To drive or not to drive…

That is the question. For various reasons, the question of getting a car has suddenly cemented itself on my brain. This is something I had been avoiding in my time in England thus far; circumstances are such that my walk between home and work is a pleasant 15 minutes and I’m even closer to a wide variety of shops and restaurants, including a Sainsbury’s at two blocks away and a John Lewis about three blocks away. So you could argue that I really do have everything I need quite close, and my longest jaunts are off to the health club which is about 20 minutes’ walk away. However, what I don’t have much of in this little urban bubble is a social life. I’ve been really fortunate to make a couple of friends recently, but in both instances a car would be really handy for getting out of town to their villages (although I admit in both instances there are buses, so it’s not a completely lost cause without a car). In some ways, I really don’t miss the fuss of owning a car, paying for a car, keeping a car insured and paying all associated taxes. Without all of this, my life is quite simple.

But I confess, I’m an American girl who has always been a road-tripper. Every time I return to the states I rent a car, and sometimes drive longer distances than is truly necessary just because I love the feel of the open road. It was instilled in me as a child to be a road-tripper, we did lots of driving between the family homeland in Minnesota and the east coast where we lived for a time, and while east we also drove all the way south to Florida and north to I can’t even remember how far. When my sister and I were both based on the east coast as adults, we did a memorable jaunt into NYC as well as a bittersweet trip back to MN when I abandoned my post in Virginia for what would eventually be my job here.

I have lots of travel coming up, so this is not necessarily something I would do until after my summer trips to other continents, but starting to try and understand the UK rules of the road might come up in about September. I’ll have to take lessons and pass a test here, and obviously save up some money and look for some wheels. And finally, I’d have to sort out a place to park the thing in my urban environs, making a very small car (Smart! Mini!) look appealing. But it’s starting to really tempt me… so I’m going to have to do some serious soul-searching on the whole car vs. public transport question not to mention the “oh dear, this would really be sticking down roots in England” issue… thoughts?

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6 responses to “To drive or not to drive…

  1. I would be lost without my car. Actually learning how to drive here really isn’t that difficult, you just have to really concentrate.

  2. For one thing, you’ll not find much “open road” in the UK as you did in the US, although I’m sure you’re aware of that. It isn’t that hard to drive on the wrong side, even with a stick shift in your left hand instead of your right. As Kat said, you just have to concentrate. But it would be great for exploring and getting to areas not well accessed by buses or trains. How bad would the insurance and parking be? Go for the intellectual exercise and see if that helps your case or defeats it.

  3. Don’t get a tiny tiny car if you’re going to be doing long trips – they look so vulnerable on motorways with trucks/lorries thundering past.

    It would give you lots of flexibility, but the road trip experience is very different in the UK. It’s not the joys of the ‘open road’ that you remember from the US. Given the volume of traffic, a long journey can be tiring. You can’t just set the cruise control and relax.

    Why not live without a car, but hire a car every now and again for a trip? I’m sure that would work out much cheaper, and you wouldn’t have to find a place to park it. Do you even need to take a test if you’re hiring a car? Presumably not.

  4. Ah Iota, you have stumbled on the problem. Since I have lived in the UK more than a year I cannot hire a car without a local license. So I still need to take lessons and pass the test even if I decide not to purchase a vehicle of my own…

  5. Take the lessons and get your license anyway.

    The one year I was a grown-up in the UK (i.e. not in college but gainfully employed) I didn’t have a car. I think I would have been a lot happier if I had had one instead of being limited to public transportation. My best memories of that year are of the weekends I had access to places in a car.

  6. cars are totally re-sellable. no roots needed. 🙂

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