As regular readers will know, last year saw me setting myself up as a freelance writer after a long HR career in the City. So far it’s a decision I haven’t regretted, mainly because each and every week I hear new and interesting stories, and my diary is packed full with new people to see and introduce myself to…all over the lovely county of Essex, which is where I happen to live.
“Won’t you struggle with all those meetings…” friends and well-wishers started asking me, “…especially as you don’t drive?”
To give you some background, I have failed my driving test a grand total of six times (making me someone who definitely can’t, rather than doesn’t drive). Given the amount of occasions on which people have rhapsodised emphatically about how driving “gives you so much independence…I honestly don’t know where I’d be without my car…” you’d be forgiven for thinking my non-driver status was a something of a problem.
Yet so far, it hasn’t been – at least not while I’m able to walk and use public transport. I have clients all over the county, with one in particular who lives in a rural location over five miles away from me. I’m ghostwriting his autobiography, so we meet every Monday morning to discuss the latest chapter. Come the beginning of every new week there I am trudging my way across the village fields of Great Wakering in all weathers, for my hour-and-a-half walk over to his house.
It was on one of these morning walks that I started to consider the benefits of being a non-driving business person (I’d say “entrepreneur” but that just conjures up awkward images of myself stuttering through a presentation on ‘Dragon’s Den’). Anyway, here are five of the very best.
Do I really need to be there?
It’s so very easy to spend working days fielding endless meeting requests on autopilot, getting into your car and driving mindlessly there, sitting mindlessly through the meeting itself, and then driving mindlessly back again.
Because every journey I make needs a little forethought and planning, I’m forced to think about whether or not the meetings are actually necessary in the first place. If they are, I go. If they’re not, I suggest e-mail, phone or Skype instead. This approach has saved me a wonderful amount of time, and my clients don’t have to pay unnecessary travelling costs.
The obvious (and not-so obvious) health benefits
The benefits of my foot-propelled work trips include all kinds of things productivity gurus keep telling us are so very important. Namely fresh air, exercise…and a free mind to focus on creativity and story ideas (though if you insist on a productive walk, you could try listening to management podcasts as you go!) I also don’t spend any time at all stuck in traffic jams.
I don’t have to worry about road tax, MOT or parking charges – not to mention actually finding places to park! – which make the odd times I need to call a taxi, or take an otherwise expensive train journey, very cost-effective.
Public transport can be an endless source of creativity (seriously!)
If you write for a living – or even if you don’t – you will find public transport an endless source of fascinating conversations, full of snippets from a wide selection of lives other than your own. Even people’s daily habits can prove a source of wonder, such as the people who always choose the same seats (and are visibly enraged if they don’t manage to nab them), or the scruffy man who used to sit in front of me on my old commute, who every evening at 5:59pm precisely, would take out a Snickers bar from his laptop bag and eat it very noisily.
It makes you count your blessings
You know the warm thrill of arriving home after a stint outside in the rain or freezing wind? Well, if you walk everywhere you’ll feel this every day, and you’ll be more grateful than ever for the sanctuary of your home (or even your office!). You’ll also start to notice the changing seasons, the longer and shorter days, how pretty the sun looks as it rises and sets, all the leaves rusting and falling from the trees…the list is endless.
Even if I haven’t convinced you to give up driving entirely (I understand it’s a very hard sell!) - why not ditch the car every now and again and make 2017 a new year of activity?