A few years ago, Earl and I went to Dublin to attend the wedding of my brother- and sister-in-law. When we arrived in Dublin and made our way to the city center, I had an immediate sense of familiarity, even though that my first occasion to leave the North American continent. There was something that felt very comfortable, very grounding. It just felt right. Somewhat surprised at this, I realized that among other things, Dublin was a very pedestrian friendly city. People were walking about the city center. It was a very normal, standard, everyday thing but I was struck by the number of people walking around.

Now, naturally I don't need to travel off of North America to experience this. The United States, while a very automotive-centric society, still has millions of people walking their city streets at any given moment. However, being in a foreign land and thus having my senses heightened a bit, I was more aware of my need to be able to walk.

Living in a relatively rural area of Upstate New York doesn't really afford me the opportunity to enjoy an urban stroll. Even to get to the closest Dunkin' Donuts is a mile walk along a county route that has no facilities for pedestrians aside from a small shoulder wedged between the pavement and a four-foot deep drainage ditch. The posted speed limit on the route is 45 MPH but that is rarely obeyed or enforced. The bright side is, cycling is a no-brainer in this area, but walking can be a challenge.

Spending the Labor Day holiday weekend in Chicago has given me the opportunity to do a lot of walking. We are walking everywhere and if we are not walking we are utilizing mass transit. Luckily my cyclist legs are enjoying this change in exercise without complaining too much. I know that I am enjoying this change of pace immensely. The idea of walking to Starbucks or to the market or to the Apple store or wherever is highly appealing to me.

I know that if my husband and I relocate we have to move to a place that affords us a much better pedestrian experience. While there are many things that I love about living in rural Upstate New York, there are many things that we miss out on, including the experience of not having to drive any and everywhere.

I think one of the things that might be plaguing the general health of Americans is the reliance on our automobiles. And now that I think about it, not only does it plague our own personal health, but it's affecting our environment and it isolates us from being around other people. I think an important element of a strong society is being a society that spends time physically around one another. Even in the carpool lane, our cars isolate us.

Relocating to a specific urban center would have to feel right for us and our adventure this weekend has shown me that one of the things I need is to be in a place that is very pedestrian friendly.