Three years after my epic solo drive across the US (do it!), and more epic years battling parking tickets in Downtown LA, my fearless friend Maxine the Mazda, died at my warehouse tucked deep in the fabric district of los Angeles. And so began my journey, a conscious transformation to become reliant on my own two legs. Piles of details have led up to this point.
Living in LA, you get a concentrated dose of car ego. Everyone has a car or three and they are BIG! The highways that encircle the city are wide and packed at all hours, all days, and picking one traffic jam over another becomes a pretty standard part of everyday schedule. It takes thirty minutes to arrive to any location,while HOV lanes exist and for the most part stay empty. I had just heard a statistic that there were more cars than humans on the planet, and it blew me away with panic. All I wanted was a city that allowed me to bike, walk, and Pub Tran it everywhere. Even though LA is not that city, I made it so for the last year and half that I lived there. probably one of the hardest places on earth to start this journey, as well as keeping me going for half a decade.
The amount of resources I was using to simply move myself around a normal day in LA was exhausting to my planet and my spirit. Although I knew not having a vehicle might be even more taxing, I had to try it. There had to be another way than being reliant on my gasy wheels. It’s a huge lifestyle change when those personal wheels fall away. For some it might appear paralyzing and a major blow to a must have LA social life. Instead of living on a rim time whim, life became clocked by a new schedule of walking, the schedule of public trans, and others willing to carpool. Letting go of the tight grip to the steering wheel can feel lowly and humbling, and at the same time relieving a space in one’s life to give over to something else. That “something else” was the feeling I was after. What would fill the void?
That year was concentrated in learning about myself and what I was capable of with the power of my moving body. I learned not to move about the city unless absolutely necessary. For some reason with a car in my life I felt like I was obligated to be everywhere doing everything, and if there was nothing to do, I’d stress and drive until I found something. In that first year, this lesson appeared again and again. I’d go to rush out the door and remember that I didn’t have a car. immediately I’d know if the event or errand was really something I wanted to do. It was going to take my physical energy, my logistical dexterity, and commitment to whatever the task, in order to make it worthy of my time. This instantly shifted all my decision making , and I loved it. I was listening to myself first and moving onward rather easily. A task that I’ve never been very good at.
Of course, the cost of maintaining a car was diminished, and freed cash to flow to other avenues. No insurance, no everyday gas station, no maintenance, no parking fees, parking tickets, no car to be broken into, no car to park in a city of four parking spaces per ten people. I must say, even with all these absent, it was a tough transition. I view my freedom as one of my grandest rights, and I had to learn how to feel free without a powerful engine.
My ego probably had the hardest time with the change. People would constantly ask why I didn’t have a car. I took it personally instead of really telling them why, and by the time I was ready to explain, they would be driving on. Swimming through all the ego bruises and self-doubt, I arrived at my answer. I don’t want to add to one of the largest environmental beasts on this planet! I want to learn that I’m self-reliant enough to navigate this world on the two long strong legs I was given.
Something about being a lady in this life has set me on a self path to realize what I’m truly capable of physically and mentally. The challenge of navigating the streets without a four walled box on wheels to protect me was intensely tempting and satisfying.
Thankfully at the beginning fo this journey I was living within close walking distance to my rehearsal/work space and living in a community, so my social life was buzzing around me. I could bike to the subway system, which had slim options, but at that point you’re lucky to have options at all. Getting to auditions on time and other appointments proved a bit stressy, but again it really focused my attention to the bare minimum of IMPORTANT ONLY!
As my life moved forward I tried many modes to avoid having to acquire another car. You wouldn’t believe how reliant we are on those cruise boxes. I rented cars for a time, I was tag-o-long on many occasion, I hitchhiked a couple of times (generally in an emergency situation) and boy, did I walk. March, is more like it. I went through shoes remarkably faster, and my fashion sense changed dramatically. Happy to report in the better direction. I became extremely more efficient in my internal life scope. Just at this point of peaking in this transformation, I began needing to travel longer distances multiple times a week. I was working an hour or so outside the city for part of the week, while needing to be downtown for the other half. A friend offered me ( at the time) a diamond in the rough. A small car that was converted for veggie fuel. If that wasn’t awesome enough I had friends who were collectors of veggie fuel around LA. Still, even though more efficient, I would still be venturing back into the land of the vehicle. I though it necessary in my situation, and took up on the deal. I felt a bit weird and uncomfortable with my decision but convinced myself it was still an ok compromise. After three weeks of it constantly breaking down and plain just not starting, I was easily swayed to let it go and get back on my toes. A test to see if after one year I was still committed to making it work without one. This walking lifestyle eventually moved me to greener pastures where bike lanes, neighborhoods, and adequate public transport became a priority when moving to new cities. Since I tend to be nomadic this happens often. Arriving in Portland, OR was a walkers dream. It’s becoming a city of bikes. By US standards it already is.
So here we are, almost six years later, and the nomadic road now veers East and 3,000 miles across. The day has arrived when I welcome a car back into my keeping. It has been a wild trip, that no car could of taken me. Ending up in the craziest corners of the world and knowing I always will just keep walking, is one of the most amazing feelings to have. Growing up in the US and car culture, it might not seem like a big deal to get a car, but after that 6 year no car excursion it feels so exceptionally appropriate. Ironically I absolutely love to drive, and the open road calls…