Your Voices is an opportunity for readers of the Principal Voices site to explain their views on one of the key subjects at greater length.
The latest of these is by Linda M. Vaitkus, a 45-year-old technical writer living in Quincy, Massachusetts, U.S.
Here, Vaitkus explains how living in Europe taught her to live without a car and -- eventually -- to love public transport
"In March of 1992 I married a fledgling Dutch photographer, sold everything, including my car, and moved to Paris. Europe's gas prices were then twice as expensive as back home, and our joint earnings were not enough for a car. Learning to use the Paris metro was survival.
First I took baby steps. My initial commute was easy: from home to my language classes. Even so, I suffered claustrophobia underground, anxious how others stood so close.
It took time to trust, get my bearings, and relax. Once or twice I was so severely disoriented upon surfacing to daylight, I had to phone home so my mate could 'talk me down!'
I learned to interpret the metro maps and visualize my connections in advance of my trip, and eventually mastered the most complex journeys to the edge of Paris and beyond.
What did I learn? Acceptance, planning, slowing down and going with the flow. This is key, and trusting others. Americans can benefit from this attitude.
My most recent decision to live without a car was not an easy choice for me. I am no different from most 'green' Americans, accustomed to my impulsive mobility, easing the ills of high-priced gasoline by driving an economical vehicle. This is no longer enough.
When I moved to Newport Beach in California, along the Pacific Coast Highway, I learned to use the most beautiful bike path network I have ever seen. I saved nearly $1,000 dollars a month, got into great shape, and maintained a healthy suntan, learning also to take my bike on the train and the bus.
So then, when an opportunity to move to Boston arose it was easy to make up my mind with the superlative subway system here.
What has living without a car taught me?
Firstly, American urban planners could study European human-scale living. This is the opposite concept of the automobile-scaled prevalent business park scenario common throughout the US.
Imagine only needing to walk a block from home to find unique and economical shops. Spontaneously meeting your neighbors at a local cafe or bistro.
Not having a car makes it mandatory to shop in my neighborhood. I am limited to what I can carry. That means less leftovers, less trash, and more going out to eat! This seems a psychologically healthier lifestyle. The TV gets dusty and I get my exercise walking to the local bistros, art galleries, and shops.
What do you think?
That's it! I believe that we can go beyond this issue, working hard and fighting against our current lifestyles to live better, healthier and longer lives. If everyone was to do the same, imagine the world that we could live for. However we have to think that companies (principally those like the automobile industry) could disappear and their jobs with them. Could we learn to live a primitive life again and what about all the jobs that would be lost?
Great, I totally agree, and Boston is a great walking city. I enjoyed the seven years I spent living there.
Going out to eat more often seems like a downside to me. The food is less healthy, for one.
Hi Linda, it was a pleasure to read your experience and the result it had in changing parts of your life. Many can't afford to live without a car -- that;s OK, but what we all can, is to use this technical evolution in a more appropriated way, and this attitude should not stop at the rear bumper of the automobile. Our whole system is based on wasting, some call it consumption. Less can be much more!
This sort of lifestyle is one that I've also come to enjoy through growing up in an environment that breeds seeing public transport as a boon. My brief stint in St. Louis taught me that the business park mentality truly is the wrong approach to urban life in the 21st century.
Hi, Linda! My name is Connie Stout, and I am long-time friend of your brother, Al. I am delighted to meet someone in his family, and especially one who is articulate and talented. Best wishes.
I say she is right, and that is all I got to say.
I especially related to your comment about going with the flow and how that can benefit many in this country who are so dependant on car commuting, including myself. I think that our need for instant gratification is of key source to addressing the larger problem of why it is so crucial to now do something about and for the environment.
I spent three months in London and went through the same love affair. Agreed, the public transport here in the States is inexcusably immature.
Nice to read, good for the environment.
I agree! The article was well thought out, informative and reflective of the author's experiences in multiple locations - however, I do not think this approach will work here in North Texas. At least, not any time soon. It's over 40 miles each way from home to office for me.
The article was good, informitive and I think Orange County, California should have a metro or trolly system, this would ease pollution traffic, etc.
Had the same experience living in Japan. Liked the article!
Wonderful! That describes exactly how I felt last year when I got to explore downtown Boston. Living in Southern California means living in your car on a freeway, stressed and most of the time by yourself.
In Boston I also found going with the flow, slowing down and meeting new people made my visit so much nicer. I found the public tranportation in Boston to be amazingly reliable and thorough. I felt free to go anywhere. We could certainly use more of that here.
Thanks Linda for putting putting those thoughts into words.