things i’ve learned from my life on the rails

uh, so i haven’t had a life on the rails, really. i’ve been riding the san diego trolley to work for two weeks. it’s normally a 10-ish minute walk to the trolley stop, a bit of waiting, a 10 minute ride to the third stop, and a 10-ish minute walk on the other end. takes me about 30 – 45 minutes each way.

here’s what i’ve learned and noticed:

– i’m seriously surprised by how much i’m enjoying it. i’m enjoying the ‘notion’ of not having a car (i mean, i have access to the one our family owns, but jeannie has it every day). i’m enjoying the walks. i’m enjoying the short train ride.

– i had only thought about what an inconvenience this was going to be in my schedule. i hadn’t predicted what a gift it would be. i am forced to slow down and walk. i am forced to sit and wait for the train to arrive. i am forced to sit on the train with nothing to do. twice a day. wow – here’s the weird thing: i’ve actually missed it when i’ve had a ride.

– 30 – 45 minutes of slow pace with nothing to do but walk or ride is a great time to pray in the morning, and a great time to process the day and decompress on the way home.

– when i get home, i’m not frazzled from rushing out the door at work and driving home like a madman. i’m calm.

– people really seem to think that if you push those little crosswalk buttons over and over and over and over again, they will change to green. funny. people do that on elevators also.

– there’s something really unique and cool about walking with noise canceling headphones on and good music playing. the music can shape my mood like almost no other time.

i don’t know yet if i’ll keep doing this. we’re toying with me getting a scooter instead of another car. and, if ys moves our office next year like we’re trying to do, this will be more of a challenge (the same trolley line goes near where we’re looking — just a couple stops farther than i go now — so it might still work). this is all a spiritual issue for me, as we’re trying to simplify our lives a bit, be less driven by ‘things’ and what we ‘must have’; i’m trying to lower my impact on the environment; and i’m trying to slow down where i can, as i am convinced god is very easy to miss when i’m in perpetual fast motion.

16 thoughts on “things i’ve learned from my life on the rails”

  1. I am somewhat jealous that you have access to that type of transportation, as we have nothing like that where I live. I would love to be able to go to work like that everyday. My wife and I have been going through those same type of processes as well, and everything you say is so true.

    It also ties into a situation I just experienced just a few moments ago. My church is in the middle of a large, old residential area. I live about 30 minutes from my church and take the highway for most of it, but the last 5 minutes or so are through the small streets of this neighborhood. I was listening to a Rob Bell sermon and cruising in my Prius (trying to run off just the electric engine), when a little old lady tore around me like a mad woman. She had been behind me for a few blocks, but she obviously couldn’t wait (even though I was driving the speed limit). She saved a few seconds by passing me because I turned at the next block. Just insane. As a society we are just in too much of a hurry, and we miss out on so much because of it. We also carry way too much stress because of it too.


  2. I have walking envy! I used to live in Portland, OR and could travel just about anywhere I wanted to by foot or public transportation. I loved walking to my favorite coffee shops, especially in fall. It allowed for reflection, prayer, and a slower pace in life. Now I’m living in Phoenix, where everyone drives everywhere and good walking paths are a rarity. It’s amazing how the shift from walking to driving has changed my demeanor; I feel much more stressed and generally frantic compared to life in the northwest. Glad you’ve found a way to slow down!

  3. I’ve been walking to work more myself, so I totally understand the frame of mind you’re talking about. I’m fortunate that my office is only about 1/2 mile from home, but that 12 minute walk makes a big difference in how I feel about the day.

    I wish we had better public transportation here though. It would make the rest of my life much easier…

  4. I recently made the switch from taking public transportation everywhere to owning a car, and yes, there have been moments when I’ve missed the slower pace and space for margin that an hour or more in each direction brought to my life. I’m finding I’m having to work to create that time that was spent primarily praying and journaling in other spaces. It’s a weird balance.

    On the other hand, I’m grateful that a car was provided for me recently since an hour plus each way of walking and sitting on a drafty bus and light-rail train is not something that is particularly enjoyable when you live in a place that has cold weather for months and months at a time.

  5. marko,
    unless you are passing out tracts to everyone on the trolley you are not truely spiritual!

  6. MarkO — with your new mode of transportation, sounds like you’ll be the next member of “slow club”… as long as you don’t start to disco, you’ll be OK. o:)

  7. The peace that Marko is describing is the kind that I am experiencing each day after I moved to a rural church in Canada. I’m enjoying the fact that I can walk 30 seconds to my house from the church, (1 minute during rush hour). Plus the pace of life is so different here, so much slower, it gives you time to breath and actually cultivate time with God. I am a blessed man to live in Atlantic Canada.

  8. reminds me of my commuting days in seattle! we were a one car family back then and i took the bus to work at univ. presbyterian everyday. it was a great chance to read and reflect and i loved passing all those cars on the 520!
    i don’t miss standing out in the rain to catch the bus in the wee hours though : )
    wish more cities in america would work on their public transportation so more of us could do the slow commute and be more simply along the way!

    looking forward to seeing you and jeannie in nashvegas!
    and take time out of the diet for some good BBQ! : )

  9. A few years ago my wife and I had our car stolen. It was recovered but labeled as a loss by the insurance. We had the repairs done with some money left over and so I was able to buy an electric scooter (looked like a Vespa). It was the best thing I ever did! I could ride it for about a week at 20mph, in the bike lane. Never had to fill up with gas and the scooter plugged right into a normal electrical outlet. Best transportation decision of my life.

  10. Marko, as a fellow train-commuter, I agree it’s a gift. One of the things I reflect on is how many people on the trains I take in the mornings know each other; there’s definitely a community of sorts on the Metrolink here in St. Louis. It’s also one of my big reading times during the week, especially for things I don’t have to read, just want to. Welcome to to the brotherhood of the dependent! Hope you stay.

  11. Ok, you’ve done it, you have pushed me to the point where now I want to walk to work. I am totally beyond capable of doing this from where I live, I just have to be more positive about waking up early. But, you have inspired me! =)

  12. If you get a scooter, I’ll just run you over on my way to church. I’m kidding, just don’t get some hidious color or some super long flag attached at the end because YOU thing it looks cool. There all gonna laugh at you if you do.

  13. we moved to a small town 3 years ago on the atlantic coast and i am constantly amazed at how much walking has changed our lives.

    glad to hear it’s working for you too.

  14. In the past year I went from a 1:15 minute commute to a 30 minute walk, subway, walk. Got ride of a car in the process. It’s a much better lifestyle.

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