You can rack up significant unplanned cost when you travel just from getting around. Jumping from shuttle to bus to rental car takes a toll, but if you make the time to walk instead, you can save a significant amount of money.
Sounds simple right? But would you actually do it? It didn’t even occur to me to try until recently when I was in San Diego attending the American Society for Cell Biology meeting and found myself in a situation where walking was by far the best choice. (#ASCB15 is 10,000 people who are really, really, really excited to understand how each and every one of your cells work.)
By shopping online instead booking through the convention center I got a great deal at the Sheraton. I thought I had it all together, and was feeling a little smug about it, until I got on the train from LAX to San Diego and suddenly realized my hotel was over three miles from the convention center. Honestly, this is the kind of thing I usually have figured out in advance, but with three kids and the holidays…I’ve had a lot going on.
I live in Minnesota and I’m accustomed to driving everywhere and parking 100 ft from my office building door. For Midwesterners like me, figuring out transportation in large cities can be a bit overwhelming, when I arrived at the train station I discovered the transportation choices had multiplied since my last visit. Options including a DecoBike station, light rail, bus, taxi, Uber, Lyft, and hoverboard (Seriously, this is a legit thing in San Diego.)
So much choice should be a good thing! But all of it seemed like it’s own kind of hassle. I thought about them all and then decided to be cheerfully cheap by walking to and from the convention center for the next three days.
Why? Walking gets you from A to B sure, but there are other advantages besides saving money on gas and taxi fares:
The health benefits of walking include boosting the T-cells that engulf bacteria, meaning I’d be less likely to get sick from all that re-circulating plane air! Other health benefits of regular walking include easing stress, and depression, weight loss, and lowered risk of coronary disease and stroke.
Be a Flâneur
A flâneur is someone who ambles through a city in order to experience it. To me it’s a word that perfectly expresses that feeling you get wandering through a city as a tourist, feeling deliciously present, feasting your senses, and enjoying a million tiny new discoveries.
By deliberately being a flâneur in San Diego, I experienced the city in a way I never could have in the back of a taxi. On my first night walking back to my hotel there were 10,000 people down at Seaport Village for the San Diego Bay Parade of Lights boat parade. On the second night I walked back at sunset past the USS Midway Museum and the Maritime Museum.
You can use your cell phone to augment your reality by adding your own soundtrack. With apps like FieldTrip you can quickly look up new info on where you are, and you can track and share your route so your whole social network knows just how much exercise you are getting.
Or you can go full on flâneur and totally unplug. Walking is a great way to ruminate, and I also talked to a ton of random people, including other conference goers and tourists, whom I wouldn’t have met anywhere else but on the street.In the end, I walked over 20 miles for free between the hotel and the convention center, which would have cost $160 by taxi. I also walked a mile to the airport for my departure with my roller bag. I admit, when I arrived back in Minnesota, I instantly returned to my non-ambulatory ways and drove home from the airport, but I did burn off a few extra calories digging my car out of the snow in the Duluth airport parking lot…
Tips for a Successful Walking Experience
- For apparel, I recommend rotating comfy shoes, a raincoat with a hood, and traveling light.
- Hazards to look out for include unchanging walk signs, bushes, bikes, birds, and textured pavement.
Read more about the health benefits of walking here.