With the turn of a new year, I decided that I wanted to make bigger strides toward sustainability. For this new year I pledged that I would try something new each week of the month of January. Follow me as I write and record my experiences every week on our new miniseries challenge. I will post my sustainable experiences every Wednesday here on Enji’s blog and small videos on our social media. This week to help me lower my carbon footprint on the Earth and to show our dependence on cars I decided not to drive.
“No Drive Week” was inspired by my friend who has a 45-minute commute to his job every work week. He does this out of necessity and grew to hate driving in those conditions. Any day that he is not mandated to drive he proudly says he is having a “No Drive Day” and avoids getting behind a steering wheel. This inspired me take his dislike toward driving and shift it toward a sustainable action.
The rules were simple, avoid getting behind the wheel under normal conditions. I choose these parameters to help keep me disciplined, but to also allow flexibility if emergencies arise. The only exception to this rule is that I can move my car to avoid any city issued citations. San Diego’s official website states “In the City of San Diego, it is illegal to leave an operable or inoperable vehicle parked for more than 72 consecutive hours without being driven at least 1/10th of a mile on a public street” hence the reason for the rule exception. Other than these rules I can take any mode of transportation that is shared (carpool, rideshare, bus) or single rider transportation that runs on man power (bike, scooter, skateboard).
My overall experience with No Drive Week was challenging, but not impossibly difficult. As part of the Enji marketing team, I mostly work from home, so the emphasis to drive is not as important as those who commute.
Day one was a bit of a fluster. I did not properly prepare for the week and I had forgotten that I need to drive to the pharmacy to obtain some medication. Luckily, I had kept an old scooter around from my former years, before driving. It took a couple of laps around my yard before I could ride it without falling. It seemed simple but, I never realized how small and fragile scooters were. Since the pharmacy was only 5 blocks away I considered walking, but ultimately decided I should just ride my scooter. How bad could it be?
I was wrong. My entire left leg burned after I came back. It felt a little uncomfortable at first and it was only on my left leg which supported my entire weight. But the next morning both of my legs were on fire, with my knees feeling the full extent of the previous day. I required rest and took full advantage of my roommate who would deliver me food for a bite to eat. My roommate works 6 blocks from the house, and doesn’t own a car, so I technically was still lowering my carbon footprint.
Day three was a little less painful, but not entirely pain free. I had to move my car that day and I felt very anxious and doubted my ability to drive. I felt unsure if I knew how to drive, and became paranoid that someone had moved the driver seat. It felt weird getting behind a two-ton machine after three days of not using it.
Day three was also the day I had to buy groceries. I invited my friend over for dinner with the excuse that I would cook, if she drove me to the grocery store. She agreed and we both enjoyed some very lovely cauliflower wings. I got my groceries, she got a free meal, and we both got to catch up and sat and talked about our lives for hours.
Day four was where my challenge really began. At approximately 9:15 am my friends decided to leave town in pursuit of a magnificent slice of apple pie and buffalo burgers in the town of Julian, California. This town was a good hour away from San Diego, and a road trip sounded nice, so I decided I would join. They decided to meet at the driver’s house at 10:00 am which is typically a 17 to 20-minute drive from my house, but I can’t drive.
If you don’t know, San Diego has been dealing with inadequate transportation for quite some time, and although they are currently working on it, it still has a long way to go. I never thought it was bad, but according to out of state friends and roommates, San Diego’s transit system is horrible. This would explain why it would take me an hour to get to my friend’s house on the bus. I was lucky my friends were accommodating and waited for me. The trip was well coordinates as four of us were able to fit in one car, and on the way back I got dropped off at home.
I had to rest on day five, once again. I did take my scooter on the bus on day 4 and with it came the sore legs again. I did notice that it was not as bad the second time around. I was able to stand and walk my dog with only slight discomfort.
Day six was just as easy. It was a Saturday and that meant, that I didn’t have to do anything. I did get invited to go play video games with another of my roommate and his friends, and of course he drove so I had no issue figuring out transportation.
Day seven was also a challenge. I had a friend visit from out of town and I wanted to show her the farmers market on Hillcrest known for its plentiful food and unique crafts. I had not told her I was doing a no drive week, and she asked me for a ride home. Unfortunately, I had to deny her request. The bus ride took approximately 35 minutes, and was much shorter than the previous ride. I opted out of taking my scooter as I wanted to walk with my friend around the farmers market and not have to hassle with the scooter. The walk from my bus stop to my home seem twice as long without it.
Overall, I would say that my no drive week was a positive experience. I got more sunlight, more exercise, and had overall more interactions with people. I genuinely felt happier and noticed my anxiety level decrease. I loved being able to sit back on the bus and listen to my audiobook. Let’s be honest, driving a huge machine every day and trying to avoid bad drivers cutting you off or not letting you merge is really exhausting. Not to mention you also must find parking and are tethered to your car everywhere you go.
I found this first challenge oddly freeing as well as surprising. I did not expect to have such a “happy boost” from not driving. This challenge helped me discover something new about myself. Sometimes we simply can’t know how we will react in certain situations until we are faced to confront them. I am just happy that I was able to experience this.