Woman walking on road barefoot

The car. One of humankind’s greatest inventions. It has opened up our world, made our lives easier and enabled a new way of life. A way of life that has changed how we live in and interact with this world.

After driving daily for over a decade the automobile had been absorbed into my consciousness. Woven into my framework like a caterpillar adopts wings. An extension of my self, it became second nature to just walk out the door of my house and hop into the car every time I wanted to go somewhere. As a suburbanite in Canada nothing was really close… though the whole meaning of close took on a warped view in the car culture of suburbia. Convenience store, grocery store, pool, library—each were about a ten or fifteen minute walk away, yet they all seemed too far when I had a car. Laziness increased, poundage increased, stress increased.

Now, five years after ditching the car I’m surprised at the reasons I’ve been enjoying no longer having it. Initially I stopped driving because it was detrimental to the planet’s health, I didn’t want the hassles that came with being a car owner: bills, repairs, parking tickets. In addition to freeing myself of all that I realized an unexpected benefit.

I find that going carless has simplified my life in ways that go far beyond no longer having to maintain a car. Most notably, with less places to go my world has become smaller. I can focus on the here and now rather than always thinking about where I could go, what I could do—all just a drive away. My world had been large and that lent itself to a diffusive state: scattered and scrambling to do more stuff, just because I could.

Carless, I now see everything differently. My world is small but potent. Before I would hop in the car to go to a park for a hike. Having moved out of the city and into a village, now I hike from my doorstep to another point and back again having never set foot in a vehicle. I walk almost everywhere I need to go on a daily basis. The landscape has taken on a new meaning. When I absorb everything I have in my vicinity I feel intimately connected to it in a way I had not before. I feel part of that environment.

When I sit in a car, drive and go somewhere totally different the experience of being transported feels so otherworldly that when I get there I feel disconnected. When I walk through nature close to my home I feel a connection to the place that goes beyond it being familiar. I go somewhere and return all by my own feet. It just feels somehow right.

Even being on a road has an unsettling feel to it. I can understand that feeling wildlife has after walking across forested land and arriving at a road. From the soft, spongy forest floor to hard, reflective, pounding footsteps that echo throughout the body. Then seeing the cars whiz by. The speed quickens my pace. Seeing the cars automatically quickens my pace, my pulse. It’s so far from the natural pace a human moves with its own two legs that it’s bound to throw things out of whack on some level.

There’s no denying the car has opened up our worlds and improved our lives in countless ways. The car can even teach us a lesson or two (read GOING SLOW: Lessons from a broken down car). But as with any technology there are limits to how much of it we can bear and when passing a certain threshold technology inevitably worsens our lives simply because it is not natural and we are beings made from nature so we need to connect with nature to connect with ourselves.

What about you? Is the car more of a help or a hindrance in your life?

image: Young woman walking by the highway via Shutterstock