I have now lived longer in a white farm house on two acres, surrounded by corn and bean fields, than I have lived in cities. I’m settled here, and you can see from my blog photos that I enjoy the view. But there are things about cities that I miss a bit too.
I live in a microworld where having a vehicle is your only way to get where you’re going. Cities have public transportation. Whether you’re talking buses, subways or el trains, these things have schedules and I don’t have to park them or drive them through traffic. When visiting a city, I often try out the local routes, with good results. I once got from downtown Denver to a nearby suburb with two transfers, just on the say-so of the other passengers.
Which brings me to the interesting people you meet while riding buses and trains. You can’t have much conversation while packed into a subway car. Too noisy. But you see the single moms with kids in toe, bags of groceries on the side. Commuters with newspapers stare right past you as though you aren’t there. There are homeless people sometimes, riding to get a little warmth. Groups of friends get on giggling and couples hold hands. Society in miniature gets off and on at each stop.
Hollywood may romanticize taxis (think Sex in the City), and I’ve had some interesting taxi experiences as well. But if you want to see real people living their lives, take the bus.
Cities are the many people who live there. I love the diversity of language, clothing, culture as I stroll a city street, my olive skin and dark hair melding with any crowds of Indian-, Latino-, Greek- or Italian-Americans who pass me by.
Another plus that cities have is the actual expectation that people will walk to places. Hence sidewalks. Whenever I travel to a city to stay, I take a long walk on sidewalks to check out the neighborhood, stretch my legs after travel, breath the fresh(ish) air. Someday I will be old and not driving. Wouldn’t it be nice to live close enough to hobble over to the grocery store?
One of my favorite things to do in a new city is randomly find a locally owned restaurant with food that I love, chat with the waiter and other patrons, and people watch while we wait for food. While I have my favorite eateries in nearby towns and cities here, larger cities have so many more options, so many more choices of cuisine. I loved the papaya salad that I got at the restaurant around the corner from our hotel in Seattle, the fish tacos at the lunch place in Juneau, the beignets at Café du Monde in New Orleans, and the bulgogi at the little storefront Korean Restaurant in Chicago.
Cities also have museums, zoos, theatres and stadiums to explore. Although the truth is that when I lived in cities I didn’t actually go to museums, zoos or live theatre any more often than I do now. Life is busy everywhere and, when it isn’t, city people sometimes like to stay home too.
But people watching, city restaurants, culture, and sidewalks are just minutes to hours away. Here, my commute is a quick ten minutes. I can see plenty of green without going to the park. Friendships and family are close by. I’ve put down roots and branched out here, so I’m not moving anytime soon.
But it’s sure nice to visit.