Me at the top of Ensign Peak, a short trail here in Salt Lake City.
Every month I review how I did during my last month and plan out my focus for the next month. Since I do these goal posts monthly, you might want to read them all by checking out the goals category. For March, I focused on “Slow Movement” – an intentional focus to try living as much of life as I could without driving and see how I liked it. This included taking the train, buses, rail, biking and walking more. Doing this means slowing down much more than my usual driving approach and seeing if I like it.
The goal I laid out for the month was:
By April 1, 2018, I will have tried living a life without driving (for as much of the month as possible).
I’ve always wanted to live somewhere where I didn’t need to drive. That was always one of the things that appealed to me most about living in New York City, Tokyo or other places that make public transit a utility. After trying it this month, and I can clearly say that I’m not there yet here in Salt Lake City.
It’s not that it’s impossible, but the impact it has on my day is a little more than I guessed:
The Route to Work and Back (70 mins – 100 mins) A-
Going from our apartment to my office takes about 50 minutes each way on public transit. This involves taking a bus to a train station and hopping on that for the longer leg (still only a 20-minute trip). I can cut this down to 35 minutes if I bike to the train station. Driving this route takes about 25 minutes each way on light traffic days, but has taken over an hour when there are car accidents. By taking a car I usually get back 30 minutes of my day.
For days when this is all I’m doing, I actually really enjoy taking the train! Being able to walk out my front door and grab a bus a few steps away then jump on a train that drops off right at my work is a huge privilege – nevermind the fact that my company pays an insanely low rate for monthly public transportation passes that work on all forms of travel here in SLC.
Here’s what this looks like in practice:
- 8:10 AM – Leave the apartment
- 8:15 AM – 8:25 AM – Ride bus to the train station
- 8:40 AM – 9:00 AM – Ride train to the office
- 9:02 AM – Get to my desk
It’s not bad! Replace this in reverse with a train that leaves at exactly 5:00 PM and you have the route home.
With biking it goes even faster:
- 8:25 AM – 8:35 AM – Leave my apartment and ride to the train station
- 8:40 AM – 9:00 AM – Ride train to the office
- 9:02 AM – Get to my desk
One thing that makes this nice is that Salt Lake City has these handy “Green Bikes” that you can use. They’re $75/year for unlimited bike rentals – as long as you use them for less than an hour at a time. There’s a station outside our apartment and by the train station, so this is pretty much perfect for me.
Buses run every 15 minutes, trains every 30, so if I want to leave a little earlier or later, it’s flexible within that boundary.
I’m still getting the hang of the bus system. When I miss them, it means biking to the train station. It’s just over a mile away, so it’s not a strenuous ride. It only becomes unpleasant if it’s snowing or raining out. One day this month I started that bike ride in the rain. I made it less than a block before noping back home and driving to work instead (heated car seats and being dry? Yeah, I’ll go with that).
The bus and train ride are juuust short enough that it’s difficult to concentrate on anything for too long. I initially thought I’d write there, but it was too little time. I’ve tried editing posts there, but wifi is a little too flaky. My phone allows tethering, but with only 20 minutes to use it, that’s not much time. Instead, I’ve been listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and loading comics I’m behind on to read.
I do enjoy this route, and want to make it a part of my normal route – taking the bus on days it’s wet, or biking on days it’s not. On days when I can, I’m going to continue taking the train.
The Route to Work, the Gym, and Back (105 mins – 140 mins) C-
Going to the gym after work by public transit wasn’t a great experience. The plan was to use the same morning commute, then head straight from work to the gym before heading home. My gym, the closest CrossFit to our apartment that I liked, isn’t too far away – less than 10 minutes by car. However, because of train schedules, it means leaving an hour before the start time of a class to make it there.
What that looks like starts to get a little crazy:
- 4:30 PM – 4:40 PM – Take the Train a stop
- 4:50 PM – 5:05 PM – Take the Trax (local rail) a few stops
- 5:05 PM – 5:15 PM – Walk to the gym
- (5:15 – 6:40 change clothes, workout, change back)
- 6:40 PM – 6:50 PM – Walk back to Trax
- 6:55 PM – 7:05 PM – Take Trax a few stops
- 7:05 PM – 7:15 PM – Take bus or bike a few blocks home
Whew, that’s a lot of steps. It also means leaving work at 4:25 and not getting home until 7:15 – which is using almost 3 hours of my day to workout – almost 2 and half more hours than I’d use if I just drove it. The driving equivalent is much better:
- 5:00 PM – Drive from work to the gym
- (5:25 PM – 6:30 PM change clothes, workout)
- 6:31 – 6:40 – Drive home
That’s 1 hour 40 minutes for 2 commutes, an hour workout and time to change clothes. By taking my car I get back 70 minutes of my day that I workout. Getting back 70 minutes is well worth it. On top of that, changing back into my normal clothes, walking a mile and taking 2 more forms of transit after a workout is very challenging. I’d much rather jump in my car and be home to relax at that time.
