Car-less...By Choice.

A little over a month ago, I was in a car accident. We decided to settle with the insurance company, who totaled out our car. Since then, I've chosen to be without a car. Funny story, three months ago I wrote in my goal journal: get rid of car to support the environment. Haha! Little did I know this manifestation would surface so soon! My girlfriend said, "Jenn, maybe you should be more specific with your goals next time, like: get rid of car on your own terms. Ok, she had a point.

Now, most of my work happens behind the scenes and on the computer, because we have such an awesome culinary team. I have a schedule that requires very little trips away from my office throughout the work week. When I need to meet for work meetings or go to the store, I plan them around the bus or my husband's schedule, which is fairly flexible since he works real early.

It's funny, how when you do something drastically different from what you or what others around you are doing, people will question and even try to dissuade you from doing it. What I've found is that these same people offering their "advice" about not owning a car, including my family members, actually have never experienced what it's like to live in Spokane without a car. But even if they had, that would be their experience and not mine. 

It's so easy to jump to sharing our own experiences with others, even if the situation might be quite different. This is a human characteristic to try to find connection - and it comes naturally to us all. I often find myself sharing life experiences or "advice" with my younger nieces to try to steer them away from trouble or pain. We don't have children, yet, but I'm sure this is something all parents are equipped with. Intuitively, it's easy to make sense out of why we do this, but is it always best for the recipient? Our experience is not always theirs. And I guess it depends on how we share our experiences and with what intentions.

When I told my family and friends I was going to try being car-less for awhile, almost everyone had their own opinion or ideas.

"I guess you can try it for a month and if you don't like it go buy a car." One said.
"How is the bus? I haven't heard good things." Another said.

"What will you do when you need to go to the store or can't get a meeting time to match your husband's schedule? This sounds very inconvenient."

All valid comments and statements, but not positive or encouraging, right? In fact, none of these people have ever been without a car in their adult life. And, my experience will be my own. The other day I heard a great way to try to combat these sorts of statements from naysayers...

You can stop them mid-sentence and kindly say: Thank you for sharing your experience/ideas with me, but I am trying to create my own experience around "X".

Brilliant, right? It's a way to let people know that they have been heard - that you are listening - but you are going to experience X in your own way and it will be your own experience. Some of us are pretty good to ask for other's opinions when we need them, but most of us are not very good at withholding opinions when not asked. Learning from experiences and drawing our own opinions/ideas from them is a key part of this life!

So here I am, one month later and still without a car. I am getting around just fine and the bus is not scary. It's been very easy to navigate and even enjoyable, since I can kick back and catch up on my favorite podcasts during the commute. Once the snow comes, this will be even more of a luxury, since I won't be the one navigating traffic (and weather)!

We are saving a ton of money by only having one car, which is coming in handy since we've just moved into our first home and are in the tail-end of a four month remodel. I am very intentional about how much I drive, now, not only because I have to plan trips around the bus or my husband's schedule, but because I realize how many unnecessary trips I used to make throughout the week. This choice has not only saved us on gas and car insurance, but many of those unnecessary trips included shopping for food and items we didn't actually need. I find it easy to get caught in the consumerism trap when you're out and about, bombarded with marketing.

I have been very aware of my stress levels the past month and can truly say they are lower. I amount this to the decreased trips driving in traffic and increased time at home, allowing me to get back into my meditation practice before I begin my day. I can't go without mentioning that when I do ride the bus, I also reach my daily step goals. Moving more and soaking up vitamin D outside, undoubtedly, has helped decrease stress and kept me happier. It's science!

There have been very few times I've actually wished we had an extra car this month. I do have to be more organized with how I plan my work meetings and errands and though this might seem "inconvenient" to some, it is very easily adaptable. The benefits far outweigh any negatives! 

I'm not sure how long our lifestyle will support not having two cars, as I do realize there are many barriers in Spokane, particularly the further you get from city center and the larger family you have. Spokane's public transportation isn't nearly as convenient as those in big cities, but when the weather allows I can supplement the bus by riding my commuter bike (which I have always loved!).

So, though being a one-car family may not serve some, it certainly has been an awesome experience for us this month and I'm excited about all the positives I've gained in such a short amount of time. Those benefits span from saving money to effecting positive change to our environment, which was my original reason for writing "get rid of car" in my goals journal. I know a lot of people are starting to make very intentional changes to their lifestyle since the rise of worldwide climate change movements this past year. It is important to recognize that we will need to make some "inconvenient" choices if we want to make lasting change - but nothing good ever comes easy. We must understand that the benefits of our good choices far outweigh the negatives. You may just start a wave of positive impact within your circle, convincing others to look at their lifestyle choices for the betterment of our climate, bank accounts, and community. 

If you see me on my bike, be sure to honk! Do you or have you ever been car-less/one-car family by choice? We want to hear about your experience!


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