It’s been a year since I moved from New York to California without a car, and for the most part things have been peachy. When I’m by myself, I rely 99% on my electric bike. The remaining 1% is monopolized by Uber, Lyft* or a quick car rental from the local airport. This type of semi car-less lifestyle has saved me hundreds each month on gas, auto insurance, maintenance and depreciation. And that’s in addition to the thousands I’d have to pay for a car itself and any (God forbid) interest payments from financing.
Some pros and cons.
Of course, this lifestyle hasn’t been completely devoid of challenges. For one, the psychological barrier of having to call an Uber makes it harder to visit someone who lives just one town away. But once I get over that barrier, I feel much more free. For example, I never have to worry about navigating through traffic, parking or even locking my car door when I get out.
Moreover, not having a car has created a feeling of intimacy and attachment to my local community. I remember the old days in high school when my friends and I would always drive further and further because we got sick of our old hangout spots. We never bothered to discover new places close to home and instead opted to burn more gas. Now in my thirties I’m discovering new things to do around the block every week. And when I do get sick of some things I come back to others that I haven’t done in awhile, like swimming in the junior Olympic size heated pool in my complex, paddle boarding in the nearby bay or reading a book at the mall. None of these activities require a car thanks to my well-situated apartment.
And when it all comes down to it, why would I get a car when I can rent one for as low as $14 a day? That’s right, the other day I had to make a spontaneous trip to another city so I booked a rental that morning and took off right after work. I returned it the very next day with no extra charges.
But there are still nay-sayers.
Time and time again I’m asked how I’m able to live in Southern California without a car.
“Dude you have to have a car if you want to hit up the trendy places.”
I can catch a ride to a trendy place every now and then. I don’t need a car unless I want to go everyday.
“Don’t you want to visit Los Angeles frequently?”
No thank you. I’ll visit LA when I have a reason to, like visiting close friends and family or checking out a nice museum. But I’m definitely not going often. The traffic is horrible.
“How do you do all your shopping on your bike?”
Surprisingly, I get this question again and again from the same people. Well the answer is, I don’t. I borrow my girlfriend’s car when she visits.
I’m not going to lie. If I grew up in Southern California, I probably couldn’t survive without a car. I’d have preconceptions of acceptable places to eat and hang out based on the influences of those around me, even if those places are far away. But since I moved here as an adult, I’m able to appreciate my neighborhood and my own backyard. After all, you don’t get to see outdoor heated pools, hot tubs or palm trees in New York. 🙂