The Value of Time / by Kevin Swantek

If I have the time to walk to my destination, I would generally prefer to walk. When time and distance are a larger issue, then I start to look at the bus schedule. But, there are also times when the bus isn’t practical, and driving is the best option. It’s not that I don’t like driving; I’m certainly comfortable and capable of getting around the city by car, it’s just that being in the driver’s seat is always the least interesting way to get from point A to point B. On the bus, or in the passenger seat, I have the opportunity to at least look down the passing side streets, catch a glimpse of some kind of random excitement, or just people watch at stop lights (without having to be focused on all things that are required to operate a motor vehicle). As a pedestrian, I am hyper-sensitive to unattentive drivers, so I take my responsibility as a driver very seriously. Not to get too far off track though, because this post is really about how I decide to spend my time, because deciding to walk anywhere just takes longer.

I think it’s safe to say that for most people time is valuable, and the older we get, the more valuable it becomes. Many of my friends are married, with children; they have jobs that require more than 40 hours per week of their attention; and they have obligations when it comes to their weeknights, and weekends. We inevitably end up in a position, where so much of our lives end up being dictated to us out of responsibility to work and family, that what time we have leftover is precious little.

I am fortunately (and unfortunately) a single, unattached guy. I have a 40 hour per week job that I get to leave at the door, when I walk out of the office at the end of the day. Because of that fact, my job doesn’t necessarily leave me with a ton of disposable cash to spend, but It has however (up until this point in my life), left me rich with time. I'd have the time to spend on friends & family, and if I wanted to walk somewhere to meet up with someone, I could fit that into my schedule with relative ease.

A great example of this would be last Sunday I met two friends to watch a movie. The cinema is approx. 2 miles from my apartment. I can walk to the cinema in about 45 minutes (which I’ve done about twice a month since moving to Greenlake in July). The weather was okay, and the movie was in the mid-afternoon, so I made the decision to hoof it up to the movie. The reason why I’m mentioning this is because what it really means is that I have to have an hour and a half of travel time, plus the running time of the movie in my day to make that work. If the movie is 2 - 2 1/2 hours, then I have to have 3 1/2 - 4 hours in time that I can spend on an adventure like that.

When I lived in the Queen Anne neighborhood, I would occasionally walk with one of my best friends from Queen Anne, to Century Link Field to watch an afternoon game in the summer. It was a 3 1/2 mile walk that would take us a little over an hour. Those were my very favorite Sounders games to go to. It was a 4 hour commitment, but I was having fun, and it gave my friend, and I two hours to talk about whatever was going on in life. A lot of it was joking around, but we also had time to talk about things that were important to us too. I was spending a quarter of my waking day in time on this one event, but the value that I got from that time was very, very high. 

Interestingly, over the last several months, I've slowly found that I have a lot less time to spend on those kinds of things. I've started a year-long health coaching certification program, I've committed to this blog, and currently I'm volunteering as a supernumerary for the Seattle Opera, (all on top of my full-time job). I’ve come to find myself wrestling with the dilemma of not having the amount of time that I’m use to having. This month, I’ve found myself driving more, and walking less. It’s been a disappointing realization.

So, now I have to start asking myself some tough questions, because moving forward with my life plans, means having less “disposable” time. How do I continue to maintain a walking lifestyle, as my life gets busier and busier? What are things I can bear to give up, in order to continue making walking the priority? I may lose the freedom to do some my random I’ll-walk-here-for-that-thing kind of stuff that I love, but my goal is not to forget the value that walking has in my life.