For the past two years I have moved throughout the world on my bike without ever stepping behind the steering wheel. I was never really a big fan of driving. Even as a 16 year old in the car oriented suburbs of my adolescence I was reluctant to practice driving and I took my drivers test late. I actually failed the first time, I was so nervous and totally turned right on red, and of course there was an explicit sign forbidding such behavior. It was an automatic failure. Then a week or so later I came back to the take the driving test again and my learner’s permit was expired. I should’ve taken the hint from the Universe that driving was not for me. Eventually I got a car and assimilated to the driving lifestyle, but it never felt very comfortable. I was always on edge, afraid to go to fast and I totally avoided highways whenever possible.
When I moved out to Seattle in 2009, I had already started biking most everywhere I went. I kept my car around for the occasional road trip or adventure outside of the city. By 2010 the only time I drove my car was to attend my herbalism apprenticeship on Whidbey Island. I didn’t like driving my car there either. And since I only took the car out once a month, the stupid battery died on me all the time. I found that all the healing and restorative work I did harvesting plants on my teacher’s farm was moot when I had to merge on to I-5 south. The itch to sell my car was intensifying.
Soon I felt ready to let the car go, so I sold it to my housemate with permission to use the car if I ever needed it. (I converted my housemate to the bus/bike/walk lifestyle shortly after…) I started researching all these other options, like how to bike all the way to Whidbey and in colder weather how to make the bus/ bike combo work for me. I found an affordable place to stay on the island turning my herbalism studies into a once a month mini-retreat on an island, which cost way less than the car insurance and offered a lot more peace of mind. And so the last time I needed the car was two years ago. I had a class on the Island and show to perform that same evening. It was an uneventful drive. I had no idea that would be my last time time driving. But I am certainly thankful that it was.
There is nothing I miss about having a car. I do not miss car insurance, gas, parking tickets or the ridiculous high cost of fixing up those loud, stinky machines. Now car ownership seems sillier than ever with car sharing services like zip car and car2go all over the city. I actually have a Car2go membership, but have been avoiding using it because I don’t want to break my…”I haven’t driven in years streak.” Yeah, it is a bit of an ego thing at this point. But mostly it is because when push comes to shove, I’d rather pedal up a hill than drive up it.
My time on my bike is precious. I see it as time to connect with my body, my breath and the world that surrounds me. Instead of driving far to seek out “Nature” I realize I am very much the manifestation of nature and to seek it out I only have to open my eyes. I have an eye for the wildness that creeps into our urban life. I love the small weeds resilient enough to grow through small cracks in cement. When I need a dose of adventure I hope on my bike and pedal to a park, to a ferry or to someplace where the trees grow tall. If I need to get far, I throw my bike on the bus and go wherever I need to go.
I think if we all drive a little bit less, we can live a lot more!