As implausible as it may seem and especially so to American readers, deciding to get rid of your car and using public transport can not only improve the quality of your life but also add a few more years on to it as well.
Looking at it practically the cost of owning a car in Europe can be prohibitively high, with gasoline prices averaging above $1.40 a litre compared to 0.68¢ in the United States.
Add to this the cost of road tax, insurance, congestion charges and parking fees and you are into the thousands of dollars a year just to have the privilege of owning a car.
Having moved to Spain from the United States the thought of not owning a car and using public transport was abhorrent, as in my mind the only people who travelled by bus were illegal immigrants or men and woman who had their lives ruined thanks to a DUI.
Now living in a city I found myself using my car less and less finally coming to the conclusion that not only could I manage not to have a car but in the long run it would be better for me both physically and mentally.
My change of heart was a gradual process starting with me being reluctant to give up a prime parking spot once I had found one, preferring to walk to the supermarket and buy what I could carry rather than just throw everything into the back of the car as I had done for years.
It did not take me long to realize why all the locals had shopping trolleys to transport the food from the shops to home and so once I got over the stigma of how foolish I thought I would look pushing what I had assumed was an old person shopping cart I broke down and bought one for myself.
The next step in my progression away from owning a car was to master the city bus lines, a job that proved much easier than I had assumed it would be. Each bus stop has a map of the bus lines that serve that particular stop, with coloured routes similar to that of the London Underground and just like the Tube, there was a digital display letting you know where the bus was and its expected arrival time.
The big test, however, was seeing whether or not I could get to the airport and back by using public transport. Needing to fly to Miami I bought a ticket on Portuguese national carrier TAP Portugal for a flight from Valencia to Lisbon and then on to Miami. In the end, everything worked like clockwork with me taking a bus for the hours’ drive to Valencia, getting off in the city centre and hopping on the Metro that took me directly to the airport.
On the return journey, everything went as smooth as the first leading me to the conclusion that I not only no longer need to have a car but that the savings of not owning a car could be better spent on other things.
In conclusion not owning a car makes me get more exercise and has led me to be more open in the company of strangers even going so far as to make some new friends I would never have met had I been locked in the bubble of my own personal space.