Take the bus! On the joys of slow travel

Do you ever feel the pace of your life is too fast? Much has been made of the importance of slowing down. This trend has inevitably been monetised, with a proliferation of wellness channels extolling the virtues of slow living, with books and merch to match. But are we heeding the advice? It’s quite hard to fit slowing down into a day that is already jam packed. 

How do we build slow into our lives? There’s one simple solution that is also good for the environment. Catch public transport.

Catching public transport requires a certain mindset. We are putting the responsibility of our travel into someone else’s hands. This has both positives and negatives. One positive is that it frees us. Once on a bus or train, travel time becomes leisure time; we can read a book or stare out of the window. On the negative side we expect the system to operate like clockwork, so it is frustrating when there are delays or cancellations. We build our timetable around the assumption travel will run smoothly. It’s easy to forget that getting caught in traffic while driving is also very common.

A train or a bus will rarely get us exactly where we need to go, which again has positives and negatives. One positive is that we are likely to get fitter; building walking into a day has health benefits. It may be more convenient to be able to drive from A to B, but once there parking, and all the hassle that goes with it, needs to be factored into the equation.

This week I have caught the bus more than usual, as a friend who came to stay was taken ill and ended up in Derriford Hospital. I have to confess I am more of a rail enthusiast than a bus one. Mostly because buses have the tendency to go all around the houses, which is a nuisance when wanting to get somewhere quickly. 

Life has become so fast we are programmed to be frustrated and desire instant results. However if you can consider time on public transport to be built in mindful, slow time, then catching the bus becomes a therapy for the frenetic motion of everyday life.

A trip to Derriford requires a change at Saltash. This week I rekindled my love for Saltash town centre. It’s easy to forget what is on your doorstep.

I had time to kill, so stopped at the rather wonderful Deli-Bazaar and replenished my supplies of loose food. I visited the Community Kitchen, a lovely community cafe where I had tea and cake in return for a ‘pay what you can’ donation. As I was tired and worried about my friend, the kindness of the volunteers there was much appreciated. On the way back I popped into the Community Enterprise Shop and bought locally made tea-towels for our holiday lets. I felt mentally replenished by the social interactions I had along the way, another advantage of public transport.

There’s a Beatles lyric that goes “turn off your mind, relax and float downstream.” On the bus there’s time to observe everyday life; admire gardens, see miniature dramas unfold. As long as you can turn off the ‘got to get there fast’ gene it can be a very mindful experience. 

Buses and trains are part of our essential tool kit. They are a means of transport for all, not just those with cars. Using them reduces carbon emissions. The more we use them, the more likely we are to keep the network viable into the future.

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