We’ve been in Austin for a month now, and we’re finding it to be a pretty kick-ass place. We’re enjoying the process of discovering our new city, and we’re transitioning well, overall.
One thing we’ve done is we’ve freed ourselves from the hassles of ownership as much as possible. We don’t own cell phones, property or vehicles. For phones, we use Magic Jacks (we each have our own). We rent an apartment, and we walk and take the bus to get around. Thus, there are no phone bills, mortgage payments or auto-related expenses in our monthly budget. Not having a car is also economically beneficial in that it eliminates the ability to give in to instant gratification impulses… there’s no jumping into a car on a whim to go do stuff or buy stuff we maybe can’t afford. We have to mindfully plan our excursions and make decisions about what’s a). necessary, and/or b). worth our time and money, and what’s not.
At first, the idea of going wheel-free unnerved me somewhat, just a little bit, as I’d been as accustomed as anyone to the independence of mobility inherent in having a vehicle. My last vehicle – in Arizona – was a little red Chevy truck I’d named “McKenna.” I loved her and considered her to be a member of my family (I can be obsessive like that. And, okay, I’ll admit that I have a thing for Chevy trucks). (No, I did not have a decal of Calvin pissing on the Ford logo.)
In reality, it turns out that being wheel-free is anything but a hardship. It’s actually incredibly liberating, and it makes so much sense for us, it’s almost ridiculous. Our new lifestyle is quickly becoming second nature. We love not having to deal with parking and getting gas. Also, not having a car keeps us active… we walk an average of 10 miles per week, just going around doing our errands.
Our biggest surprise source of glee has been the bus. The bus-line we use the most is the 1M, and it’s fantastic. The 1M picks us up right in front of our apartment, and it cuts south through the Austin metro area, taking us almost everywhere we want to go, from N. Lamar to Guadalupe to Congress and beyond. Mainly, we go downtown. The 1M takes us there directly… no transfers!
The advantages of riding the bus are numerous. For one thing, it means that someone else is driving, so we’re free to stare out the window and make nifty discoveries. (For instance, thanks to the 1M, we discovered the Hyde Park neighborhood, which we love.) We don’t have to pay attention to the road. We can talk, daydream and even take a short power nap. All we have to do is be aware of when to pull the stop bell.
We’ve yet to have a bad bus experience (though I’m sure we will at some point… those are the odds). So far, the bus has always been either on time or early. It’s beautifully air-conditioned, meaning that we get to travel in a comfortably chilled environment, rather than in a hot car with cold air blasting onto our faces. We enjoy the diversity on the bus, all the proverbial walks of life we encounter. The mix of people includes students, yuppies, hipsters, housewives and gangsters; both white and blue-collar employees heading to work, everyone from engineers to artists to construction workers to librarians; homeless, disabled – sometimes with helping dogs – parents and teenagers. There are children and elderly. There are loners and lovers. There are groups of friends. Shades of skin represent the full spectrum of the human rainbow, and it’s beautiful. There are hundreds of stories on a bus at any given time, and with my penchant for people-watching, I love to image what some of those stories might be. A bus ticket scores you free entertainment, too, because human beings can be pretty funny creatures.
The first time we rode the bus, we were sitting there talking when an old guy got on, loudly singing a Mac Davis song:
“Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble/When you’re perfect in every way…”
He walked down the aisle past us, continuing to sing.
“I can’t wait to look in the mirror…”
Then he doubled back and stuck his face in front of Callaghan’s to sing him the final line:
“Cause I get better lookin’ each day!”
Which caused us all to crack up. See? How often do you get to burst out in spontaneous laughter while driving? Instead of cursing out traffic conditions and other peoples’ stupid driving behaviors, we’re being comically serenaded by a happy crazy person. Awesome!
Here, check out the view from our favorite bus:
Making a conscious decision to not own a car is the best thing we’ve done, and we’re lucky that we have this option – I know that not everyone does. We, too, might need to get a car one day, for whatever reason, though we sincerely hope that doesn’t happen. So we’re going to enjoy this freedom for as long as we can. It’s just a pleasure to get around without speeding mindlessly through our day. We can see what’s around us when we walk and ride the bus. Plus, we’re no longer contributing to the pollution problem by adding an engine of our own to the mix. If we ever do want or need a car for a few hours, we can rent one, or use Zip Car or Car 2 Go (we see Car 2 Go Smart cars all over Austin). Win!