How to Walk (or Bike, or Bus) a Mile in My Shoes

The Joys of My Daily Commute
July 2020

According to Apple Maps, my apartment is exactly one mile from the entrance of MIT’s campus. I just moved to Boston last August and was able to find a great place in the neighborhood known as “Cambridgeport.” I love this area. It’s quiet, close to a Trader Joe’s, and there is a freedom to how I can commute to campus. One of my greatest pleasures is my journey to and from campus. This 10-20-minute path has become crucial to my sanity at MIT. I have learned that there is not a singular route I am forced to take. My experiences have revealed a variety of methods to get to campus, each utilizing resources offered by MIT.

Option 1: Walking

“The weather is nice, and I have plenty of time”

On these beautiful Cambridge days, I choose to walk. Not only does this force me to exercise (I need to conquer my daily goal of 10,000 steps), but it’s a time for me to refocus and decompress. These 20 minutes (18 if I fast-walk) force me to exist in the present. I can breathe the fresh air, take in the sunshine, and avoid school work for a brief moment. It’s a refreshing way to start my day and mentally prepare for a full schedule of classes.

I recently took a Koru Mindfulness Course here at MIT that taught me about the act of mindful walking. This practice has been an incredibly useful tool for me as a way to combat stress. When we walk, especially on familiar routes, we can enter a state of hypnosis. We can become so consumed in our thoughts that we forget to acknowledge our immediate surroundings. Mindful walking is a technique that can be used to bring the mind to the present. Instead of fixating on an event that occurred earlier or worrying about all the work that still needs to be done in the near future, I focus on where my feet are going and what sights are around me. This practice is a great tool I can exercise on these daily walks to school.

Option 2: Bike

“The weather is nice, and I’m a little pressed for time”

On certain mornings, I take a little too much time getting ready and put my punctuality in danger. In these situations, I bike to school. I considered purchasing my own bike at the beginning of the semester, but then I discovered Bluebikes, the city bike program in the Boston area. At first, I was hesitant to purchase a subscription ($99/year), knowing that I could potentially just buy a bike for a comparable price (used, of course). However, I learned that Bluebikes has a discounted rate for MIT students for just $35 for the year! Purchasing a subscription was then a no-brainer.

With this mode of transportation, I walk about 5 minutes to the nearest bike station from my apartment, and then it is another 5-minute ride to campus, shaving my commute in half. It is worth taking a look at the stations nearby wherever you live: if they are far, it may not be much of a time saver. In addition, bike stations near MIT will fill up fast during morning commute times and often run out of bikes at the end of the day. It can therefore be risky to depend solely on Bluebikes, but they remain a great resource for quick trips around the city. Just check the app before you ride. And get a helmet, please!

Option 3: The Shuttle

“The weather is meh, and I am pressed for time”

Some mornings, I wake up and I am just not feeling it. I don’t want to engage in physical activity, I’m tired, the weather sucks, or all of the above. For these days, there is a shuttle bus that goes around my neighborhood called the EZRide Shuttle, a service that is free for MIT students. Some coordination is required to time my morning beauty routine with the bus schedule. I must mention that the MIT app sometimes has inaccurate times for the bus arrival, and if I miss the shuttle, it can be quicker for me to walk to campus than to wait for the next one.

If you are interested in this service, you should definitely check to see what routes are available near you, as the shuttle can be a helpful way to commute to campus. They have several stops outside of the MIT dorms, which is convenient. The MIT Mobile App has updates on the buses (under the “Shuttles” tab), as well as a live map that I check before heading out in order to minimize the time I have to wait outside. If all goes well, I can be on campus in under 10 minutes!

While these may be optimal scenarios, all of these options have drawbacks. It randomly starts to rain on my walk home, there are no more bikes at the dock station, or the MIT App glitches, and I end up waiting 20 minutes for a bus (which has happened…several times). I cannot predict these mishaps, and it is easy for me to become flustered as I navigate my crazy graduate student schedule. However, I must remind myself that I can still find joy in my daily travel, even when it doesn’t go according to my perfect plan. In these moments of stress and panic, I turn to my surroundings. I search for something exciting, and I take advantage of the rare moment where my mind can rest. I look forward to these 10-20 minutes every day, and I encourage others to find pleasure in their daily commute. Whether you walk, bike, bus, or pogo stick, I urge you to stay in the present and discover something new every day.