Our One Month Experiment

So over the weekend, as the new month began, my husband and I began our one month experiment of living with only one vehicle. Per our agreement, only one of our two cars can be in use at any given time. The other person needs to walk, bike, or use public transportation to get where he or she needs to go.

I realize that many, many households function just fine with only one–or even no–car. So this may seem like an easy or obvious choice. In Los Angeles, however, everything is very spread out. Everyone I know has their own vehicle. It’s part of living in LA; as my mother-in-law once told me, “Everything seems to be at least an hour away in LA.” It’s true! So it creates an environment where having one’s own care is almost essential to living here. It’s not extremely bike friendly (although it seems to be getting a little better in some cities). The public transportation system certainly has something to be desired here. Simply put, it’s just easier to have your own car. For example, it takes me 35-40 minutes to drive to my seminary if I leave around 6:30am. But if I take public transportation (1 bus ride and 1 train ride), I have to leave at 6:00am and am barely hustling into class by 8:00am. So not having a car available does entail a little sacrifice.

But enough justification for our car-hogging system. Why are Rob and I downsizing for the month?

One of the reasons is solidarity. When I worked as a first grade teacher, I taught at a school where the kids were mostly children of poor families, whose parents worked as gardeners and housekeepers in the richer parts of the neighborhood. Because the families couldn’t afford to live anywhere near the school, they often lived about 2 hours away. They would all go in their one family vehicle each morning, and the kids would go to school while the parents worked in the neighborhood. Then they would all go home together at the end of the work/school day, facing the same 2 hours commute. It was not an easy life for many of them. Other kids would bus in while their parents worked in the opposite direction. Few lived close enough to walk, but some were able to carpool with other families.

I think it’s important to be mindful of people who can’t just get into a car anytime they want to go get whatever they want. I think that delaying that gratification, or requiring some sort of smaller sacrifice (like walking or riding a bike) is an important lesson in recognizing the many sacrifices that the poor have to make around the world to accomplish the same tasks we take for granted because of easy access to transportation.

Another reason has to do with our path toward simplification. This one is easy to explain: one car is simpler than two. One car requires us to coordinate together and make sure we don’t overextend in the activities that are available to us. Plus, it saves money on gas and gives the walker/biker some exercise. If we end up truly downsizing to one car (eventually selling off the other car), we’ll also save on car insurance. Even though we will have to budget for public transportation, we will also save on the cost to the environment.

I’m sure this experiment won’t come without some trials, so I’ll keep you updated on how everything goes. In the meantime, we continue to pray about how to be as mindful and as grateful as possible on a daily basis.

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