Is Life Without a Car Harder or Easier?

Posted by on Apr 23, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

Marbella, Spain

When I don’t have a car, my life gets easier and harder all at the same time.

Let me explain. I’ve been returning to Europe for thirteen years. Furthermore, I’ve rarely stayed for less than two months and sometimes for as long as eight. In all those years, I’ve only rented a car for a total of six days, three days each on different occasions. Both times were in Ireland. And, yeah, it was fun to get off the beaten track on my own schedule, pull over to spontaneously explore whenever I wanted and carry a few extra items with me while I enjoyed the radio or my own thoughts without strangers sitting across the aisle.

But there’s another side to the story and it goes like this:

Not having a car forces me into a lifestyle that I’m convinced by now keeps me healthier. I walk. I walk to the store, the dentist, the post office, the local pub, the beach and the nearest bus stop. I even walk just for fun. Because I’ve kept an apartment in Spain for the last five years, I’ve find myself in a culture that spends an enormous amount of time outdoors. The weather encourages it. Furthermore, houses tend to be smaller and no one has a back yard, so the city streets and the paseo on the beach, the tiny parks and the outdoor cafes are where everyone can be found. Everyone walks. Old and young alike are walking every day.

Old city center of Marbella

Without a car, I average five miles of walking a day.

On a really adventurous day, I walk closer to seven. And, I feel great. Back in the states, it seems my good intentions to walk are often overridden by how easy it is to just jump into my trusty vehicle. Even when I do walk, I have to schedule it into my day like another chore. Soon, it does become a chore in my mind. And, eventually, my five miles of walking dwindles and dwindles.

Edinburgh off the Royal Mile

Of course there are loads of other reasons why living car-less makes life easier, but the walking benefits take first place on the list. Still, saving a ton of money, not having to deal with driving in traffic, never searching for a parking place and leaving the driving to someone else while I look out the window at the passing scenery are all additional pluses.

The downside?

My life is harder without a car because getting to and from places using public transport is never as convenient as just hopping into my own car. I have to plan ahead, check schedules and buy tickets. There’s a good bit of standing in line or waiting around for the next bus or train. People can be annoying, especially for an introvert like myself. Often, I end up with someone sitting behind me who coughs or sneezes and I’m immediately repulsed.

I thoroughly understand why Americans have become so attached to their cars. It’s a kind of luxury that is addictive.

Yet, whenever I’m back stateside, I miss the days abroad when I didn’t have a car. I resent every time I pull up to the gas pump. I hate having to pay my car insurance twice a year. When the tires need replacing, it’s a drag. The car needs to be vacuumed or washed and the mileage count tells me that someday in the not so distant future, I’m going to need to buy a new car.

All of the above are good reasons why having a car makes my life hard, but the fact that walking becomes a chore occupies the number one spot on the list of hardships.  I like feeling better. I like sunshine and cool breezes on my skin. I like the way I sleep at night. And, I miss the carefree days when my own legs were my chief means of getting from one place to another.

I’m a firm believer that you can’t have it all in life, no matter what they’ve been telling us.

You gain something and you lose something. So, splitting my year between two cultures is as close as I’ve come to having it all for part of the time. That’s my plan and I’m sticking to it.Last week I walked just shy of forty-five miles. At the end of this week, I return stateside after nine weeks abroad.

I swear, I’ll never be sedentary again. A girl can hope. Right?

Happy trails …

Other posts by Teresa that you might enjoy:

Can Travel Be a Therapeutic Journey? 










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