It’s been about six months now that I’ve been living without a car. I mean, I do own one, its just sitting in a paddock somewhere in Wodonga quietly rusting until I save up enough to get it running again. Anyway, here in Brisbane I don’t have a car, so I’ve had to figure out how to get by without one.
It may seem like a completely daunting task for some (especially here in Brisbane, where most people I’ve spoken to would rather not use public transport), but honestly, it hasn’t been too bad. While I can’t just jump in a car and go to a shop, friend’s houses or restaurants on a whim, I’ve had to rely on public transport and my own two feet, and for the majority of the time its been a positive experience, so I’d like to share with you some of the things I’ve learned from it.
Brisbane’s transport system is made up of mostly buses, some trains, catamarans (known as the CityCat) and ferries. Its not the most amazing system (with transport less frequent than it is in Melbourne), and the TransLink journey planner is useless if you don’t have a map of the city in your head, but for the most part, especially with practice, it gets the job done.
I usually take buses to get around this gorgeous city, and honestly, they aren’t always on time, and buses being buses, they are affected by local traffic if your bus line isn’t lucky enough to be on a busway (a highway specifically for buses – its fantastic!). At first, the lack of punctuality from the bus lines can be rather frustrating, but I’ve realised that there is no point getting worked up about it. The reality is, no amount of frustration is going to get the bus moving any quicker. Instead, I just pop in my headphones and enjoy the time that I have. Its a useful time to make a shopping list, plan a date with a friend or read a book, which is a much more positive experience than fretting that I’ll be late.
My punctuality hasn’t always been perfect, but through having to rely on something else to get me somewhere has forced my hand to get organised and more often than not I get where I need to be earlier than intended, and with everything I need with me, too! (Unbelievable, I know!) I’ve got a fairly accurate estimation in my head of how long it will take for me to get anywhere (either by foot or public transport) and if not, I just use the journey planner. But, for example, walking, I can get to Woolloongabba in 20 minutes, South Bank in 30-40, the CBD in 50-60, The Valley in 55, while through public transport I usually take about 15 minutes off most of those values and that’s fairly accurate. (Oh, and the CityCat will get me to Ascot in an hour – see, I’ve totes got it down pat). So as long as I leave the house with that amount spare, I’ll get there on time. I know that these times will not change (unless I run) so I plan around it and arrive wherever I need to be, very calm and on time, which makes me feel super!
3. Its much easier to get exercise
Sometimes the difference in time to get somewhere via public transport, including walking to the stop, waiting for the transport to arrive, etc, compared to just walking the whole way there is negligible. And if you’re a fan of running or cycling, it is even faster. I often opt for walking places – even if I just walk one way – because it increases my incidental exercise for the day, so I’m walking rather than sitting again, it gives me a chance to listen to beautiful music, my brain get a chance to churn through whatever is concerning me at the time (good or bad), my cortisol (the stress hormone) is broken down through my exercise, improving my wellbeing and sleep onset, the glucose in my blood is taken up into my muscles (a mechanism of transporters called GLUT-4) to be used for energy by the cells and reducing the reliance on insulin for this mechanism, and its free!
If you have to carry something, you are also making your muscles stronger, which in turn improves the strength of your bones. Really, its a very positive way to transport yourself around, in my book.
4. I’m more capable than I realise
Its one of those motivational spiels that you hear all the time, but its only when you are tested that you recognise this within yourself. Having no car presents many challenges – the grocery shopping is probably the hardest and most common of these challenges, but navigating, especially around a new city, and just carrying heavy things in general are probably the most difficult challenges when you don’t have a car.
I have a habit of getting a bit over-excited when I grocery shop, and if I happen to be a bit low on my Go-Card (bus ticket card thingy), I have to then walk my groceries home on a walk that would usually take 20 minutes without heavy groceries (I buy a lot of heavy vegetables, whole chicken, tinned vegetables and oil in glass jars) – usually 35-40minutes home if you include stopping, which sometimes has to happen when I haven’t thought things through. During this walk home (which I have now completed countless times) I’m desperately willing random strangers to take pity on me and help me out, and oh my goodness, do I ever feel sorry for myself! But in the end, every time, I make it home, I’m still alive, my food is fine and my arms are just a tad stronger than they were before I went shopping (even if they do hurt for a few days afterwards). The point is, I get shit done. I have to. I have no choice. I chose to spend my last dollars on groceries and toilet paper – things I need to survive – and if I don’t walk it home, struggling the whole way, its not going to walk itself to my house, so I push on, and realise, hey, I did it. And it really wasn’t so bad.
I’ve also managed to develop the map of Brisbane in my head. So much so that I can direct people who have lived here much longer, with accuracy (which always feels good). Its a comfort, because I am starting to know at the very least, vague directions to walk, which buses to take and where the nearest bus/train/ferry/CityCat stop is in order to get me where I need to go. I have a similar map in my head of the trains/trams/buses of Melbourne that I developed over 3 years of living there, which always makes me happy when I go back to visit my friends and venture around – it just makes life easier.
5. I am not a superwoman
No matter how resourceful I’ve managed to become over the last few months, I’ve had to face facts that I can’t do it all. Sometimes I have bought too many groceries and need to take the bus. Sometimes I have no idea where I’m going, and I will get lost. Sometimes if I’m given too short notice of something, I can’t get there in time. And sometimes, I will have to walk home in the rain without an umbrella because there is just no way around it. But that’s ok.
When I was incredibly sick at the end of semester I had no other way to get to the doctor than taking a taxi, and to be honest, I preferred it. I wasn’t relying on/burdening anyone else, I wasn’t going to pass out walking there in a park or on the bus, and I felt safe and independent knowing that taking a taxi was an option. It did take a chunk out of my student budget, but boy was it worth it.
How do you get around? Are you a fan of public transport? Would you opt for walking instead of your usual transport after reading this post? Or does it just seem all too hard. Let me know in the comments below.