I have been car free for almost 10 months now, doing everything on my bike (with a very nice little Burley Nomad trailer for heavy items), using the free city buses, and occasionally renting a car for a day or two. Corvallis is small, so this has worked, much better than I would have imagined.
Recently, however, I’ve started thinking about whether I might be giving up a little too much by limiting my geographical range to the 6 or so miles surrounding my home – all those places I could be hiking, for example, that are just far enough away that I never bike there. And the buses don’t run on Sundays, so anything I do on Sunday has to be planned with energy expenditure in mind.
So I started keeping a “car free log” – every time I felt constrained, I wrote down why. And every time I felt really good about living without a car, I wrote that down. With the idea of maintaining it here, here’s the current draft.
Pain Points of Living Without a Car
- Much harder to go to hiking spots like Peavy or Fitton so I basically never end up going.
- While it is possible to get to Portland on public transportation, I’ve still never done it, so I basically never go. Ditto various other places it would be nice to get to know since I’m new to Oregon. (I could rent a car, but I don’t seem to end up doing it).
- Spend less time down at CoHo EcoVillage, where I’m an associate, because it’s 6 miles away.
- Always being sweaty and having to live in athletic clothing.
- Having to push through fatigue to get someplace, or get somebody to give me a ride.
- Harder to buy things like watermelon because it takes up too much space and/or weighs too much.
- Have to take more showers and do it at odd times.
- Getting all the weather gear on and off can be a hassle.
- Having more than one place to be in a short time can be a hassle.
- Can’t carry my kneeling chair to retreats because I have to get a ride with somebody and they don’t have room in their car.
- Sometimes feel more vulnerable as an older person with no ready transportation.
Rewards of Living Without a Car
- I’m in great shape, and exercise is an integral part of my day instead of just something I drive to the gym to do.
- Getting out in the fresh air is really invigorating.
- I notice more natural beauty and am more intimate with the natural world.
- I interact more with people on my routes.
- Being required to ask for help from people (such as my neighbor helping me take my cats to the vet, or other Zen cronies giving me rides to retreats) leads to greater intimacy with others and works against my tendency to isolate.
- As a Buddhist, my daily life is in sync with the precept of non-harming through not contributing to environmental pollution.
- One less complicated life object to worry about: no gas, no maintenance, no insurance, no breakdowns; when you rent, it’s always a new car.
- Save a lot of money that can then be used for better purposes like retreats and trips to see friends.
- Supports a simple life focused on spiritual practice, which is what I repeatedly claim to want.
- I’ve become one of the local spokespeople for car free living through my work with the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition. I’ve participated in two workshops on how to live without a car. I’m working on National Car Free Day. So there’s a community identity I’ve created around not having a car.
There you have it. No final decision so far! What do others think?
BTW, if you’re interested in looking into this as a possibility, the best book I’ve seen about this topic is How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, by Chris Balish. Whenever I’m ready to wimp out, I pick up this book and he convinces me not to give up.