We are thrilled to have Erik Wesner, founder of amishamerica.com and author of Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive contributing to Timber to Table. Erik has written several posts for us in years past, providing insight on different aspects of Amish life.
Here Erik contributes the various ways Amish people get around, and it’s not always by horse and buggy!
10 Ways Amish People Travel
by Erik Wesner
In our car-dominated culture, the Amish stand out like a sore thumb for refusing to own and drive motor vehicles.
The first thing that comes to mind when you think “Amish transport” is probably the horse-drawn buggy, its silhouette visible on yellow warning signs on back country roads across the nation.
But besides the buggy, the Amish actually use a wide variety of transportation to get to work, the store, school, and to make visits in their own communities – and sometimes well beyond them.
Here’s a little bit more on the various ways Amish people get from point-to-point.
1) Horse-drawn Transport – Amish buggies come in a variety of styles, from “family buggies” to open two-seaters built for speed. Amish children pilot pony carts to their schools. Beyond buggies, you may see an occasional horse-pulled sleigh in the wintertime.
Buggies come in a variety of colors – including black, gray, brown, white, and even bright yellow. Buggy shops serve Amish customers in their communities, where you can buy a new or used buggy, or bring your carriage in for repairs.
2) Bicycle – Not accepted in all places, but common in Midwestern communities such as Holmes County, Ohio, and northern Indiana. In some places the “e-bike” (bicycles powered by a motor) trend has taken hold, though this has been somewhat controversial.
3) Scooter – In places where the bicycle is not accepted, you’re likely to see the iconic metal kick scooter. Children and adults alike use these to make their travel zippier. Common in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
4) Hired Driver – If you need to go farther than it is convenient for a buggy or bicycle, you might use a hired non-Amish driver, aka “Amish taxi.”
Amish regularly use hired drivers to travel to a distant workplace (for example, a Pennsylvania Dutch market or a jobsite), to go to town for a large shopping trip, or even to go to other Amish communities out of the area for events like weddings, funerals, or to visit family. Not accepted in the plainest communities except in special cases (e.g., medical emergency).
5) Bus – Amish will travel on Greyhound buses to go long distances, and in some cases use other special coaches. For instance, Amish traveling to the vacation community of Pinecraft (Florida) from states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania will make use of several special bus lines.
6) Train – It’s not uncommon to spot Amish riders on Amtrak lines. These may be sightseeing trips to western states, or even travel to Mexico for medical or mission work reasons.
7) Plane – Do Amish travel on airplanes? The vast majority do not permit this form of travel. However a small minority (mainly the New Order Amish churches) do allow air travel.
8) Tractor – Amish usually use the tractor’s engine for power, but generally leave them parked (most use horse-drawn means for working their fields as well). But in a few communities, Amish allow tractors to be driven on the roads. This is about the closest the Amish come to car transport. Not common, but seen in communities such as Guthrie, KY and Chouteau, OK. In these places, you might only see buggies on the roads on Sundays.
9) Rollerblades – Popular in Lancaster County in particular with younger Amish people. You’d think the Amish would go with old-fashioned four-wheeled roller skates, but no. Rollerblades it is.
10) Old fashioned foot-power – If all else fails, you can always use the two feet that God gave you. And Amish people do a lot of walking, likely significantly more than the average American. And that’s not a bad idea if your diet includes regular doses of shoo-fly pie.
Erik Wesner is the founder of amishamerica.com, where he writes regularly about Amish culture, communities and other topics.