To Really Get to Know a Place, You Have to Walk It
Escaping our cars is necessary to developing an intimate knowledge of our world.
We live in a car culture. I was reminded of this recently when a potential landlord in the small town of Moab, Utah raised doubts about my ability to make it here without an automobile. I pointed out that I had walked from one end of the town to the other several times already and could always rent a car if I really needed one, but this didn’t seem to reassure him.
I’m not anti-car. Indeed, within a week of the above exchange, I purchased a van. So many here live out of their cars due to the lack of housing. My circumstances quickly compelled me to join them, at least for the summer. In addition, for any escape to the backcountry to be possible a vehicle really is necessary. All that said, I’ve come to appreciate the leisurely pace of a good walk after living years without wheels of my own and I don’t see my recent purchase changing that view much.
As I write this, I’ve only been living in Moab for about two weeks. Though this is far from my first time here, I’ve never actually attempted to live here. Spending my first week or so walking as opposed to driving around town has already provided me with a much greater understanding of where things are located relative to one another than I could ever gain from a car or by using Google Maps.
Furthermore, it’s much easier to develop familiarity with the businesses and other institutions lining Main Street when sauntering by them in no particular hurry to get anywhere. That’s not the case when we are driving. Our attention is on the traffic, bicyclists, and pedestrians sharing the road with us instead of the unique features, natural or cultural, of the area being driven through.
The city’s parks are all located off the main road running through the center of town, making them unlikely attractions for the hundreds of thousands of seasonal tourists that begin arriving with the first signs of spring. Likewise, events not related to off-roading or mountain biking advertised in local papers and on flyers pinned up here and there are hardly going to get the attention of someone trying to fit in as many experiences as they can in the least possible time.