As posted on http://www.alternativetravelproject.com social page May2013:
During my first year in Tokyo, I must say that my adjustment period was a breeze. The only complaint I had besides my incapacity to communicate in the Japanese language was the amount of walking I had to do in order to get to places. But I became more mobile when I started using a bicycle. I go to work on it, go to parks, grocery shops, church, practically anywhere within the city ward. I explored the streets of my neighborhood on foot and by bike. I went around Tokyo and other prefectures by train or by bus. Commuting in this city is easy, comfy, hassle-free and safe.
When I was hired as an English Teacher, I was dispatched to schools in a smaller city two hours away from Tokyo by train. I have relocated twice already in the course of three years. And in both places, I have been ‘carless’. My employer kept encouraging me to get a Japanese driver’s license so I could avail of a company car. But I decided against it simply for practical reasons: 1) testing and licensing fees are very expensive here; 2) foreigners rarely pass the examination on a first take, thus the possibility of retaking more than twice, each time paying the fees in full; and 3) gasoline and parking are extra expenses I’d rather not incur on a regular basis. In short, I opted for my bike and moved around with flexible ease.
One summer vacation, I went back to my home country and inadvertently left my keys, including the key to my bike (blame it on my stupidity that I even brought them in the first place!). After several attempts of yanking and breaking the lock, I gave up. I came to terms with the inevitable consequence, and walked my way to school since then, the farthest destination taking 35 minutes. The cab was one option I only considered on weather hazard days. So everyday, I’d have at least an hour-long of walk, which is actually not bad because it worked up my legs. I realized I was benefitting good exercise from it, besides saving a little more on cash.
Walking and cycling have become a healthy lifestyle for me. Japan’s clean, green and safe environment have made it easy to embrace. I can’t imagine how it is like in countries with safety and security problems. That is my only concern. But then again, we do not just jump into ATP without prior assessment of the locale and the alternatives available. We take reasonable and necessary precautions as we go along. And just a random thought: I think it will be good to tie this project up with traffic and road safety. Malaysian actress, Michelle Yeoh is actively advocating this cause in Asian countries where road hazards are ridiculously high. A collaboration might encourage more people to take on the alternative travel project with greater zeal and determination.