When I lived in Norfolk, Virginia I lived in the trendy, walkable Ghent neighborhood. I had a good walk score (75 - very walkable) at my apartment, and I could (and did) walk all the time. I loved being able to walk to restaurants and stores. I had my pick of walking to Starbucks or a local coffee place. It was fabulous.
When I moved to Michigan it became quickly apparent that everyone drives everywhere. I moved into an apartment relatively close to a small downtown, and my walk score plummeted to 45 (car dependent). I had to drive 20 minutes to work, and it was necessary to drive just about everywhere. It didn't take too long until I felt like a local - I got used to the driving.
My husband and I bought our first house in Lansing in 2007, and my walk score got even worse (40 - car dependent). After more than a year in Michigan I was resigned to the fact that my dreams of living in a downtown and walking everywhere were probably quashed. We even drove to the pharmacy and grocery store just a half a mile from our house. Why walk when driving is so much easier? It became our way of life.
In the last few years I'll be honest - I've been dreaming of leaving Michigan. We played the "where should we live" game and looked online for houses in vibrant neighborhoods. I've pretended we could buy a brownstone in Lincoln Park in Chicago; a townhouse in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and even seriously considered a row house (along with a new job) on historic Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. The idea of living in a downtown began to grow larger than life, and I realized I wanted it back. I needed to be able to live and work in the same space. It became an obsession.
Last year when we first looked at a beautifully renovated Victorian in Downtown Lansing, I got my hopes up. The walk score on this house is 69 (somewhat walkable and a huge improvement). I saw the possibility of walking to work, restaurants, and festivals. There is a daycare around the corner, and I imagined dropping our kids off on the walk to work. I saw the life that I had in Virginia only better - this is the life I have as a real grown up and I share with my husband.
Fifteen months later we realized the dream of buying this house in Downtown Lansing. I worried that I had my hopes up too high for living downtown. I worried that living downtown wouldn't be as wonderful as I remembered. Thankfully, to my relief, it's amazing. I LOVE walking to work. I love running with my dogs on the Capitol lawn. I love being able to walk to dinner and drinks. A few weeks ago I walked to a 5k. We can walk to the Lansing City Market and Old Town. I love absolutely everything about being downtown. I honestly could not love it more.
Michiganders still drive nearly everywhere, and I am so happy to buck that trend. Living downtown isn't everything I thought it would be; it's more. I feel like not living downtown left me missing out on something that I didn't even realize I was missing. Now I feel like I'm living the right life again. I'm in love with my new house, and I'm in love with living in Downtown Lansing. Life is too short to spend so much time in the car.