In January this year, I moved for the fourth time in two years. Not through choice – I was happy where I was – but because my lovely landlord needed his flat back, and my other two flatmates were buying their first flats. Given how much I hate moving house, I decided to live in my favourite area, Highbury. It’s so expensive there that I usually would not have dreamed of moving to Highbury but, after the year I had, I needed a bit of a treat!
As rent prices are rising in London, I chose my budget to be the total of my Balham rent and bills plus what I would usually spend on public transport – figuring that Highbury isn’t too far from the West End for auditions or from any of the places I tend to work. This totalled £800 a month. I found a room in a nice two bed flat with a live-in landlady for that price, including bills.
My new tenancy began when I was coming to the end of a job in Clapham (so no way was I going to walk there) but, once that finished, I was able to walk to most of my jobs. I think I’ve bought a weekly travelcard three times this year and only bought a monthly travelcard for the first time yesterday, as I’m rehearsing in South London six days a week for the next month and my company are covering travel. This is what the past six months have taught me…
Allow time to get from A to B, particularly if, like me, your sense of direction leaves much to be desired. The thing that takes the most time is waiting at traffic lights but, other than that, it’s generally only about 15 minutes quicker to get on a hot and sweaty crowded tube than walk to somewhere central from Highbury. You’ll find short cuts you never knew existed, and it’s a wonderful chance to explore the city and see how everything joins up. If I am going a new route (which probably happens a couple of times a week, life of a freelancer!) then I use maps on my phone to navigate when I need it.
Look after your feet
I wear soft socks and trainers because sometimes I walk up to eight miles in a day. I make sure I scrub and moisturise my feet a couple of times a day and I do some ankle and leg exercises. I think the amount of walking I do has actually strengthened my leg muscles for running, which is ace!
Get some podcasts
I highly recommend the excellent Griefcast from Cariad Lloyd, Dispossessed by Mehdi Hasan, and Deborah Frances-White’s The Guilty Feminist. There’s something quite healing about walking on a gentle summers day, watching butterflies flutter by as comedians discuss their losses, or marching to work fired up by US politics and actually feeling like you have the time to get under the skin of it all, or just laughing along with the streams of consciousness about humanity while walking past the beautiful St Paul’s.
You will sleep better, digest better, look better, feel better
I really love walking. It means being in control of my journey and not reliant on public transport and all the delays and quirks of it. Perhaps it has something to do with my family not having a car until I was at secondary school, but walking makes me feel very close to my roots. It brings space and time which allows me to think quietly and means that, by the time I get home, I have processed my day and, by the time I have walked to work, I am wide awake and alert for business!
On top of all that, walking has improved my asthma – perhaps it’s the increased lung capacity from the one to three hours walking I do a day! I think I am also definitely less easily anxious and stressed.
Don’t beat yourself up if it slips
I have a rule that if it’s after 10pm then I won’t walk home from Central London (although I will if it’s just a couple of miles away). I will take a couple of buses (you’re only charged for one fare providing you get on the second bus within an hour of getting on the first), or if I am falling asleep on my feet I will fork out £3 for a tube. It’s okay, we are all only human.
If I have back to back meetings then I will hop on a bus because, though it costs a bit of money, it saves time and sometimes that is more valuable. I once ran to a meeting (and back again) via the beautiful Regents Canal – it was eight miles all-round, but I only did it because the woman I was meeting was a good friend and wasn’t perturbed by my red face, and we both work as actors so I didn’t need to look formal. Equally, during the snow and ice in March, I was avoiding walking at all to avoid slippages (reader, I still fell over but only once in that perilous week). The heatwave is actually okay -–I walk in the shade, wear factor 30, and enjoy a nice breeze rather than being shoved under someone’s arm pit.
If you don’t mind getting up a bit earlier or getting back home a bit later, and are looking to save some cash, I highly recommend walking as a main source of transport. It has instilled in me a real love for where I live and all its hidden mysteries.