Friday, August 5, 2016

Why I Live Without a Car

I've lived three years now without a car. This may not seem like a lot of time to some people, who are not at all car-dependent, but it has been a huge lifestyle change for me.

I last owned a car in June 2013. Then I moved from California to Idaho, and left my cars behind because they weren't in good condition and I was trying to start over in so many ways.

I thought I would be moving into a senior citizen apartment building with a bus route running alongside. Well, I got here, and there were delays in getting the apartment. For five days my main transport was either a U-Haul truck, or walking. I walked so much, the soles of my feet felt like they were on fire.

After five days of hotel rooms and restaurant meals, plus moving and storage expenses, my credit cards were maxed out and my bank account was empty. Finally, the night before I was about to be sleeping on the streets, I got the happy news that I could move into that apartment building.

A corner of my living room in my first Idaho apartment served as a tiny art studio.

Right before I moved in the transit agency cut that bus route, so when I got here I found myself without any transportation at all. The apartment is 2+1/2 miles from the nearest bus stop. That bus stop is in front of the public library in the main part of town. I live in an annexed bit of semi-rural countryside far from the city center. The nearest supermarket is 2+1/2 miles away in the other direction, away from town.

Getting to and from the store has been one of the most difficult parts of my life. At first I walked -- many, many times. Later I bought a cruiser bicycle. I'm a senior citizen, and biking for groceries is not the happiest aspect of my life, believe me. But I do it because it beats walking and I really, really don't like having to call people to ask for rides. I don't want to be a burden on the friends I've made in this state.

I have been trying to dig my way out of debt since then but it hasn't been easy because as my debt mounted, my income was severely cut when one of the websites I wrote for suddenly went into deep decline in revenue, and then went out of business entirely. At times I was so destitute I had to use credit to buy groceries.

You might wonder why I don't get foodstamps. Well, it is because getting there would be so very difficult... and really, I earn a passable income, but I have to spend all of it on living expenses and paying off debt. I am really a slave to my creditors. Not a fun situation to be in.

Because of all that debt, I haven't been able to buy another car. I keep getting nice letters from car sellers offering me credit (since so far, I haven't missed any of my payments) but I know if I took on one more loan, it would seriously impair my ability to pay off the debt I already have. It is my desire not to get behind on my payments - so I don't risk it.

Instead I've embraced the carless lifestyle, to an extent. I try to be graceful about it and accepting of my circumstances, but it is hard when I have such deep desires to go exploring and sight-seeing, and when I'm so far from grocery shopping opportunities and the nearest bus stop.

This is my first entry into this blog and I'll continue my observations on the carless lifestyle, another day.