From as early as I can remember, I loved the independence that having a vehicle brings. I got my drivers license days after turning 16, and my first car (an old clunker my aunt generously gave me for just the cost of getting it road-worthy) shortly thereafter. For six years I drove my own vehicle, and then Rob and I moved to Korea… without so much as a scooter.
Three years later we moved back to Canada, bought a minivan for just over $1,000, took the rear seats out, loaded it within an inch of the pavement, and drove precariously across the country to Edmonton. A year and a half later in January 2012 we sold it for $700 and drove a U-Haul to back to Ottawa. We’ve been living without a car ever since.
At first it was because we were unemployed. Cars are a luxury, after all, and although my parents selflessly let us bunk with them until we got on our feet, a car was out of the question. Then we bought our house, and — let’s face it — there was no money left over. Since I work downtown, we bought intentionally close to public transit. Bus passes became the norm.
Fast forward three years.
I’m often asked how I live in Ottawa without a car. I imagine it’s the same as living anywhere without a car: you adjust. There are things you just can’t do. You can’t go hang out with a friend across town on a whim because it takes over an hour to get there… 1.5h if it’s a weekend. Oh, you could do it, but to be brutally honest, sometimes it’s just not worth the effort.
You change your shopping habits. You get groceries a few times a week instead of once a week. You only pick up what you can carry. You rock a granny cart when you get too busy to go a few times a week. You buy only what you actually need. You learn to precariously ride a bike with 15 lbs of groceries on each handle bar.
In that way, we saved not just on insurance, maintenance, and fuel. We saved a lot because we couldn’t just go grab some fast food, or pick up that awesome decorative item because it’s on sale. We started throwing flyers right into the recycling. If we couldn’t get to the store, or couldn’t carry anything home, why bother looking? Temptation eliminated.
The tradeoff was that we sacrificed quite a bit of spontaneity. Summers were boring because we couldn’t go anywhere unless we rented (which is crazy expensive during peak times). There was also an overarching feeling of dependence. If we needed to pick up drywall, we had to ask to borrow someone’s car (thank, Kelly and Sam!), if I had a photoshoot, I had to either suck it up and borrow a car or shell out and rent.
Well, no more! Rob and I bought a gorgeous vehicle this week. My dad’s a kijiji master and he found this great SUV for us. After a visit to service Ontario on Saturday morning, it’s officially on the road! Let a summer of spontaneity begin!
Rob wants to remove all the surfing stickers. Personally, I could keep the “No Bad Days” one. Too tacky? Also, yay for a vehicle that matches the house! Totally unintentional ;)