Posts Tagged With: biking

Checking in: Six Months of Tiny Living and Carlessness!

So remember that time I said I was going to try to write a little bit each week instead of waiting and then doing a massive thought dump? Well, I did try.

I’m not very good at keeping routines and as much as I liked writing regularly, it didn’t take long for me to become distracted by various other things. You see there are just too many fun activities out there to occupy my time. I have far too many hobbies and not enough (free) hours in the day. So much like meditation, yoga, and waking up early, my newfound habit sort of fell by the wayside. Furthermore since the golden, short time of summer is finally upon us Michiganders, I spend 90% of my day riding my bike, hiking around in woodlots and fields at work, and otherwise recreating outside. Thus, I’m not exactly sitting in front of my computer frequently.

Me, every week.

Me, every week.

Now that I’ve got my excuses out of the way, let’s get to the main purpose of this post. I am officially into month six of my simple living lifestyle design experiment, or whatever the hell you want to call it. It’s not so much an experiment as it is just my life…but since it’s all kind of new to me and more or less uncharted territory as far as my peers go, I’m taking note of the results. I have to say, so far things have gone remarkably well. I’m smitten with my tiny apartment, my job at the university is enjoyable, and the majority of the time I love being car-less. In the interest of organization and keeping up with themes, I’m going to construct this post much the same way I did my pre-move in post. Yup, cliché internet list style. Enjoy.

6 Triumphs and Failures of a Simplified Lifestyle

1. Living a 10-minute bike ride from work is amazing.

If you’re a sane human being you hate commuting to work. Who the hell wants to get early up just to sit in traffic with thousands of other miserable people? Getting to work is basically just like an extra punch in the face on top of the drudgery of the average 8-hour workday. However, biking or busing to work in 10-20 minutes has basically taken all the stress out of this experience. I find that I actually show up to work in a decent mood most days (well, now that it’s above 45 degrees in the morning that is).

2. Living in a small space has helped me prioritize my needs and wants.

When your kitchen is the size of a walk-in closet you really start to learn which cooking implements are really necessary. Spatula? For sure. Strange contraption that peels an orange for you? I’ll pass. I’ve gotten rid of a fair amount of stuff, from video games to clothes to toiletries and it honestly feels fantastic. Not only is a small living space incentive to purge (or not purchase in the first place) unneeded things, it’s a great (and valid) excuse as to why you can’t accept unwanted gifts or giveaways. “Sorry, I literally do not have room in my apartment for the most wasteful coffee maker known to mankind Karen but thanks for the biodegradable K-cups.”

3. Not having a car is surprisingly liberating.

You would think not having a car would be a hindrance, almost impossible depending on where you live. However, due to the fairly reliable bus system in my area, my love of biking and moderate distaste for driving, I’ve found it predominantly enjoyable. Finding parking, paying for parking, rush-hour traffic, wondering if I’d had one too many drinks to get my car home tonight…these are all things I miss worrying about literally 0 percent. My bike is also helping to keep me in great shape, even when I don’t bust my ass at work or take time to exercise. It’s nice not having to think about exercising, instead it’s just part of my existence. If my bike is reading this, I love you!

4. Not having a car is predictably constraining.

For out-of-city needs and adventures however, not having a car is undoubtedly frustrating. Things like the Greyhound, Michigan Flyer (basically a nicer Greyhound), and Zipcar are definitely better than nothing and I’m so glad they exist…but they don’t exactly close the gap. Zipcars get pricey when you need them for more than a few hours, and getting to and from a bus station can be an adventure in and of itself. Thus, I haven’t seen my out of town friends or traveled around Michigan nearly as much as I’d like and I do a lot of mooching off my boyfriend to get to metro Detroit. By far the worst part of this however is getting to medical appointments. My insurance blows and many of the doctors I need or would like to see are 30 minutes or more outside my city. It essentially makes the ordeal of seeing a doctor even more annoying, which I didn’t even know was possible honestly. Still though, I would take these relatively infrequent annoyances over stress and astronomical monthly payments any day.

5. Having more free time is a blast.

Until recently I was only working 32 hours a week. Due to my low rent and lack of car costs, this was more than enough to cover my expenses. However, due to my need to save for my impending move and the increase in workload that comes with field season, I am back up to full time. I was blissfully happy working 32 hours however. That extra day before the weekend hit was just what I needed to do the things I wanted to do, but was always too tired or burnt out to do during a normal 40-hour workweek. I found the extra free time gave me space to be creative, functional, and reflective, as well as relax. Saving money by living simply speaks volumes when it allows you to have this freedom. It’s unfortunate there aren’t more jobs out there that allow 32-hour workweeks.

6. Having less money to spend during it is a drag.

Chances are if you live 10 minutes from where you work and you take the bus everywhere, you live in a city. And chances are if you live in a city, you’re not exactly in range of a lot of free recreation options. Compared to the hiking, swimming, snorkeling, coconut husking free time of Costa Rica jungle living, free activities in the city are a little less enthralling. The ironic thing is that my lifestyle is what allows me to have this free time, yet that same lifestyle limits what I can do with it. Luckily I’ve found a few great low-cost hobbies that I genuinely love, like hula hooping in parks and hanging around campus on nice days. But the glory of sitting on sunny patios, drinking long islands and eating seasoned fries still beckons. Hence why I’ve eaten or drank about a third of the money I was supposed to save this month. Whoops.

So there you have it folks, a quick run through of the pros and cons of my lifestyle. I may also post some pictures of my tiny apartment (if I ever get around to taking them) in a future post, because I think it’s pretty rad. If I had to give the past six months a rating, I would probably say eight out of ten, do recommend. However, I’m still more than ready for a change…and I have a feeling fall is going to sneak up fast. It’s becoming increasingly important for me to save money and focus on how I’m going to get my ass from Michigan to somewhere warm…but that’s for another post. Till next time, Pura Vida!

