3 experiences that came from being car free.

This month I celebrate my 4th anniversary. Not of marriage, but of freedom. Freedom from car ownership that is.

Looking back, it was like any relationship. It had ups and it had downs. The big down was that despite driving a small, eco model car I was still a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions on a scale that I couldn’t balance with my commitment to live more sustainably.

A change of job in 2015 meant moving to a small town 6 miles from work. Those 6 miles were connected by a traffic free cycle path. It was the spur I needed to switch the car for the bike. I ditched the car and took to 2 wheels for the daily commute.

I’ve now lived in 3 countries that aren’t my homeland. Not owning a car has changed how I have experienced those countries. It hasn’t always been about using a bike, after all I’m no Tour de France prospect. It has been through walking, cycling and public transport

In Buckinghamshire, England I started most days by train on the Marston Vale Line. A journey that will improve greatly when East West Railway (link) is complete. What the line lacks in robust performance and service frequency it makes up for in scenery. I developed a morning routine of reading the previous day’s press cuttings and performance reports over a coffee. I listened to a morning playlist accompanied by the soft landscapes which are such a contrast with my native Scotland. Flat and lush with more sky than I have ever seen, colours that change dramatically daily and those year-round, low, ghostly hazes showing nature is the finest artist.  The bluebell woods alongside the line made for the most awe-inspiring walk home.

In Toronto, Canada I chose to live within walking distance of my office at Union Station. The walk to work in the morning always put a smile on my face. Walking along Front Street dwarfed by the sheer scale of the CN Tower, Union Station and the Royal York Hotel was a great energiser for the day ahead. They were all built by railway companies and it added to the sense of legacy work to be walking past these grand edifices to work on the new rail renaissance projects in Ontario.

In Agde, France the commute was merely down a flight of stairs to my writing table. That was often preceded or followed by a walk or cycle to the beach. I wondered if I would ever tire of cycling past the Canal Du Midi, down by the River Herault to where it meets the Mediterranean at Grau D’Agde. I’m happy to report that it never did.

Days off in France were different. There is a whole network of off-road cycle paths which connect small towns in Languedoc via the vineyards and orchards. Cycling through those as they transitioned from winter to spring was a sensory treat that we had never experienced in the car on previous trips.