An integral part of not owning a car is knowing how far away from home I can logistically expect to do certain things. When I was looking for teaching jobs, for example, I didn’t even look at districts that were more than 20 miles away, because I knew I didn’t want to bike that far every day. It was never a matter of finding a job, any job, and then figuring out how to get there; transportation comes first for me. If I can’t get there in a way that makes me happy, I’m not even going to consider it.
Is that limiting? I see how someone could think that–it did cut down on the number of jobs I applied to, for example–but no, I’ve never actually felt limited. In fact, it’s liberating: I live a life in which I have carefully chosen what I do, and it’s based on what I am willing to do, not on what happened to be available. That is, I try never to be a victim of circumstance–especially not transportation circumstance. I never lament my rush-hour commute, the time spent in traffic, the way I have no choice but to endure the commute. I do have a choice: don’t take a job that far from home.
Despite all that, today I found myself biking to Wilsonville, a good 25 miles away, because I’d forgotten the check-how-far-away-it-is-first principle when I got really excited about an outdoor education program in the West-Linn/Wilsonville school district. They’re trying to start up a new educational farm that I want to be involved in, and even though it’s West Linn/Wilsonville, I only really thought about the West Linn part of it. And that’s not too far away from Lake Oswego, which is far but not ridiculously far from my house. And especially for something that sounded so cool, I was willing to bike somewhat far.
Sadly, once I emailed the man in charge, set up a time to meet, and then got the address from him, I rather harshly realized that Wilsonville is, in fact, much, much further away than I was imagining.
So today I found myself on an exploratory ride meant to determine if an educational farm in Wilsonville, even if it’s the coolest thing in the world, is something I can actually commit to. The verdict? I’m not sure yet. It took me about an hour and fifty minutes to bike there, a little less to bike back. I’m sure I could do it faster, especially now that I know the route, but still, a 3-3.5 hour investment in commute time is a lot, even if it does double as a lovely bike ride (actually, the route I took wasn’t that lovely. I’d have to tweak it a bit).
On the other hand, it’s not something I’d have to do every day. It sounds like I could help with field trips and other educational opportunities on a case-by-case basis, or one day a week, or really however I want to. It all seems very flexible. I think I could handle a once-weekly 50-mile commute, so maybe it’s feasible after all. It’s not like it’d be a real job, an every day for 8 hours, have to get there by 9 kind of thing. If I have autonomy in how I set it up, it might work out.
Which gets me back to the idea of trying to craft my life according to what I’m willing to do, not what happens to be available. There are certain circumstances in which I am willing to bike 50 miles to get somewhere and back. They’re contextual: I have to not have so much else going on in life that it seems like too much time to devote, I have to be able to get there a little later (since I do not want to leave at 5am or anything crazy), I have to be able to not do it every day.
So I don’t know what I’m going to do about it yet, but I’m thinking about it. And in the meantime, it’s nice to reaffirm that I am in charge of my transportational options. I know my limits; I own and create my commute. It will not own me.