I’ve been using my car less and less recently, and I love it.

I didn’t fill up my at all car in January and I still haven’t so far in February. I have driven it zero times this month and can only see myself doing so twice (once on Valentine’s Day to go see the Banff Mountain Film Festival and once later in the month to help a friend move).

There are a handful reasons for this:

  1. I’ve been working a lot so I haven’t been climbing or traveling.
  2. I live a few hundred feet from a grocery store and a Subway. Walking there takes care of all of my food needs.
  3. I can walk to downtown in 20 minutes (where there’s a bank, etc.) and to mountain trailheads in 20-30 minutes.
  4. I have Amazon Prime, which lets me order pretty much anything from Amazon and get free 2-day shipping or next-day shipping for $3.99.
  5. I’ve been waking up earlier, which gives me more time in the day. Since I can only spend so much time in front of my computer, I don’t feel bad about spending an hour or two walking.

The walking has also let me explore my immediate surroundings more. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Salt Lake city cemetery (I love cemeteries), which is just down the street. I’ve discovered all sorts of beautiful houses and old buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods. And I’m on a quest to find the spot with the best view of the Salt Lake Valley and the mountains.

My daily walks have come to be my favorite part of my days. It’s when I can just think without anything else vying for my immediate attention. I can listen to great audiobooks and podcasts, which I’d otherwise say I “don’t have time for.”

I just read an article on the New York Times called What Is Car Culture Doing to Our Children?, and thought this line was great:

When there is nearly nothing within walking distance to interest a young person and it is near-lethal to bicycle, he or she must relinquish autonomy — a capacity every creature must develop just as much as strength and endurance.

I think this applies to those of us who can drive, too. As odd as it sounds, I feel like my car in some ways inhibits my autonomy. It’s a drug that, though it might boost my performance, I have come to rely a little too heavily on. It’s an insulating, dulling layer between me and what’s going on around me. It makes things too easy in a world where the goal is increasingly (and sadly) to make life easier, not richer.

I will never give up my car because I love going on road trips and climbing/mountaineering excursions. I love the freedom that my car represents. But I also love not sitting in traffic and not pouring money into my gas tank. I’ll definitely drive more when I’m tired of working, when the weather warms up, and when the pot of my wanderlust comes to a boil.

Until then, there are more corners of the cemetery to explore and plenty of trailheads to walk to.