Categories: About me, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A for Effort

I had some mildly interesting thoughts about effort the other day. What spurred these on was an errand I had to run. Some back-story is necessary to explain this errand. My cat Lita,

This is my daughter, Lita. Also known colloquially as "The Floof".

This is my daughter, Lita. Also known colloquially as “The Floof”.

love of my life and best friend since 6th grade (I am now 23, she’s getting up there) has a condition known as CRF—Chronic Renal Failure. It basically means her kidneys woke up one morning, said, “fuck that” and decided to stop coming to work. It is a very common condition in older cats and often can’t be prevented. There is also no cure but there are a myriad of things you can do to control the symptoms and expand both the quantity and quality of time you have with your cat. One of those things is giving doses of subcutaneous fluids to re-hydrate the cat because kidney failure causes chronic dehydration. So my errand was to get to my vet to pick up a big box of fluids and a case of prescription food for my fur child. This wouldn’t be something to think twice about for someone with a car, but for me it was a little tricky. There were several ways I could have completed the task. I could have rented a Zipcar for the trip, asked a friend to help out, or even taken the bus to the vet and then grabbed an Uber or cab home. Simple, elegant solutions to a minor problem. I instead chose to take the bus both ways. Which meant I was hauling a large box of medical supplies and a backpack full of cans of cat food on two busses to get home. F for efficiency, but A for Effort.

The easiest answer to why I chose this route is I’m a cheap-ass. The bare minimum I would have had to spend on a Zipcar or cab would have been around $8. I have a bus pass so the bus was free. I chose free. However my mental process is almost never that simple. Ok never. I have to think of about 37 different angles to every option before I choose one. This is probably part of the reason I have so much anxiety. But that’s a topic for another day. This experience got me thinking about the ways in which people choose to, or not to, expend effort and how they make those choices. I chose to put in about double the effort and time in order to get home without spending any money. However some of the externalities of that effort were positive. For example, the day I ran this errand was a beautiful spring day (we only get about 5 of those in Michigan so it’s something precious). I got to spend more time outside while I waited at the bus stops. I also got the added bonus of a small arm workout from carrying that big box around. These may seem like silly benefits but in my strange little world they were noteworthy.

The broader idea I’m getting at with all these internal cost-benefit analyses is that I think a lot of people neglect to consider how they are spending their effort. If we treat effort as a finite resource (renewable obviously with rest, food, etc. but finite within a giving time period), the question becomes: how do we want to spend it? My decision to choose the more strenuous option for my errand makes sense in the context of another, larger choice I made prior. That was to stop going to the gym. I have belonged to a gym since the age of 16. My mom was always somewhat of a fitness freak and we used to work out together; I always really enjoyed it. I’ve never been one of those people who hates running on a treadmill. I always saw it as a kind of meditative time where I could listen to all the new music I downloaded that week. Yet I NEVER liked the act of going to the gym. Getting to the gym might as well be traversing Middle Earth to submerge the one ring in the fires of Mount Doom: I usually need a friend to come with me and it takes like 9 hours.

During my three months in Costa Rica however the jungle became my gym. And no, I don’t mean I turned vines into pull-up bars or ran laps carrying coconuts, I mean I didn’t really “work out”. Most of my downtime was spent reading in a hammock or sitting on a porch drinking awesome coffee. I was actually really lazy. Yet I felt fantastic and looked great. I figured this was because, overall, I was still expending the same amount (or more) physical effort I had been at home, it was just rolled into my daily life instead of banged out during 60 hardcore minutes at the local gym. Not only were work tasks physically demanding (maintaining trails, leading hikes, changing dozens of beds) but even small things just took more effort. Hand washing your laundry burns a lot more calories than using a washing machine. Carrying weeks worth of groceries in from a boat on the beach and up two flights of stairs to the kitchen is a bit more strenuous than walking 10 feet from your car to your apartment. These seemingly small, insignificant expenditures of physical effort added up to a lifestyle that kept me in fabulous shape.

Taking those principles with me into the modern world has, so far, not been as difficult as I thought it would be. Although I am fortunate enough to have a physical job (I know leading an active lifestyle is a lot more difficult when you work in a cubicle), I also have introduced effort into my life in places where most people opt for efficiency. In our busy world, time is king. If something can save you a half hour of time, it’s worth its weight in gold. I don’t really subscribe to that anymore. Choosing the more difficult route (such as biking to work or walking 15 minutes to a bus stop) may cost me both time and effort, but my return on investment is huge when you consider I’ve eliminated the need for two expensive, often unpleasant things—a car and a gym membership—with one simple act. In a country where one in three people is obese (I think that’s the statistic, right? Someone fact check me if I’m wrong), do we really need to prioritize physical effortlessness? I would obviously say no. I’m not saying don’t own a car or never choose the time-saving option. Sometimes our lives necessitate these things. To me it just seems silly to, as a rule, pay more for transportation in order to spend minimal effort all day, only to use the time and effort saved to get to a gym (with a membership fee) in order to run literally nowhere. As far as time goes, that just depends on how busy you are. But if you really don’t have time for longer commutes or errands, you probably don’t have time to go to the gym every other day either. That sort of lack of free time is another issue entirely that I’m not prepared to address right now. Let’s leave those worms canned.

One of those most simple, yet convincing arguments for alternative transportation I've ever seen.

One of the most simple, yet convincing arguments for alternative transportation I’ve ever seen.

Categories: Lifestyle, Philosophy | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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