My Year Without a Car

It’s coming up on one year without owning an operational car. These are some of my initial reflections on the experiment.

As I am settling into my new identity as a single man living alone for the first time in his entire life, there are certain opportunities that I can take that I have never been able to. 

I rarely run the AC in my house. I can trade the temporary stickiness of the heat for the pleasure of the morning breeze and the sound of songbirds coming in through the wide open bedroom windows. 

I can drink out of the milk jug with the fridge door open and put it back in the door without fear of repercussion.

I can close all the cabinet doors, knowing that when I come back in the kitchen, they will still be closed.

These are small things, but I don’t take them for granted. But there are some very big things that I get to explore, like not owning a car for a year. And I get to learn the lessons that come from taking the risks.

Up to July 2021, I drove a 2010 Kia Soul. I knew the little hamster car was suffering a mechanical ailment that was eventually going to come to fruition and I would be forced to reckon with it. And sure enough, my intuition was right. On a drive to Omaha one afternoon, the engine light came on, the engine stuttered, and I began looking for a place to pull over.

I reflexively shut off the AC and rolled down the windows, and that provided enough relief to the electrical system that I was able to make a U-turn and drive back home without getting stranded on the interstate.

The next day, I limped the car to the mechanic and she gave me the sobering news that it was going to cost more to fix the car than it was worth. I now had a decision to make. Fix it? Scrap it and get a new vehicle? But there was a third option I had been pondering.

It’s a faith option, one that I am now free to explore.

It seems I typically turn to prayer in times of crisis and need. But this wasn’t the case here. I had the means in the bank to fix it or replace it. So what’s the big deal? Why didn’t I do either?

It’s because I want to learn to interact with and trust my Maker when I don’t have to.

My Last Operational CD player

So I decided that day, July 23, 2021, to go about this differently, because I’m in a place to do so.

I made it about faith, not about my need.

I live by the working definition that faith has two requirements. The first is to believe my Creator actually exists, and two, that my Creator will reward my seeking. So in my mind, I don’t have anything to lose in the equation. I have everything to gain.  

And here’s what I’ve netted.

At first it felt like a hassle and a major disruption and I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out. But every morning, I would confer with the Ancient of Days over coffee and discuss my situation. And slowly and surely, I got a different perspective.

If the Ancient of Days knows my name, I can’t say the same of the universe. I began to grow in assurance that I was doing the right thing.

The lights went on in my mind one morning as I was selecting songs for my Current Mood playlist that I assemble and dismantle depending on my disposition.

I don’t own any of these songs, but I have access to them. All of them (except Neil Young.)

I have access instead of ownership. An epiphany for me.

Where else does this apply?

When I needed a car for work, I had access to Enterprise Car Rental, whose office is about an 8 block walk from my house. All the other times, I could ride my bike to the doctor, to the dentist, downtown for lunch.  If it happened to be at night or across town, I could take an Uber.

All that bike riding subtracted a few pounds from my frame and I get more Vitamin D by being out in the sun.

On certain occasions when friends went out of town, I would take them to the airport and they would leave me their vehicle in agreement to come back to pick them up when they returned.  I think I only had to ask once to borrow a car when I was in a pinch.

I’m fortunate to live within walking distance from the grocery store and to the bank. I have so I never need to go to the Post Office. There’s a coffee shop at the end of my street where I go to write and think.  They know me and greet me with, “Here comes Small Dark Roast.”

I had access to all the places I needed to go, without the weight of ownership of a vehicle.

I know I will eventually need to own transportation at some point in the future, but it has been a rich and rewarding interaction with my Maker concerning the matter. I can now evaluate decisions based on asking myself, “Do I need to own this, or do I access to what I need already?”

Included in the reward is catching myself when I start to worry or fret.

Access to Gratitude has increased, as well as new Faith.

Who knows, in a year from now I might be writing another blog post titled, “Two Years Without a Car.

4 Replies to “My Year Without a Car”

  1. Great take on finding value in walking, biking, more sunshine, less fret and hurrying.

  2. Remarkable reframing and faith. I’m sure it brings a new perspective on many levels.

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