After buying my first car, the first time I was without was college. Freshmen weren’t allowed to have cars on campus, which meant I left mine in NH. Luckily my campus had a lot of fellow New Englanders and rides were easy to get each break.
During the semesters I stayed holed up on campus with studies. The city didn’t have much to offer apart from a few nearby bars. I missed my car.
Looking back, there probably was more to see, but I had somehow been convinced that there wasn’t anything worth visiting, even on my few forays outside. One semester, Karen, a fellow freshman, and I volunteered downtown at the art museum, helping with organizing and paperwork, and packing up visiting exhibitions. We didn’t stop anywhere on the mile-long walk.
We walked past parking lots, a grocery store, a drugstore or two, maybe a few other small chain stores. I avoided looking at the cars we passed. I remember cold and grey and concrete under foot. I just remember feeling exposed without my car.
Campus was less than a mile wide, long, or diagonally. I walked everywhere in all weather, but I walked. It was the first time ever.
The rest of my three years, I took my car with me to college, but only kept it in NY for four months of the school year. It was a better idea to leave it in NH during the winter. We missed each other. But when we were together, I gave rides to freshmen and others during breaks. I discovered shopping and hiking areas a few miles away. And I felt like my world had reopened. I never walked off campus again.
When I moved to Montana for AmeriCorps at 23, it was the first time I consciously decided not to drive everywhere. Maintaining my car was expensive; I was afraid of accidents, and I had to budget. I took an apartment in the downtown area of Livingston across from the library, my bank, and the post office. A few blocks away were the cinema and the coffee shop where my book club met monthly. I walked to work, a bit over a half-mile away. Luckily I could park on the side of the building, so I didn’t pass my car on my way to work. I was afraid of its being jealous, perhaps not working the next time I needed it. But we had plenty of other time together. I had to drive to buy clothes or groceries. I could walk to the doctor’s office, but I had to drive to the hospital. The only way to get to hiking trails or Yellowstone Park, or to my friends’ places a few towns away was to drive. I was so happy.