In just three months, I have become acutely aware of the necessities of maintaining a car-free lifestyle. It's time for me to give some advice based on what I've learned so far in my experiences. You know, assuming I've inspired you to join me.
First thing you need to do is layer. The weather changes in an instant so it doesn't take long to get hot or cold. You might have to walk (read: run) a few extra blocks and that can change your body temperature drastically (read: sweat). You might as well wear a rain jacket all the time — just trust me on this one. Also, comfortable shoes are a priority.
Next, you need a bag full of provisions that prepare you for any situation. This should be a reusable bag, maybe a backpack, and in it you should have all of the following basic necessities: your bus pass, an extra bus pass or two (because you will inevitably drop them along the way or realize that the expiration date came quicker than expected), your wallet with cash and coins so you can buy a new pass on the bus if you lose all the others, a book, your phone, bus schedules for every possible route, an umbrella, gloves, a notebook and pen, plastic bags to keep important things dry, sunglasses, lip balm, hand sanitizer, an extra jacket (even though you are already layered), a water bottle, a travel coffee mug, gum and, presumably for girls, those shoes that you can fold and keep in your purse, a hair tie and a tube of mascara (because somehow it makes you at least FEEL more pulled together for a meeting).
Be patient. You will be forced to wait. You will be unexpectedly showered by a passing car. You will get really cold or really hot. You will have to stand when the bus is full. You will have to get off two or three stops after you pull the signal. You will have awkward conversations that you want to avoid and good conversations that you're forced to give up. You will be late or really early. And, occasionally, you will smell, hear and see things you could otherwise live without.
Realize a car is not necessary and remind yourself of that regularly. I am already about two months further along on this adventure than I ever thought I would be. I'm alive; I still have a job and a social life. I have groceries and I manage to see my family every once in a while. Believe me, you get used to the inconvenience, and it starts to become routine.
Accept. Accept that you're never going to look as good as you would with a car. Accept that you don't need heels because you will probably have to walk for miles in them. Accept that your hair will always be a mess and that you will become sort of a bag lady. It's all okay. Own it.
Talk to people. I have heard amazing stories, made friends and learned a lot from strangers. If you don't talk to people, learn to eavesdrop because there is an education — and pure comedy — on the bus. There is also camaraderie. I know I talk about it a lot, but it is truly one of the best things about riding the bus. Enjoy it, take advantage of it, learn from it and love it.
Though it can be seen as a small deed, going carless matters and you should take the time to acknowledge the impact this choice has on the city and the world around you. You are adding one more person to the transit system, which is advocacy and advancement. You are taking one more car off the streets, which is healthy and green. You are smiling at strangers and gaining time to yourself. You are getting creative and not being lazy.
You are living the lifestyle that we should all be living anyway.
Take the lessons I've learned for what they're worth and experience the joys and tribulations for yourself. It isn't always fun, it is guaranteed never to be glamorous, but it really is possible.