The joy of walking (life without a car)

Sharon Howarth, nominated Green Party of Canada candidate for Toronto-DanforthWalking has always given me a feeling of power, independence and freedom … a feeling that I can get somewhere under my own steam.   I experience a sense of fulfillment when I am able to accomplish necessities while limiting dependency on exterior sources. I also find walking to be a stress reliever, free therapy, free exercise and accessible whenever the need hits me.

As a young adult I often walked along Danforth from Broadview to Victoria Park and back.  For the last number of years, to walk to City Hall, Metro Hall or University of Toronto is simply routine.

My one marathon walk is one I would not repeat.  About two years ago, I was at a seminar at York University with some neighbours.  One of them, Adriana, is the most incredible walker I have ever met.  She announced she was going to walk home to Broadview and Gerrard.  I thought ‘great’.  I had never done such a thing. I thought once we reached Dufferin that would be ‘it’ for me.  This is when I would take a bus.  But when we did arrive there I thought ”we must be half way home; why not go on a little further.  After all, I can stop whenever I wish”.  Somehow I just kept on going, most of the time not thinking,   just putting one foot in front of the other.  When I arrived home, my legs were a bit wobbly.  I collapsed into bed, satisfied, happy that I had done the complete walk but telling myself I would probably never do it again!

When I owned a car, my life resulted in appointments, such as doctor, dentist, hairdresser, etc, taking me to various parts of the city.  This was due to the fact that I had a car and I could drive there.  I also found that too often I was looking for ‘stuff’ that I really did not need and, in order to save even just a couple of dollars on an item, I was travelling to other parts of the city.  This was not starting to make much sense, as I knew there was quite a cost to owning and operating a car and the services that I required where available in my own neighbourhood.  Surely, the supposed savings on items could not be worth the extra time and cost of operating a vehicle.

Looking at this more closely, I determined that owning a car had quite a number of hindrances.  The first was financial.  There’s the cost of gas, insurance, repairs, interest paid on car loan, interest lost on money used as down payment for the purchase of the car, monthly payments, parking fees both away from home and permit parking on the street where I live.   This totalled quite a hefty amount.

The second hindrance was loss of freedom.  Driving is an incredible responsibility.  Being on high alert constantly when driving is a must and anticipating the possible moves of other drivers, which is called defensive driving, is necessary and anything but relaxing.  Even while waiting for or riding on a bus, I’m free to read, make notes, strategize, close my eyes, daydream, let thoughts drift….

The money I save by not owning a car, walking and using public transit can be put towards taking a taxi when I absolutely I need one.  Grocery stores, such as IGA on Danforth, west of Pape, offer a delivery service for groceries.  Other services like Grocery Gateway load up a vehicle and drop it off at your home, so it’s rare I actually do need a taxi.

Renting a car to go out of town is an easy thing to do.  But for me, along with selling my car, there came a conscious decision to look for recreation activities at a more local level.  Being cooped up in a car and battling traffic on weekends to go north to cottage country, not to mentioned all the preparations that went along with this, began to feel more and more like a chore.  I wholeheartedly believe that it is “human nature to be in nature” and this is extremely important.  But with Toronto’s ravine systems, rivers and creeks there may be an easier and less stressful way to access the outdoors.  I discovered planting events that happen in what I call ‘wilderness’ Toronto for the planting of trees and restoration of wetlands.  These take place on a great many weekends starting in April and going through till the end of October.  This took me to so many undiscovered and little known areas, which included the Rouge River, Toronto Island, Humber Butterfly Habitat, and several wetlands along the Don River.  These are also events that ‘all’ ages can participate in and come away with the certainty of having put one’s recreation time into something of value.

I’ve always loved walking and that was before I knew anything about climate change and my ecological footprint.  Now, it is more gratifying that I ever imagined!!

Back on the Road to Democracy,
Sharon Howarth, Nominated Candidate

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