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little girl walking in the city with ice cream cone

If you’re looking to change your address, what’s outside your walls will be just as important as the inside.

From your neighbors to your amenities, your home is far more than just where you sleep and eat. If you choose wisely, you create a whole lifestyle just based on where you live.

It doesn’t take NASA to understand why being a short walk from your kids’ schools, your fave cultural spots, great eateries, or a library can have a profound impact on the day-to-day life you’ll live, but life on the other side of that impact can often be a shocking contrast. Many who make the switch wonder how they ever lived any differently.

Looking for a walkable life? Enter Walkscore.

What is a walkscore?

It’s a website that tries to tell you how good an address is for its walkability for your lifestyle. Plug in any address and it’ll tell you what’s in your area, showing you a map with all the funky, clickable icons.

You’ll see schools, cafes, “errand” locations like banks and such, shops, and more. It’ll give you approximate distances, what the places are. Incorporating Google Maps, it’s pretty bang-on for what’s around.

The score, however, is a bit debatable, since it’s often a kind of algorithm. School plus bank plus food plus… equals a good place to live. But not all schools are equal, and we sure know all restaurants and food stores aren’t either, so you gotta take the score with a bit of skepticism.

As for terrain, it’s a little off on that front too. My area happens to be one of the hillier parts of my city, so saying it’s bikeable because it’s “flat as a pancake” is a bit of a chuckle.

There are other shortcomings too. Just because things are “close” doesn’t mean it’s not tough to get there. Maybe there are no sidewalks or there are lots of fences preventing thoroughfare, maybe it’s an uncrossable road, but that doesn’t get reflected because the Walkscore is really about proximity, not necessarily ease-of-access.

But still…

It’s a good starting point. After all, just being close is a good way to talk yourself out of driving that half-mile trip to the store.

Fact is, science shows that walking helps us improve many areas of our lives. From mental health to waistline size and bone strength, walking is a part of the solution for many of us — especially if you’re living in a place where walking can get you there as quickly as hopping in the car and struggling for a parking spot.

Walking feet on a sidewalk

Every time you park your car, you’re doing your soul a favor. Just last year, MIT conducted a study where they were surprised to find out that driving on a bad day can cause the driver to feel as much stress as one does before skydiving. Yeah, jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet can be as stressful as a close shave in traffic. That explains road-rage a lot.

Do the math

Imagine the cumulative stress of all those hours spent in cars. Now imagine throwing all that out the window, putting on some comfy shoes, and just walking where you’re going. Imagine the community you’ll feel, the nostalgia of smelling bread baking in a neighbor’s home, the joy of meeting a friendly puppy, the freedom to just stop and people-watch for five minutes.

Now imagine the constant purr of the engine, the honking of horns, the drone of the bad radio DJ, your aching back as you stare at another red light, and the only fresh air you get smells like car exhaust.

The walk sounds better, huh?

A walkable life

Having a good “walkscore” for where you live, if it’s close to great businesses and places you think you’ll love frequenting, is more than just convenience. It will save you money on transportation, it’ll save your body and mind from unneeded stress, it’ll meet your daily recommended “activity” in just being/living/doing life in the hood where you live.

Living a walkable life is about becoming intimately familiar with your world around you, and having more time to enjoy it. Think beyond “amenities.” Think about a neighborhood culture you see yourself loving being a part of. Odds are, even if it’s a little more expensive than a walking-unfriendly home, you’ll likely see savings in the long run, and be a happier person while you get there.

Grab your walking shoes and grab a better life.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.