[URBAN NOTE] “Savouring the city with each step”
Josh O’Kane writes about how his walks throughout Toronto have helped him, originally from New Brunswick, get to know his adopted city. I can testify that this works.
For more than four years, I have walked to and from work. But that’s about to change.
It’s about three kilometres each way, which is more than I used to walk in a week. I grew up in Saint John, N.B., in a car culture so ingrained that I’d drive to the cinemas a block from my parents’ house. In undergrad, I never lived more than two minutes from campus. Walking always seemed like a waste of time.
Now, I’m in Toronto. I hated the pedestrian commute at first, despite the city’s sheer walk-ability. There was little joy in those first few months of sore legs, or on those days spent trudging more than an hour through a blizzard or rain storm. But here’s the thing: It’s still better than standing for 15 minutes in a blizzard or monsoon, waiting for a streetcar that never comes.
I’m a reporter here at The Globe and Mail, trained to dispassionately report the news, and a millennial culturally moulded to express any personal feelings through sarcasm; I am not used to earnestness. But I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that walking to work everyday has made me both physically and mentally healthier. It wakes me up in the morning and winds me down at night. And walking has shown me what Toronto is, shown me how Toronto is changing and made Toronto feel like home.
After throwing out the flyers in my mailbox each morning, I start zig-zagging through the West End then cut through Trinity Bellwoods Park. As I pass by Gore Vale Avenue, I glance up at my old apartment, a basement palace on the park, torn from my clutches four years ago. It was here that I first decided to walk to work – an easy 20 minute stroll.
Moving west forced me further away from The Globe, though it only made the walk more interesting. I grew up a music fan far from Toronto and learning who I share my community with has been a pleasant surprise. Sometimes, I’ll see Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew holding court outside a coffee shop or the Barenaked Ladies’ Jim Creeggan running with his dog. Or, after cutting through Bellwoods, I might notice Ron Sexsmith, eyes glazed, walking to the store.