5 Benefits Of Going Car-less

Or lessons in shedding my ego.

Accepting change, and BIG change at that. Where is the instruction manual for embarking on unknown waters in order to pursue a dream, a tantalizing vision that calls to the heart and that speaks of freedom, passion and joy?

For me, I plan to embark on a new life in Belize. I have spent the last 6 months letting go life as I know it- cush job, comfy home, paid in full car — and now explore the unsettling feeling of being uprooted. Unsettling, and also exciting. My ETA-to leave? 2 months from now I plan to live in Belize — and once there, the adventures continue in terms of exploring a new life, of travel, fun, writing, and soul exploration.

For now, I am smack dab in the middle of transition, and there is one area of personal growth that has been surprising in how unnerving, and different, life is without a car in a car-based society. I sold my car in December, and have been exploring navigating life without a car. Here are some surprising benefits:

  1. More exercise — I take the time to scout out my route, and then find that I take more steps daily- easily! Walking to the bus stop or just taking a walk in the fresh air for a change of pace, I find I am easily at least doubling my number of steps daily.

2. Health — As I walk more and take time to move during the day, I find I am a bit less hungry. Also, when I go to the store, I usually buy only what I can easily carry in a bag or two, hence minimizing my need for non-essentials. I don’t stock up my home with as many treats, and hence find myself fitting into my jeans more easily. A great bonus!

3. Connection with community — From the comfort of my car, I often only saw other car going commuters. Now, as I use the bus and alternate modes of transportation, I find I have a deeper appreciation for the variety of experiences and resources enjoyed by others in my midst. For example, I live close to a School for the Blind and the other day I passed by a person sitting toward the front of the bus “reading” a braille book accompanied by his service dog. My level of compassion immediately increased. This is a simple reminder of how many blessings I have that I forget to count.

4. Asking for help — I am getting better at asking for help, for example asking for a ride if I need one, especially if I wouldn’t be able to get to that location otherwise. I can be vulnerable, clear and open- and negotiate for what I need from a place of knowing I can have what I want. This is in stark difference to how easy it was with a car to just jump out and get what I needed when I needed it. I have the opportunity to slow down and get clear, and then if appropriate, ask for help.

One friend offered to take me grocery shopping with her recently. The pleasure of being able to share the morning exploring stores, and having company doing so, and having the ability to purchase what I needed, and not have to rely solely on myself to do this is a gift, and one that I didn’t need when being completely self-reliant.

5. Let go of my ego — After 20+ years of having a car, I am relearning new ways to navigate life. My identity is not tied up with the perks of my life, much as my ego would tell me otherwise. Has my self concept changed because the exteriors of my life are in flux?

For me, this letting go of the usual way of business — where everyone else seems to be going about their business as usual, and I am embarking on a new way of being — is really unsettling. I don’t have a specific job to get to, as I can do my work from home or the coffee shop, and so there is no great need for me to get anywhere specifically. Not that I don’t want to get places, but it’s more that I may not need to get to everywhere I want to right at this moment.

This journey of going car-less has in fact been a learning in letting go of ego pride and seeking a deeper understanding into my own nature.

So, what about challenges? I often get less done as I need to think through what I want to accomplish, and factor in commuting and wait times.

I also need to be more aware of safety when I choose to go places. In a car, this is less of a consideration, however when using a car sharing service such as Car2Go, I need to ask myself — do I want to walk ½ mile in an area that is unfamiliar in order to get to the car? If the area feels unsafe, I will probably say no to this.

The most challenging aspect for me relates to belonging. My exploration of living without a car and having a limited range to be able to travel to (mostly in the downtown area due to car sharing and bus route range) I find I need to really look at the community that I live in and make sure that I am connecting with the larger community in a way that supports my sense of belonging.

In urban cities where people commute to and from the suburbs, there is often a great distance between friends and there is a need to have a car just to have a chance to see the people you want to connect with. Additionally, people often have super busy lifestyles so that it takes planning to really connect in a meaningful way.

And so this issue of connecting with people briefly leaves larger social networks are less fully developed. That said, as I consider the biggest challenge of this experiment, I find that making sure to connect with friends in fulfilling ways is crucial.

I think perhaps in our hyper-connected virtual communities that there are times when the slower connections of showing up, eating together with friends over a home cooked meal and laughing slowly — having the time and space to connect with those around us — is an aspect of life to explore in my new life

For now, wish me luck in exploring a new way of being, and in preparing for a new way of life. I allow my ego to shed as I accept my growth in navigating the unknown and taking life at a slower pace. I believe these skills will pay off with big dividends as I step courageously, one step in front of the next, into the life of my dreams.

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