These Boots Are Made For Walking
Updated: Jan 3
It was one year ago that I downloaded an app on my phone to track my steps. Earlier this year I wrote about my downsized life in my blog. In my blog, I noted that since living in Germany (over 8 years now) I did not have a car. https://www.viewfrommywindow.net/post/my-downsized-life
Many Germans might not understand not having a car, as they love their German vehicles. But for American’s the thought of not having a car is actually shocking. In America having a car is virtually a necessity. In 2015, America had ~264 million registered vehicles, with an average of 2 cars per household, in a country with a population of 325 million.
Unless you live and work in the downtown area of a large city in the U.S., a vehicle is required, so that you are able live your life. Most major cities have various forms of public transportation (New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc.). However, most towns in the U.S. lack real public transportation (bus, train, subway). In my hometown, most of my life there was no public transportation system, I believe it was about 15 years ago they finally implemented one. However, it was only a few buses and they were mostly used by the elderly or the few people who didn’t have cars. Quite frankly people in these smaller towns in America are just not accustomed to using public transportation.
The day I turned 16, I started driving. I actually got my first car when I was 15 (Thanks Dad!). My children were also driving and had a car at 16. This was pretty common for a lot of teenagers; driving to school, driving to their part-time jobs, and driving their friends around. Well, basically driving everywhere. My daughter had a part-time job she worked after school and in the summers. Her place of employment was about 3 blocks from her house (German friends, city blocks are often used as a reference for distance in America - 3 blocks would be about 200 meters). For this short distance, my daughter would drive her car to work every day. Quite honestly, I really wouldn’t have thought too much about it, if I had not lived in Germany. But for her and most Americans the notion of walking or riding your bike to work wasn’t even a consideration.
For as long as I can remember I have always had one or two cars, which is quite common and is not some type of badge of success for an American, it is just the way it is. When I first came to Germany, I assumed my assignment would not be very long and even after I acquired housing here, I did not think I would be here long enough to bother with a car. So I began walking everywhere. My feet and legs became my primary means of transportation and after a while, it became completely normal to me. So last year about this time, I thought it would be fun to see just how much I was walking. Here is the result.
In the last year, I have taken over 1.7 million steps, burning some 60,000 calories while walking 706 miles (1136 kilometers), spending a total of 292 hours walking. To put this in perspective this is equivalent to walking about 2 miles a day or walking non stop, 24 hours a day for 12 days straight. Let me assure you that this is not part of some fitness regimen or plan, this is just me living my life. My walk to work each day is only 4 blocks or 300 meters. Then I walk for my music-related activities, meeting with friends, grocery shopping, going out to eat……………well almost everything.
Note I said, almost everything. You see I have some good friends and colleagues that help me out with transportation from time to time. At work my colleague has a company furnished car, so he drives to most of our appointments and I take a bus/train when I need to get to the airport. Shopping for groceries can be a bit of a pain when walking, as it can be a real chore carrying a load of groceries home. I have a few solutions to this problem, one is to only buy in small amounts and go to the store more often or get one of my friends to take me to the store or to ride my bike.
Yes, I said bike. I do have a bike. It was given to me, at my favorite price (free). I am told it is a classic, which I translate to mean that it is a bit old, but it is a good brand of bike. Now here is the gotcha, it is a girls bike (German = Damenfahrrad). Now let me be completely clear, although I am very comfortable in my masculinity and the notion of riding a girls bike is not something I would normally be uncomfortable with. The problem I have is that I do have this Rockstar image I am trying to uphold and cruising around on a chick’s bike is not helping me out with that. ; )
I must say that coming to Germany has had a lot of positive effects on my health. One of which is walking 700 miles a year. I also have a healthier diet. I find the food portions here are generally smaller than in America (except Bavarian meals) and probably most impactful was coming off a cocktail of prescription medicines my doctor had prescribed to me.
With regard to a healthier diet, I truly find that the foods are simply more healthy here. I once read an article on this topic and it included a list of the 12 or so food ingredients that are commonly used in the U.S. that are completely banned in Europe.
Check this out: preservatives BHA and BHT, used in many American processed foods, are believed to be carcinogenic (having the potential to cause cancer) and are highly restricted for use in the European Union. Yellow food dyes No. 5, No. 6 and red dye No. 40 are subject to warning labels in the European Union. There is a grocery store in town that has an American food section. I have seen that following warning on a box of macaroni and cheese, “ingredients in this product may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” How scary is that? Think about how many boxes of that crap we have eaten or even worse, fed to our children over the years.
When I first arrived here in Germany back in 2009, I weighed about 212 pounds (96 kilos). Here is what is strange, I actually didn’t think I was unhealthy or fat. I knew I was a bit overweight, but I thought I was just a pretty average guy, as I looked like a lot of my American friends. It didn’t take long for a few Germans and a newfound American buddy that was living here in Germany, to point out to me that I was fat (I have found that German's don’t have a problem stating the obvious). Nonetheless, over a few year period, I lost some 47 pounds (22 kilos).
During one of my visits to the U.S. I had a doctors appointment and he asked me if I was sick. Actually at one point I had lost too much weight and well I can report to you that this has been corrected. I would like to modify a verse from the song “Amazing Grace”. “I once was lost but now I’m found” - modified – “some of the weight I lost, I now have found”.
So everyone is clear I am NOT the picture of physical fitness nor will I be winning any awards for being Mr. Healthy. Years ago, I joined a fitness club in America and I hated it. To this point, I am pretty sure I will not be joining one soon. I just wanted to share with you the transformation I experienced since I have been in Germany.
My son recently came to Germany to visit me for my birthday (I hope to share more about his visit in my blog sometime soon). While he was here, I said to him; “Tyler, who would have ever thought I would end up here?” To which he replied, “I’m not sure how it happened, but it probably saved your life”. I think he may have been right.