One Less Car.

I must be honest in writing this post, as this one car thing truly is an experiment for us. I began to write about our transportation downsizing about 20 days ago, but I couldn’t get the nerve to finish writing and post it here, mostly because I’m not sure how long we will continue on this path. But, as of now, we are the proud owners of just one car – our 2007 Honda Pilot. Again, this is a trial of sorts for our family of five with school, soccer, client meetings, errands, doctor’s appointments, golf games, and all the transporting that goes into our normal lives. Especially of interest is that we are doing this not while living in San Francisco or even the East Bay where BART and MUNI are easily accessible, but in Sonoma County, where the primary transportation is personal vehicles. Don’t get me wrong – we love where we live, but Sonoma County is a bit behind in the public transportation realm (though we hope to be catching up to our Bay Area brethren soon with the SMART train due to arrive in late 2016). That said, we didn’t go down this road to rely on public transportation, so it’s kind of a moot point for now. Most of what we need is within a few miles of our home and I’m easily able to bike to many of the regular stops around town, with the glaring exception of the boys school. And this is why we’re calling this an experiment.

Our sons' school in it's lovely pastoral setting.

Our sons’ school in it’s lovely pastoral setting.

We love the boys school and community so much – I mean, just look at that beautiful rural setting! The school itself is just 4 miles from our home, so commuting via our Yuba Mundo would be feasible if the roads weren’t so dangerous. You see, the main roads that lead to the school are all high speed limit, quasi-rural roads without a shoulder. Even if we took the longer route, which is partially along a rural highway, the back country roads are just not safe for this mama bird and her 3 little fledglings. And that’s where our conundrum comes in. We’ve been sharing our one car for just about a month now and we’re mostly fine, but we do have to borrow a car from one of our parents on a regular basis. This is the point where I am questioning if we can keep this up. If we’re regularly borrowing someone else’s car doesn’t that mean that we need another car? I honestly don’t know. I dove head first into this experiment with high confidence and now that’s shaken a bit. A simple daily trip to pick up the boys from school now requires more thought, pre-planning and rearranging of schedules. And that’s okay.  More than okay, really, that’s what I set out to do – think more about our daily decisions. But in this capacity it’s becoming pretty tiring, even for a thinker like me.

Our one and only car (for now).

Our one and only car (for now).

So, why, might you ask, are we a one car family anyway? Good question, thank you for asking. This is a multi faceted answer, but in a nutshell this all comes down to environmental issues, smart purchasing and minimalism. In a broad sense, I believe that we, as Americans, are heavily reliant on personal vehicles. It’s not even our fault, as it’s such an integral part of our culture that only when you lose access to a personal vehicle will you begin to understand how deep our relationship is with the automobile. Certainly we all equate our cars to freedom, even if it’s on a subconscious level. And I have definitely seen some of that freedom taken away during this past month of one car-ness. That loss of freedom has actually been enlightening in many ways, and annoying in others. Take for example, last Wednesday, when Neils took the car to work in Petaluma. I also needed to be in Petaluma for back to back work meetings starting at noon. I really wasn’t feeling like riding my bike in that day, but I also needed to do some catch up work at home that morning, so I opted not to ride to Petaluma with Neils. So, around 10 am, I mounted my trusty Yuba Mundo armed with my work bag, huge water bottle and my hot coffee in my newly minted cup holder. I was in a bit of a grumpy mood when I started my way toward Petaluma, but then something happened that always does once I start riding – I began to smile. Smiling for no reason other than I was happy to be outside, active and going somewhere. I made the 10 mile ride in a little under an hour with a couple of stops along the way and felt great once I arrived at IPG HQ {albeit sweaty – it was climbing into the 90s that day} . And also happy that I didn’t have to ride back, as Neils was going to make the return ride home later that afternoon while I used the car to pick up the boys. And this is just the type of day that pushes me along on this one car path. I absolutely loved the feeling of accomplishing many tasks at once while riding to work via bike. Not only did I get my daily dose of exercise, but also saved the air from additional emissions and the best part of all – I was outside in nature for a good hour of my day! Being outside is soul quenching and I can really feel my mood trending toward the negative if I go several days without a hike, bike ride or some sort of outdoor activity.

My new cup holder!

My new cup holder!

For all these positive feelings that transpire during my bike commute, there are also philosophical reasons that I feel we only need one car. Like, why do we feel the need to be always on the go? This is a question I’m directly pointing at me, the ultimate on-the-go gal. Why do I need to be constantly running on to my next activity? Ugh. I hate these questions that I ask myself. But, I think it really comes down to a feeling of boredom that I constantly try to avoid. Bored, boring, boredom – all words that I used too much as a child and now do anything to avoid feeling when I don’t know what to “do” with idle time. And this is tough for me. Very tough. But worth exploring why it is indeed so hard to sit still and just be. I also see that in my little protege, Finn. He is so very smart, but he hates to be bored and even as a baby he seemed so unhappy until he could walk and talk. Talk about a mini-me! He is a mover and a shaker with a lot going on in that head of his, but at four years old he’s already uttering the word I used so often as a child: bored. There it is rearing its ugly head again in my life. So, it appears that this boredom thing is here to stay and I just need to figure out how to deal with it. And having one car is really forcing me look at boredom in the face. Will our transportation downsizing help me to overcome this? Not sure, but it sure is helping me be less “on the go”, because I can’t really go very far, at least, without a car.

And I can’t ignore one of the main reasons we are choosing to do without a second car – debt. This is a touchy subject and feels somewhat raw to talk about here, as I was raised to believe that financial matters are to be kept private. But, I think this topic is worth exploring, as debt is so prevalent here in the good ‘ol USA. Now, we don’t have a ton of debt, but we do have a car payment, small balance on a credit card and an annoying student loan still floating around in addition to our lovely mortgage. A main goal for our family is to live more simply and to accomplish that we feel like reducing and {eventually} eliminating ALL of our debt will lead us to simplicity, and ultimately freedom. Freedom not only from debt, but also from a lifestyle that demands a certain paycheck and the time investment in the work that pays that check. Time is so precious while our kids are young and what I want more than anything is freedom to spend that time living life to its fullest and not what we have to do to keep a certain status quo in our societal circle. So, we are on a tract to pay off all of our debts within the next year {the mortgage will take us a little longer} and that’s a big reason we are choosing to do without a second car and subsequent payment at this time. But, in the meantime we are saving to purchase a truck with cash if this whole “one car thing” doesn’t work out. So, in doing without for the interim is teaching us many lessons – in patience and slowing down, and enjoying our lives as they are now. One month from now, you may see a new post entitled One More Car, but don’t fret – we are still on track and holding onto all that we’re learning in this in between time.


One thought on “One Less Car.

  1. Pingback: Inspiration | bikefor4

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