I love exploring a city on foot. I enjoy walking so much that I don’t even care if the place I’m visiting isn’t ideal for walking. Take Austin, for instance. Unlike where I’m from, Austin has dedicated sidewalks and decent pathways. In spite of that, though, you can’t help but feel that the city is more of a car owner’s paradise.
No matter where you want to go, whether a grocery store, a shopping mall, the Texas State Capitol, or even to see the Congress Bridge bat show—it takes you at least 45 minutes on public transport or almost an hour and a half on foot to reach from anywhere else in the city. Although that makes it sound like Austin is so widespread with massive ground space, it isn’t. It’s a tiny town—gorgeous, mind you—but with such twisted bus routes that take forever to cover a distance that’d take 10 minutes in a car.
Regardless of all that, what’s great about visiting for just two weeks, is that Austin’s hard-to-navigate systems didn’t dissuade me. Instead, I took it as a challenge to explore as much as I could, by walking or taking the bus whenever possible.
And so you can imagine my amusement when I saw an activity where tourists got drunk and biked throughout the city.
It’s called the Pub Crawler, and five minutes of searching on Trip Advisor will have you spend a good amount on this mad, but a rather fun tour. Even though I’d heard of it before, I didn’t trust myself to drink and ride around the city while on a solo trip. Not to mention that I’m quite stingy when it comes to engaging in typical touristy stuff.
I was returning from a splurge at the Whole Foods Market (fun fact: Whole Foods was founded in Austin), and as I turned into Bowie Street, what should I see but the Crawler in front of me! I’d seen it not long ago, full of enthusiastic tourists and locals alike, laughing at themselves and the ridiculousness of pedalling and drinking at the same time. They seemed to have such a great time that I couldn’t help but smile at them myself. Now, however, the crawler stood empty with the owners sitting on either side of the vehicle, their chin on one palm and a phone on the other.
Compared to the high-level energy I’d seem emanating from the Crawler earlier, it now resembled a deserted and haunted building. Most of Austin’s streets don’t see a lot of pedestrian activity, and so as far as the eye could see, the road was void of anything but the Crawler and me.
It wasn’t scary—far from it. It was weird to realise that without tourists and their crazy fixations, everyday life is quiet, routine, and boring even. For a moment there, I saw what the city would look and feel like to a local. That’s when I understood that we take things so much for granted that we seldom appreciate the blue skies and the fruit-studded trees.
We all seem to rely on aliens to show us how fun our lives can be.