Wednesday 19 February 2014

Embracing the pleasures of public transport

Recently, I scrapped my old VW Passat diesel. A sad day after more than 10 years of mostly happy and reliable ownership, and it's still strange that it isn't sitting there outside the house. I'd been putting it off (procrastination again), but it was the only sensible thing to do. I just wasn't using the car and the cost of getting into a saleable state didn't add up.

When I first started in business, I drove everywhere, sometimes the length of the country for business meetings and to deliver training. My wife confided recently that she used to fear the knock on the door from the Police. Over the years though, I've driven less and less, and now am a full convert to public transport.

Today's business trip is a typical example. Later today, I will get a lift to Stirling Bus Station to get bus to about a mile and a half from Edinburgh Airport's terminal. From there I'll walk in to the terminal. There I'll check in and wait (you have to accept the waiting, there's a lot of that with public transport), then board a plane to Bristol. From Bristol Airport, which isn't very near Bristol, I will get another bus to Bristol Bus Station, which is next door to my hotel. Once I have checked in I'll walk to the nearest Wetherspoons (a pub chain and the traveller's friend), have a pint and something to eat, then walk back and go to bed.

Tomorrow morning, I'll walk from my hotel to Bristol Temple Meads Station and get a train to near where I am delivering training, then walk the rest of the way. At the end of the day, I'll get a train back to Bristol, walk back across Bristol to my hotel, stopping off at Wetherspoons again. Then I will pick up my case, and get a bus back to the Airport. Then a lot more waiting, which may involve a snooze in one of the big black massage chairs that nobody uses. Then I'll board a flight back to Edinburgh Airport, which isn't very near Edinburgh. From there, I'll get a bus to [Edinburgh] Haymarket Station, then wait for a train to get me back to Stirling, where I'll be picked up and taken home, getting back around midnight.

And that's it for this trip: 4 bus journeys, 4 train journeys, 2 flights, quite a lot of walking and 2 short car journeys either end.

Has my stress reduced by embracing public transport? You might be surprised at this, but it has, absolutely. Once you get your head round it, and accept the waiting, it's way better than driving.

One huge issue is the fatigue - it's a bad and dangerous mix with driving. Doing what I do is demanding. Driving home afterwards when you're knackered and the weather's bad isn't just stressful, it's madness. It's better to relinquish control and accept being driven or flown.

But there are other important benefits of public transport, including:
  • All the waiting gives you opportunities to think, plan and develop stuff (I try to avoid work-work and use travelling for strategic stuff and creative work, it's much more pleasurable)
  • You can connect with people and get into interesting conversations
  • You can people-watch and listen
  • You can rest and even sleep, given enough space and comfort (which is worth paying the extra for)
  • Especially on trains, you can pay attention to where you are, what's going on and watch the world go by - if you're interested in geography or the natural world this can be a pleasure indeed
  • You can read for pleasure or learning or both
  • You'll be more physically active and will certainly walk much more - this will help keep the weight down (if you like food as much as I do this is literally a big benefit!)
I've found that if you can accept the waiting and delays and give up control, it's possible to embrace and even love public transport.

I was sad to see my old car go. But, truth be told, I don't miss it.