Back to the great experiment that is my green life-in-training. It’s been a while since the last report, but fear not, I HAVE been taking action. About a month ago, I decided that long distance trips across the country were unacceptably increasing my carbon load on the earth. True, I still drove much less than the average American, and I shared a ride every trip across the country that I made. But, when 45% of your emissions are coming from one place… well, that just looks yucky on the pie chart! So I made a commitment. Sell the car…. Done.
What was I thinking? No, really, it’s not that bad. During the daily routine, I only drove a few miles a day anyway, and now that’s a little further free walking exercise to be gotten. No, I don’t mind that at all, especially given LA traffic, which doesn’t quite compete with the intensity of that in my native DC, but certainly makes up for it in volume across great distances. Yes, LA traffic is frustrating, and I am happy to kiss it goodbye. Even though it means making a few adjustments in lifestyle (no more meeting people across town unless you’ve got a GOOD reason for paying bus fare and figuring out a route), it’s a better way to get to know your local community, as you WILL interact more with passersby and merchants.
However, the real test of this commitment is the replacement of my regular car travel plans over long distances. How to get across the Southwest without a car or a monster budget? In a spirit of conservation and adventure, I recently took my first trip… on the Greyhound bus. I must say, it was less stressful than driving, with driving’s relentless watching the road while steering, or not quite trusting other drivers and watching the road anyway. Never a good sleep in a car, unless you’re REALLY zonked. So, back to the Greyhound. It was painless, relatively on time, much more eco-friendly, and I met a few interesting people along the way.
If you’re contemplating taking the bus when you next travel, may I offer a few pointers? Arrive early. Seriously. And when you arrive, ask where your gate is and go ahead and put your bags in line. It seems to be standard practice that you don’t have to remain with them beyond that point. So settle in and watch a movie on the big(ger) screen while you wait. And bring your own food, unless you like two dollar snickers bars in the vending machines and similarly priced sodas. I’m pretty sure that they’ve never heard of the word organic either. Experienced Greyhounders relate that they routinely oversell the buses (remember that tip about putting your bags in line?), so if you want to have any choice about what variety of seatmate you want, better get your spot and hold on tight. It will help you out a lot if you travel light enough to avoid checking baggage. That also removes you from having to open up your bags for people at every stop. When I went hiking last month, the travel compartments above were large enough to accommodate an artfully packed trecking backpack and tent – it’s kind of get-it-as-you-come on available space. After all that, well, sit back and relax! The bus stops at cities along they way, often for long enough to get your standard fast-food fare along the highway, make cell phone calls or whatever else you can fit in a quarter hour. Best of all, if you travel with a friend, one of you can ride for a 50% discount companion fare, reducing costs further.
So far, life without a car has been pretty good. I HAVE missed a few appointments and retooled my day a few times, but all-in-all, it hasn’t required too much more time or thought. And I’ve met several local business owners whose businesses I might not otherwise even have seen whizzing by in a car. If this is to be a long-term arrangement, I think that I’ll get a bicycle again (last one was stolen, another LA hazard!) or maybe even a little moped that can be converted to use less gas. Has anyone else made the jump to sell their car? I’m curious to know how it went/ is going? I salute you for traveling the road to green-dom (literally!) one step at a time.