10. Transport and Holiday accommodation
Broaching the subject of moneyless transport is a difficult task, as so little of what we conceive of as transport today could be done without money, and certainly not in ways I would consider truly sustainable. As I attempted to illustrate in one of the POP model examples I used in chapter three, the ultimate in moneyless transport – in sustainability terms at least – is walking barefoot (see page 199). One part of the reason I say that is because this mode of transport requires zero resources, meaning that you get an A+ on your ecological impact assessment. That’s the lesser half of the argument.
The more important element of walking barefoot is that it fully connects you with the planet. I believe that shoes are like condoms, in a way. Of course, we wear them both because they protect us from various things – one from the cold, thorns and their urban relative, broken glass, the other from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and unplanned pregnancy.
But we pay a heavy and massively under-appreciated cost for having made ourselves dependent on both these forms of protection. Anyone who has ever made love to someone they deeply love and care for with a condom, and without a condom, knows the difference between both experiences. Both are still beautiful experiences, but with the latter the strength of connection between both partners is greatly increased, and in my experience it has been the closest I have ever come to feeling a complete merging with the whole. (I will look at forms of, and issues around, moneyless contraception in chapter thirteen).
The same I feel is true with shoes. They act like a barrier between us and the whole, creating yet another degree of separation. I went out with a friend and bushcraft teacher Malcolm Handoll on a survival weekend once, and the first thing he made me do was take off my shoes. I resisted a bit (OK, a lot) at first – it was winter, about 2ºC, rather muddy and we were on the windward side of a north-facing hill with a stiff December breeze coming face on – but I finally gave in to his coaxing. And glad I was for it too. Instead of trampling over everything in my big boots, I had to take care where I walked. I could feel the Earth beneath my feet, and it felt right to connect with Her in that way. It slowed me down. I had to look, feel my way along, and not race through the day at my normal speed. And as long as I kept moving I was warm. Of all the useful skills Malcolm taught me that weekend, simply taking off my shoes was probably the most important.
AN ODE TO WALKING BAREFOOT
Malcolm Handoll, bushcraft teacher and founder of Five Senses(196)
You may think of thorns, gravel and gooey stuff when you think of walking barefoot. But to walk with bare feet is to feel your way just like you do with your hands, and just as you’d avoid a branch hanging in front of you, so you’ll walk around any dangers on your path.
You may think of cold feet. Maybe your feet are cold due to inactivity, dehydration and reduced blood flow. But I tell you, a foot is happy when its muscles are working and flexing, blood pumping, and is soon warmed by exercise. Your circulation improves and your nerves tingle. It feels good to be alive, massaging your feet with every step, just like reflexology.
So maybe the coldness you fear won’t last, as you warm up? There is one way to find out – try it.
Yes, it requires us to move differently, with conscious steps treading sensitively, but that is how we need to live, with Nature, not trampling over it disconnected by rubber. I want to connect so intimately with my world, like a tree with its roots deep into the soil, so I with my toes wiggling in the mud.
By contrast, imagine a life wearing boxing gloves on your hands.
That is how my feet feel in shoes; hot, useless, unable to touch. With my feet cut off from the world I lose track of where I am as it all passes by, step after step the same.
Try cleansing your soles on dew soaked lawns or an exfoliating foot rub walking over warm sand. There are also barefoot walking parks with sensory paths to explore. There is your own garden to dance in. Try it and have fun!
While I personally feel that barefoot walking is the ultimate in moneyless transport, it is by no means the only option on the menu, you’ll be relieved to hear. There are many ways to get around, both long- and short-distance, in urban and rural settings, and at all sorts of speeds. All you have to do is pick the options that best suit your unique situation and ideologies.
My only advice: when you can, take the option that allows you to go the slowest and still get there on time – leave earlier if need be. Modern life is so fast that we’re likely to wake up when we’re eighty and realise we spent our entire lives racing through it, never stopping to talk with our neighbours, smell the flowers or listen to the birds sing their merry little tune. This pace of life is a significant contributor to our high levels of stress today, which in turn is widely accepted as one of the major factors underlying many illnesses and diseases.
One thing I would add before looking at the moneyless menu for transport is that you will be correct in observing that some of the options involve using cars (and other such things) that are made in the monetary, industrial economy. Criticisms on this point are perfectly valid, and I am often the first to do it myself. If you look at my POP model for transport you’ll get a fuller understanding of my position on it – some of the options are stepping stones and transitional strategies to help us get from A to B in the journey towards absolute sustainability.
Despite understanding them, I sometimes find such blanket criticisms too simplistic. For a start, for someone who has driven a car every day since they were seventeen, walking barefoot for twenty miles is much too big a step to take. Whilst ecological sustainability is a major motivation for my version of non-monetary economy, my only aim with this book is to provide options that empower anyone, regardless of their intentions, to diversify their own personal economy and make steps towards living an ecologically sustainable, physically healthy and connected life.
There is another point regarding this over-simplification. We’ve all been born into a globalised age, whether we like it or not; the result of this means that from an early age (before many of us had even heard the words ‘carbon footprint’ or ‘climate change’) we all dispersed to the four corners of the world, leaving family and friends behind or somewhere else completely. Over the course of our adult life we set ourselves up in these far away places, making new friends and establishing social networks that we really value, meaning that many of us are very reluctant to give that all up and return home for good. Yet we don’t want to never see our family or oldest friends again either. What do you do in that circumstance? Like all in life, it is never black and white, there is no right or wrong answer, which is why I want to share all the moneyless options I know of, even if some do stink of hypocrisy, just so that everyone has a chance to make steps towards their ideal.