Friday, July 6, 2012

A Car-free Life

Having lived in Boston for the better part of my adult life, I got used to not driving.  With the hassles of limited parking, worrying about which day was street cleaning, the enormous task of shoveling your car out after a blizzard, and countless parking tickets, being car-free was easy.  It helped that Boston has great mass transit and is pedestrian-friendly.
When I moved to Los Angeles, I knew my car-free days were over.  Although most of my days were spent in a car, I walked as often as I could, often times confronted by the bewilderment of friends who would ask, “You walked here?  Why?”   For me, it wasn’t about the environmental, physical or health benefits.  I simply enjoyed walking!  Actually, come to think of it, I think I just dislike driving more.
Especially in a large city, walking allows you to get know your neighborhood.  Walking forces you to stay close to home and use the resources around you.  You shop locally, support local store owners and meet people in your community.   You become more intimately aware of your neighborhood; and, if you’re lucky, you may even discover a hidden treasure you would never find driving past in your car.  Eventually, the large city, doesn’t feel so overwhelming anymore.
My husband and I have fond memories of when our son, Braden started walking.  Our early evening walks could take hours just to get to the end of the street (I did mention I didn’t walk for the physical benefits, right?)  Eventually we’d make it to the corner and finally around the block before it was time to head home.  Our son, now 4 is a walker.  He enjoys walking around the neighborhood, to the park and especially to Starbucks.   He resists the car and will ask if we can walk instead. 
When my husband and I considered moving from Los Angeles to Seoul, Korea, one of my first thoughts was, “I won’t have to drive anymore!”   The thought of giving up my car made me feel giddy.
Seoul, like Boston, is accessible.  The subway system is easy to navigate and quite sophisticated.  You can live in Seoul your entire life without needing a car.  Braden and I have had the opportunity to explore Seoul in ways that many Seoulites haven’t.   Perhaps it’s the adventurous side of us, our desire to explore and see new things, but there have been countless times we simply look at a subway map and point to where we want to go; and that’s where we end up for the day.
We’ve also gotten to know many of the local shop owners in our neighborhood.  Being one of the few foreigners, helps, but it’s nice when you’re walking down the street and a shop owner stops to wave hello as you pass by.
I won’t say we’ll never have a car again, but for now, we’re enjoying a car-free life.