... Going Car-less In October 2009 I gave up my car to go car-less. There were a variety of reasons; financial, environmental, health, etc (all can be found here). It has been 17 months now, and how has it gone?
Let's start with the Bad.
I haven't been hill-walking anywhere (if at all) since I sold the car, the opportunity doesn't seem to be there and using the City Car doesn't work out as cost effective for this sort of thing.
The ability to up and go somewhere on a whim is also lacking. I just don't do it any more. No impromptu trips to wherever, just because. No trips to the Cotswolds, to all those odd little appealing places nearby or far away. Just doesn't happen any more.
And the Good.
Money. I have saved an absolute bucketload of cash not having a car. At the time of writing my original post I thought I would be saving £1000 a year with the budget I had put in place for travel, etc. This doesn't include money saved from...
... impromptu unnecessary shopping trips. Or asides whilst on a trip. No longer being able to divert to x means I don't buy stuff unnecessarily, and I am a lot more careful as I now have to carry this stuff, by hand or on the bike.
Trains. I bloody love catching the train. I can read, write, doze, watch the world go by, tweet, eavesdrop, watch films or hide myself away in my tunes. Whatever the problems with the trains, overall the experience is a much more fulfilling, relaxing one than travelling by car.
Fitness. I am much fitter. Every workday I walk a minimum of 3.5 miles, more so when cycling and running into work. Every weekend I walk or cycle wherever I need to go. Being on the bike or on foot has...
... reconnected me to Bristol as a city. Sure, at a smaller scale, but much more intimately. I no longer dash hither and thither, but go at my pace, and the world goes with me, rather than being left behind.
Environmental. I don't pollute anywhere near as much. Everything I do is under my own steam, or is minimised by the use of public transport. A win in many ways.
City Car Club. A boon. Having the occasional use of the local City Cars has been bloody useful. And whilst the per use cost is higher, the year by year cost of using CCC against owning a car works out to be massively cheaper. I only use it once or twice a month, for big shops or to do specific things which I cannot easily achieve without a car. A good compromise.
Happiness. I am happier. I am much more relaxed than I used to be. The train and walk to work keeps me fit and entertained, and allows me to ease into the day. I often walk in and chat with D. I run or cycle in. I read whilst I walk. I don't have the stresses of traffic, of fighting my way to work through the masses, of contending with rising fuel bills. I am, generally, happier.
This last year of running has been a revelation. I ran a half-marathon in October (or as near as dammit), then the distance in November. Injury struck and put me back, yet I am running again. I have the Forest of Dean half-marathon in 8 days time and the Loch Ness marathon in 7 months. Not to mention the Bristol 10k in May.
I love running. I love the self-reliance, of the mind and of the body. I love the freedom and the challenge and the growing awareness of the body that comes with it. I love running by myself, or with friends. I love one step in front of another, non-stop, running all the way.
Somehow, over the last 12 months, I became a runner. And that stuns and delights me.
It is getting there. I am, slowly and surely, and in no little part due to friends in the Watershed Writers Block, getting there. I am enjoying what I am writing, even if, at times, it is of questionable quality.
I have discovered that writing in isolation is necessary, but not in a vacuum. Writing in the midst of a bunch of talented people who are supportive, critical, inventive, peculiar and downright lovely makes it easier, makes me braver and more creative.
This year has been about writing for people as much as for myself, and that has been energising, terrifying and fun.
I have learnt a lot about myself this last year or so, not all of it pleasant or gratifying. I am, as ever, a work in progress.
It is always difficult to know if you are doing the right things, at the right times, for the right reasons. Some things you just have to go with, and see how they turn out. Some times you need to cut your losses and bail out. Some times you won't have a clue, but need to make a choice.
Having gone through a prolific period I have definitely hit a fallow one. Sorry. As numerous people have advised, there's no point forcing it if it feels like a chore. So I won't. Things will appear here as and when. Hopefully this period will pass.
I have been in Bristol 15 years now, and in this house more than seven. I love Bristol, I love it's space and smallness. I like that it is cosmopolitan and friendly and accessible. But I am beginning to tire of it. I have been for some time.
When I was much younger we moved about a lot, all over the world. When we moved back the Britain the first year was spent travelling the length and breadth of it, exploring everywhere, before settling near Portsmouth. Many years later I moved with my job, looking to spend a couple of years here in Bristol before moving onwards. Somehow, though, I stayed, and in doing so managed to clock up the longest period of time spent in one location.
So, at some point, in the near future, later this year or early in the next, I will very probably move to London. It will mean adjusting, finding a new job and home, sorting out many of the commitments here, stretching and maybe changing some of the relationships and friendships I have. It will mean a new start, in a new place, but with cherished ties back to Bristol and the many wonderful people I know, respect and love who will still call this city home. It will mean sadness and excitement and trepidation. It will mean new experiences, new friends, old friendships, a different ordering of things, new constraints and new opportunities. It will mean a lot of hard work to make sure some things remain the same, and others don't. It will need a lot of working out, of planning, of jumping when the time is right.
In the words of the Littlest Hobo, there's a world that's waiting to unfold, and a brand new tale that no one has ever told...
Time to go and tell it, I think.