house (another 1/2 hour from my house), to the grocery store (15 minutes) and to other areas in town (any length of time). Occasionally I take the bus, but I've found that in this town, walking usually gets you there faster. Buses don't run very regularly at night.
Do I miss driving? No.
I have lost about ten pounds since I moved here, just from all the walking. I am becoming sunburnt (no matter how much sunblock I use) and feel color seeping back into me like a restored portrait.
I always have walked. I am so used to it, that being out of my walking routine for so many years was making my body very unhappy. Today, I am not working. I have nowhere I need to walk. Yesterday, I walked over three hours. I thought I would love resting my legs, which yesterday were aching to the point of feeling injured. My feet were blistered and almost bruised-feeling. But today, my legs are restless. I don't want to be in the house moving in, unpacking boxes, cleaning up while Jeni is in school across the street. I want to be out on the street, passing strangers and living in my mind as I feel the comforting rhythm of my feet slapping the hard pavement.
Feet were the original vehicles of the human race. And in a city like the one I live in now, they are still the best.
I don't have to pay insurance on them (except health insurance, which covers the rest of the body along with them at no additional cost).
I don't have to change their oil after every 3000 miles or worry about their air pressure.
I don't have to worry about get stopped by cops because I'm walking too fast or because my stickers are expired.
I don't have to carry a permit to walk, or wear a license plate on my butt.
I don't have to worry about getting in an accident because I'm drinking coffee or looking at the scenery while I'm walking.
And I don't have to apply special polishes and waxes to my feet to get them to shine… or, well, if I do, it's called a pedicure and actually is a lot of fun.
I was born with what the French orthotics doctors (I actually saw one in high school) call "les pieds profondement plat" (ridiculously flat feet). And I pronate badly. This means that I wear out shoes really fast, and can't wear high heels without dying of pain. It also means I don't have the most delicate or graceful feet and ankles in the world. I've always been a foot person, so I've always been self-conscious of my own chubby, slightly bowlegged feet and calves. But I've been told by doctors that these flexible flat feet are the reason I can walk long distances without any discomfort. So despite their homeliness, we're friends. And I take good care of them.
I love the way many shoes look, but can never bring myself to wear any but the most basic, comfortable ones. I only have a few pairs, and, clichéd as it is, they are all very "sensible." Often I get men's shoes, because they fit my oversized feet better than women's shoes. Where most women are into shoes with straps and heels and patterns, I am into arches and cushions, soft soles and little massaging bumps. My favorite appliance that I own is a foot massager, and if I had any spare money, the first thing I would do is pay for an hour-long reflexology massage. I would not date anyone who had an aversion to feet. They're that important; feet are a microcosm of a person's body, according to many systems of traditional medicine. They have so much information encoded in them. And they are beautiful. I like feet simple… well-cared for, polished, but nothing too fancy. I like feet that walk and work and live and get worn out, not just perfect museum feet hobbled by straps and stilettos. I treat my feet, and feet in general, with as much care as some people treat their cars. I believe that in a way, they are sacred—they are our interface with the earth.
My feet are reverse antennae, picking up signals from the ground. When I walk, it helps align my body and soul. I feel more peaceful and intuitive. Driving makes me crazy. It unsettles my spirit. I feel helpless when I drive. When I walk, I can choose my route. I am not limited by one-way streets and traffic. I can cut through a park or stop into a store without finding parking. I don't have to sit around breathing recirculated air, or obeying signs. And I don't have to pay $3 a gallon for gas.
I do run through a lot more shoes and pants than most because of my walking habit, but that's okay. I can't even get into biking the way I do walking. It feels like the most natural way for human beings to travel.