Until yesterday, I had not driven in over a year. The last time I was behind the wheel was last April, during my last visit to the States, and then it was just a quick trip to pick up some take-out from a local deli. Otherwise, I have relied on family and friends to get me around. Although that can sometimes be a little nerve-racking (I suffer from serious "backseat driver-itis"), I have pretty much come to accept it.
I guess you could say I have a love-hate relationship with the automobile. I did get my U.K. driving license last April, but it was mostly a symbolic gesture. I wanted to know that I could drive if I had to, but, quite frankly, I wouldn't mind if I never sat in the driver's seat again.
Not owning a car has given me the biggest sense of freedom. Although I do sometimes miss the convenience of being able to just jump in the car and go, I certainly do not miss the car payments, the insurance payments, the gas (petrol) prices, the maintenance, the other (bad) drivers on the road, etc. that comes with owning a car. And although some people may find having to plan your life around bus schedules and train timetables restricting, I find that I can relax knowing that I can pretty much always count on a bus or the Tube to take me wherever I want to go.
One thing The Other Half doesn't like about the U.S. (particularly North Carolina) is the fact that you are so dependent on a car here. You literally have to drive EVERYWHERE. This morning, we ran out of milk, so my mom had to drive to the grocery store just to pick up a gallon. Back in the U.K., you can pretty much count on the fact that there is at least one corner shop within reasonable walking distance, unless you live way out in the wilds of the Hebrides. It's not even so much the distance that necessitates driving here; it's that roads are not designed with pedestrians in mind. Why would anyone want to walk when they could drive? Since I've lived in the U.K., I, too, find it hard to come back to the U.S. and its auto-centric lifestyle. (Don't even get me started on what all this driving has done to my fitness level. That's a whole other blog entry!)
We've often said that if we ever move back to the States it would have to be somewhere where we wouldn't have to drive just to pick up a pint of milk. But I'm not sure anywhere like that exists, except maybe New York or some of the other big cities, and the cost of living there is just as bad as in London. Basically, we want an English or European village located somewhere in North America. Is that too much to ask?