In August of last year, I took a new job in Birmingham, Alabama, and leased an apartment exactly six blocks from my office building. Rather than pay $10-$50 a month for parking at my new job ($10 to park about five blocks away and ride the bus, or $50 to park in the building’s attached deck), I opted to become a foot commuter. It’s been about nine months since I made the switch from a car to foot commute, and I’ve learned some important things you should keep in mind if you’re planning on starting to hike to work every day.
1. What shoes you wear are super important.
When I first started walking to work, I just wore whatever shoes I was going to wear at work that day. NBD, right? Except that six blocks two ways every day really wears your shoes down, and who wants to replace their work shoes every few months? Now I walk in Nikes (or sometimes Birkenstocks in the summer) and carry flats in my bag for switching at work. I look like a dork wearing athletic shoes with professional clothing but it’s better than dropping $30 every month on new black flats.
2. “Sweaty” means something different to you than it does to car commuters.
Look, I am a super vain person. I’m the girl that will make you delete the Instagram you posted in which you look cute and I look awful. But I had a serious reality check when I started walking to work. I wasn’t encapsulated in my car between being at home and being at the office. I was exposed to the elements! My hair would get windblown, I’d be all chapped from the freezing cold wind, and worst of all, I get sweaty. Your body gets used to it and so do you, so don’t sweat it (ha! I know, I know. That was bad). Eventually it won’t seem like that big of a deal… though I have been tempted to call an Uber when it was especially rainy.
3. Leaving your headphones at home becomes a trillion times worse.
Seriously, you gotta have those bad boys. Walking commutes are perfect for introspection, and introspection needs a soundtrack. They’re also perfect for catching up on your podcasts, talking on the phone without having to hold your hand up (gotta get some iPhone headphones or Bluetooths for that), and generally ignoring the other people around you. Just make sure you pay attention to traffic!
4. You grow a really thick skin.
If I had a dollar for every time I was catcalled, panhandled, or generally spoken crudely to while walking to and from work, I’d have a considerable amount of cash—probably enough to foot the bill for the custom Nike Jordans I really want. Like I said above, wearing headphones is a great way to tune out the noise around you, either literally keeping you from hearing it or giving you a good excuse for not responding to people who try to talk to you.
5. You become super acquainted with every business on your commute.
I can probably name every restaurant, bar and business between my house and work. I also know that a guy named Mike who works at a retail company down the road from my office has a sign in the window of his first-floor office that says “Mike :(“. I always feel bad for Mike when I walk by. As cliche as it sounds, I’ve been put on the “locals” board at the hip coffee shop around the corner from work because it’s so hard to resist grabbing java on my way into the office, and Melissa, the super nice cashier at the Chick-Fil-A by my house, knows my name and order by heart. Oops.
6. You manage your time better.
Since you don’t have your car with you at work, you learn to make absolutely sure you have everything you need before you leave the house. It’s hard to run errands at lunch like many car commuters do, so unless you can do it within walking distance, you’ve gotta wait till the afternoon or the weekends. It really helps you learn to prioritize your life better.
7. You learn who your real friends are (a.k.a. the ones who offer to chauffeur you on occasion).
Luckily, I am hashtag-blessed to have friends (s/o to entertainment editor Lindsey for being one of these people) who will come scoop me up when it’s 17 degrees or raining sideways and take me back to my house. If you have friends who live/work near where you commute, be sure to touch base with them about potentially being available for chauffeuring. Chances are they won’t mind, and it’s nice to have someone on retainer.