I’ve lived 30 days without owning a car and with no regrets. Originally, ditching the car was a plan to save money, and well, shoot the middle finger to the oil and car companies for whom pensions were fully funded by my fear of being car-less. However, after a month of learning bus routes, walking, biking and scooting around NOVA and DC, it’s the unintentional benefits of a car-free lifestyle which are beginning to add up.
1. Exercise. I still go to the gym 4x/week for a 50 minute cardio session, but now I’m getting bonus workouts by walking 40 minutes round-trip to get to Target, the post office and the bank.
2. Fresh Air. Whenever I drove my car, even with the windows down, I wasn’t outside. I wasn’t breathing in, smelling and enjoying the beauty of wildlife and real life all around me. Now as I’m scooting or walking, I’m taking in fresh air, which in turn makes me feel more awake, more alive, a more active part of the universe.
3. Taxes at Work – Like it or not, I do not, taxes are a fact of life. And since I do pay my taxes, why not get a first hand view of how my local government uses those dollars. Buses, trains, and clean sidewalks are all on the tax bill, so may as well get my monies worth or get my complaint in order for the next city council meeting. (And if you know me, you know I will!)
4. Grocery Bill Reduced – When you’re dependent on your backpack and the storage compartment under your scooter seat, you think hard about your weekly grocery list. My cart’s no longer bogged down with a 12-pack of soda or six bottles of wine, instead I shop for the immediate–what do I want to eat today, tomorrow and maybe the next day. I find I can even spread my short grocery list into five days by encouraging myself that I have food in the house, albeit it may not be my first choice for breakfast, but I can make do with a boiled egg until I can make another run to the store.
5. Going Green – Please note: I will never be All Gore on the environment, but I do believe we should do what we can to save the planet. My way was to ditch the car. No amount of recycling or changing my light bulbs has given me the satisfaction that ditching the car has given me in my attempts to preserve the planet. I don’t sit in traffic and burn gallons of fuel, nor do I waste precious time filling up a gas tank every two weeks. Instead, I just walk on by the gas stations and the folks sitting in traffic, saying to myself, “it’s not easy being green, but it sure does make life a heck of a lot more simple.”
6. Adventures – Finding new ways to get to old places provides adventures without leaving the neighborhood. Traveling back roads either on scooter or the bus, I’ve seen parts of my neighborhood I didn’t know existed. Plus, it keeps my mind active and alert.
7.Reading – Riding the bus or metro gives me a lot more time to catch up on all those books I bought when Borders was going out of business. I’ve already made it through two books. And while I know I can listen to a book while driving, for me, it’s just not the same, not as intimate as turning the pages one by one.
Right now, I’m happy being car-free. I’ve discovered that life is a lot less stressful when you take the slow way, the longer way. We settle down, we take in our surroundings and forgive me for being all zen-like, but we’re more present in the moment. In the process of getting somewhere, we focus on the journey, not the destination. After all, isn’t that life?