By Sumalee Eaton of Sanford-Centric
I get mixed reactions from people when I tell them that I walk everywhere. For me, this is the best thing ever. I hate driving, so never getting in the car and never spending money on gas rocks. A lot of people agree with me and even say they’re a little jealous, whereas other (older) people give me that look of pity, that look of “you poor person, I bet you also don’t have a golf membership”.
And there’s the rub. Growing up in Central Florida, I was taught that only vagrants and drug addicts walked anywhere. The only reason for a person to walk in a metropolitan area full of four lane highways is that they can’t afford a car of their own. When I lived up north, I saw an entirely new perspective. Everyone walks everywhere. Cars are both a commodity and a pain in the ass. Public transit can get you almost anywhere worth going, and no one thinks worse of you for trekking three blocks from the station to get to a restaurant or doctor’s appointment.
I feel that Sanford residents often suffer from Central Florida’s anti-pedestrian mentality, so I present you with three benefits of walking in Downtown Sanford.
1) Expand your understanding.
Downtown offers the opportunity to think smaller, to think more local. You would be amazed how your repertoire of “things to see and do” explodes when you limit your scope to “all of the things I can see and do within walking distance”. Pounding the pavement between specialty stores, restaurants, and bars reveals not only what each individual business has to offer, but also how they complement and connect with each other. Don’t forget, this isn’t a collection of brands and products in a strip mall, it’s a complex ecosystem of people and ideas.
2) Build your connection to the community.
I never think of walking five blocks as a nuisance, but as its own experience. It’s a chance to observe the landscape and notice even the smallest adjustments to the rhythms of small town life, from a new “coming soon” sign in a storefront to the growing number of regulars sitting outside a coffee shop. In a world where everyone in our life is available at the touch of a screen, the novelty of physically meeting neighbors en route to another place is exhilarating. The exchange of news or gossip becomes genuine, immediate, and sacrosanct. The personal connection is all part of living in a small town, so during your walk, perk up, make eye contact, and say hello!
3) Take ownership.
As a child, I was taught to view a lone person walking as exposed and defenseless. Now that I am fortunate enough to walk everywhere, I feel empowered. The ownership I feel about my neighborhood comes from my ability to traverse it freely, without fear. As a Sanford resident, you should feel the same! These are our streets, our neighbors, our historic district, and walking through them reminds us of everything we have to work on and everything we have to be proud of.
The next time you’re in Downtown Sanford, I invite you to walk the extra blocks to your favorite haunt and experience a whole new side of town: fresh, exciting, and completely unique.