This city’s made for walking.
Today I had a talk with one of my favorite people about simplicity. I told her what a huge relief it has been to settle in in Edinburgh with a simplified life. And then we got off on a rant about how un-simply most Americans live. About how what we actually need (or even what gives us pleasure) is so much less than what we have.
But I digress.
What I really wanted to talk about is how utterly wonderful it feels to live a simpler life.
In particular, to not have a cell phone. It took me a long time (and I took a lot of ridicule for this) to get a cell phone in the first place. All through college, I’d tell people they had to leave messages at the dorm—because I didn’t see any reason to be available every second of the day. And I really didn’t see any reason, being ever and always frugal, to spend money in order to make phone calls when I already had a free phone (“free” being a loose term, as I was spending large quantities of cash on being at school in the first place) at home.
Anyway, I didn’t have a cell phone until after I graduated.
And now, while I’m traveling, I’m back to having no cell phone. And I LOVE IT. When I’m out exploring, I’m really in the moment—in a way that just wasn’t possible when I was glued to my phone. My attention isn’t divided. I am entirely a part of my own experience.
Maybe some of you can do this even with a phone. I can’t. And so having only my office line, which runs through my computer and can only be checked when I’m at home, has been so freeing for me.
The other thing I very much do not miss is this: having a car.
Having to drive, to spend gas money, to park, to worry about locking up, to pay for parking…all I have to say about that is BLEH. I want to walk everywhere (and take the train when walking is just not an option). I want the grocer to be ten steps from my front door. I want to be forced to exercise and to experience my walk and to really look around me.
In America, there’s an extremely high value placed on space. And, because of this, our cities sprawl. Because we want more space. We want to not see our neighbor’s house. We want to have a living room in which we could park our hummer if we feel like it. We want to have side yards. (And don’t get me started on how much all this space simply means that we are hemorrhaging more money…because we drive farther and heat more and cool more…not to mention, who the hell needs a side yard).
I’m not trying to say that space is bad. But because that’s our value (to excess, in my opinion), we have sacrificed time and money for it. And because our cities are planned that way, anyone who doesn’t want to sacrifice their time and money for space is just simply out of luck. Because even if you get a little studio in the city center, chances are, you’ll need to get to an appointment or go pick something up at a shop outside of the walkable area of town. And then there goes your time (hours spent on inefficient bus systems) and/or your money (gas and car payments in order to own or lease a car).
So the options in America are limited (unless you are in NYC). But here, they are unlimited. And I am unfettered by cars and cell phones and just about everything else that could fetter me.
And I suppose the other thing about packing up and going somewhere new is the simplicity of routine. I love that I’m in a different time zone—on call enough to be useful to my clients, but not enough to be stressed out. Even if I sleep in, I have hours and hours before my clients are awake. And I love the feeling of finishing a project and knowing it will be in their inbox first thing when they get into work. They could send me something at 5 p.m. on the dot the night before and I can have it finished before they even have their breakfasts. I love this for the clients and I love it for myself, because I spend my mornings working, uninterrupted, unworried, extremely productive and then I spend my afternoons running around the park with Luna, wandering the cobbled streets, exploring—enjoying the simple facts that I am here and life is quiet and the city is beautiful. Then I return home for client calls and emails in the evening and go out again for dinner or drinks.
It’s all very simple. Unrushed. Healing.
And I love it.