My Seven Years Without A Car And Why You Need One
11 July 2012
More than a decade ago, I gave up owning a car for a few reasons- I was in a walking part of the city, my grocery store, laundramat, and work were all within two miles, and, I walked daily for exercise. Why not just not have a car, save the money, and walk everywhere? This arrangement worked very well for me. I was able to walk my daily goal of 10,000 steps, accomplish something by doing that - things like actually go to the grocery store and back, get to work and back, and casually stroll down to the laundramat each Sunday morning for an easy hour of wash and dry.
For me, it worked beautifully and to be honest, the only reason I finally sighed and got a car was that I knew deep down that I needed to become less reclusive and more involved in daily conventional life. I also made the decision to become more helpful to others and had an intuitive feeling that friends would not want to walk everywhere.
So, I got a car. Also got a girlfriend. I still walk five miles a day for the benefits. My lifestyle today requires a car so I am glad to have one. But I have seen both sides of the coin and offer these insights based on my experience.
When the weather is really bad and it is raining hard, you need a car. I have arrived at work only to take my pants off and wring them out in the bathroom sink, put them back on and work in wet pants, socks and shirt. It's not the end of the world but it doesn't mix well with convention, not to mention that it feels icky.
Travel out of town requires some mode of transportation and a car is nice. Trains work, buses work. But a car lets you be more autonomous and operate on your own schedule. I used the strict timetables of trains, buses, and borrowed rides as a discipline to help improve my tolerance and acceptance of life's little annoyances in general. It was OK.
What about friends? Meeting for coffee or dinner can take two hours on foot. Ten minutes by car. Big difference. This set up did help me use my time wisely and I seldom forgot to pick up grocery store items when I was walking. A few forgotten items might require an hour to go back on foot. The same principle applies to everything, though, so it can be done and you might be surprised how efficient you get living with these kinds of boudaries.
Parodox. When I lived in New York City, the opposite was true. A car would have been a ball and chain. Walking and taking public transportation was just great. The freedom of hopping on a train or bus in NYC is exhilirating compared to the responsibility of having a car to maneuver and park.The irony is that I had a car in the City but parked it until ready to leave for another state.
There are positives to the unthinkable - no car. Many folks wouldn't even consider the idea. I am living proof that you can not only do it, but enjoy it. But in the end, unless you are going for a life experiment of seclusion or self discipline like I did, I think you need a vehicle.
The modern world doesn't stop for anyone. If you participate in the hustle and bustle of most towns and cities, you will, in most cases, need to strap on the trappings.
I recall a Christmas night when I arrived in my city on the train. It took two hours to walk home. I enjoyed each step, watching holiday lights, snow flakes, and thinking about times gone by, but was glad to finally arrive. One added benefit of walking through the cold. After fifteen minutes you get strangley warm and the glow lasts. I miss those days but am glad to have the benefits of persoanl travel by car.
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