One day last month I did the above commute in the snow, which added the difficulty. I made it all the way to the gym only to hear it was closed that class – but their other location a mile away was open. I still had 10 minutes so I should be able to make it. With a car, I would’ve been able to, but on foot, all I could do was go home and realize I’d spent 2 hours of my day traveling without accomplishing what I set out to do. Not the greatest day, that’s for sure.
I don’t plan to continue using public transportation on days I go to the gym. It was good to try and understand it, but it’s just not worth it for the time it takes. When I’m going to the gym 2-3x a week, that’s 3 and half hours back.
The Route to Work, a Trail Run, and Back (140 mins+) F-
There is one route I didn’t try: using public transportation to go hiking. Once I realized the gym wasn’t a great fit, I gave up on trying to go for a run on any trails using public transit. There are a bunch of amazing places to run in the mountains here that I’m excited to try (I’ve been bugging coworkers for recommendations). Just planning these out with Google Maps was a no-go for trying them out.
There is a very handy park in Salt Lake City called Liberty Park, which does have a 1.5-mile trail run (with mulch to run on). Having never run on mulch before, I didn’t realize how great it was. Every step was so soft that when I did have to cross a sidewalk it felt as if I were stomping on stone (which I guess that’s literally what running on pavement is). There’s a lot to explore out here, and making these runs a part of my workout routine should enable that! We’ve been on a few hikes, but no runs as of yet.
My plan is to try doing a trail run on Wednesdays after work, combined with CrossFit M/F. I’ve accepted that this will mean driving somewhere rather than taking public transit. Also that I’ll need to start with the most basic trail runs there are and work up to anything with much of an elevation change.
So How’d It Go?
This was a fun experiment. It highlighted some areas that worked and will become part of my everyday route and some that I can clearly say will not work. When it comes to Mrs. Minafi and I going down to 1 car, that’s still to be determined. She is also in the same boat as I am – trying to understand how much she uses her car. Once we have a bit more data we’ll figure things out and revisit the single car idea. Luckily we’re not in a position where we need to make a change immediately.
As for now, I’m excited to read more comics, get more exercise and add a little space to my Tuesdays and Thursdays by taking public transit into work!
What Else Is Happening?
Something interesting happened in March. We ended up settling in much more than I expected us to. Mrs. Minafi went as far as to say this quote that I completely agreed with:
I feel more settled here after 3 months than our house after 12 years. – Mrs. Minafi
That’s just one of the many reasons why I’m loving apartment living. It feels easier to live, with less time devoted to supporting my home.
Part of that came down to a bunch of organizational things we made time for this month. We cleared out our storage unit of all furniture that we wouldn’t be using. We switched to a smaller, cheaper storage unit ($15/mo!) that’s right across the hallway from our apartment. I know what you’re thinking “You blog about minimalism and you have a storage unit?!”. Yes, I unashamedly do. This unit stores camping supplies, Christmas things and a few personal mementos we haven’t been able to part with – but clears the living space a bunch.
I had always considered a storage unit to be “cheating” in some way. I think that was because my context was living in a house with a garage and needing a storage unit. Downsizing to only an apartment means very little space to store much of anything.
There are surely times when a storage unit is used to hold onto things that will never be used and should be tossed/donated. I’m coming around to the idea of a middle-ground where it’s used for convenience where the cost/benefit is clearly there. Between the price and convenience factor, this is a cheat I can get behind.
We also bought a couch for our study/guest room! At less than $600 (assembled and delivered), I’m extremely happy with it. This is also the place I start every morning in writing for an hour. It folds out into a bed too, so we can start having family and friends come to visit.
We surrounded it with a bunch of Florida photography that my mom bought decades ago. I’ve always loved these Clyde Butcher black and white shots. I still remember buying them in Everglades City, Florida with my mom in the mid-90s for $30/each – “It’s a steal” she said. Looking now to buy more, I see what she meant. Some go for thousands!
On top of that, we bought a custom map for our living room! It brings a great splash of color in. We’ve been adding pins to it for our travels, and hope to surround it by smaller photos. We looked at a bunch of maps before deciding on this one, and really love it. You can even customize the quote & legend.
We were excited to start filling in Asia after our 3 trips there in the past 3 years. We’ve only scratched the surface, but are looking forward to going back (maybe Korea next?)
We’ve been adding pins for each our travels, our joint travels and white for areas we want to go someday.
For me, not having as difficult goals this past month allowed for time setting up our space without feeling as though there was something else I should be doing (well, to a degree at least).
For Q2 (yeah, I work in a corporate environment that uses that phrase a lot – have you guessed?) I’m going to try switching from monthly goals to quarterly goals. This will mean switching to focused, long-term goals with multiple things needing to be done to achieve them. This comes on the heels of reading Radical Focus and trying Warren Buffett Goal setting which has given me some ideas on how to try it. I’m excited to see how it goes!
Did you have any goals for March? How’d you do on them?