One surprising benefit of being car free has been the reduction of choice in our lives. This might seem counter intuitive in a world in which more choices are assumed to make us happier. But making choices takes a lot of time and energy. If we hadn’t been restricted geographically, we would have felt obliged to research 15 possible daycare centers; instead, we considered just the three that were walking distance from our home. That was a significant savings of time and effort, and it was a surprising relief not to feel obligated to provide our child with the absolute “best” of everything. We can easily provide her with “very good” using only resources that are close by.
But of course giving up choice is not always easy and it doesn’t automatically make you happier. We have given up some things that were important to us in order to live without a car. For us, the most important thing we gave up was membership in a great religious community, which was located in Newton and not very accessible by public transportation. Before we had a child, we were able to manage membership, both due to the generosity of other members who lived in our neighborhood and offered us rides, and by using our Zipcar. However, once we added our daughter to the mix, it became prohibitive to carpool while getting a car seat in and out, and difficult to fit a 45 minute drive on both sides of an activity without messing up hard-won nap schedules. Any trip to our synagogue left us exhausted.
Though we were sad to leave our old synagogue, committing ourselves to being car free forced us to find the Jewish community in Cambridge and Somerville, which has many offerings that we hadn’t even known about. We found and became members of Havurat Shalom, which is within walking distance of our home. Joining this community has come a host of unexpected benefits: we no longer drive on Shabbat, we have good friends within walking distance of our house, and we have convenient playmates for our daughter whose parents share our values.