Simple in the City: Getting Around

You’ve found a place to live, so now it’s time to explore your city. But how? Today we’re talking transportation!

The golden rule of transportation

Let’s all say it together, class: less is more. After a year and a half of big city life (and big city traffic), it’s safe to say that the less commuting you have to deal with, the better.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t hop in the car every once in a while—our trips to the beach and to local hiking spots are a welcome respite from the madness of Hollywood.

But, like I outlined in my post about where to live, the closer you are to necessities the better. My best tip is to avoid long commutes to and from work, especially if you’re traversing that path twice a day, five days a week.

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The zen of driving

When you do have to drive, make it a positive experience. That’s not always possible in Los Angeles, but I try my darndest.

Bring a bottle of water or tea and a granola bar for longer drives. A sip here and there at stoplights or stuck in traffic can relieve a lot of tension. Avoid anything too caffeinated for regular commutes, because it’ll just make you anxious. Also if you’re like me, coffee may cause some bowel emergencies that aren’t welcome when you’re stuck in traffic.

Know your route as much as you can before taking off, and know that a GPS is an excellent alternative to a phone—no one texts you on your GPS.

And of course, music makes things a whole lot better. I’ve been hooked on public radio, classical/jazz stations, and classic rock. I try to keep it easy and low-key for driving so that I can stay calm. Road rage is all the rage here in SoCal.

And for the love of all things, put the phone down.

Opting out of the car chaos

We’ve chosen the hassle and expenses of a car, but because of those drawbacks, we’re going to stick with just one for the foreseeable future. I’ll discuss this more in detail in a later post about budgeting, but insurance alone is three times more expensive here than in the Midwest, so that’s something to consider.

If you’d rather live without a car, there’s no better place to do it than in the city. There’s public transportation, taxis or other transportation networks, bikes, and just plain walking.

Since I’m not well-versed enough in public transportation (I’ll admit that I’ve never called an Uber), I can’t really give great tips. My best advice is to research, research, research. And take advantage of first-time ride offers when you can!

If you’d prefer to bike, find out what you can about bike laws. In Los Angeles, keep an eye out for where you can ride your bike on the sidewalk versus the road (drivers are insane here, so I’d be nervous on the road). Look for bike lanes and bike routes so you can get where you’re going as safely and efficiently as possible.

It’s okay to stay close to home

I’ve scoured maps of our area and keep an eye out online for new restaurants, bars, and cafes opening up within walking distance. There are plenty of unique spots in our area that we’ve become quite fond of.

For the first time ever, there’s actually a bar a few blocks away where the server knows my name. It’s opened up even more opportunities to explore—she can recommend places I haven’t discovered yet.

Stay safe in your travels, my friends! How do you prefer to get around in your city?

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Our Journey West

Exactly three weeks ago today, my husband and I were crossing into California and making our way through insane mountains before pulling into Los Angeles. It took us three days (36 hours or so), but we finally made it.

We had a car full of our most precious belongings and a few hopeful apartment tours lined up for the next day. If you’ve never lived completely out of your car like this, I recommend it. It’s terrifying in all the best (and a few of the worst) ways.

Out of our element

Neither of us had ever driven west of the Mississippi River before. Ironically, I was too caught up in the St. Louis skyline to even take a moment to look at the great river. Missouri was like Indiana in many ways, but then we moved into Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and then California. Each state looked less and less like home, but we became more excited with each “Welcome to…” sign we passed.

We really did it.

The original plan and what really happened

The original plan was to stop by a grocery store each morning for some fresh veggies and healthy snacks so that we could avoid too much fast food and share our veggies with the very disgruntled rabbit travelling with us.

We ended up at more fast food restaurants than intended, but I’m happy to say we didn’t drink any energy drinks. Just kidding, we drank quite a few of those.

We ended up scrapping the health-consciousness (we basically gave all the carrots to the rabbit) and just fueled up on what we could, when we could. We’ve since been focusing on eating fresh, real food to make it all up to our bodies.

As far as packing up everything and only shipping a few things? It went totally according to plan.

We shipped three boxes, and thanks to my lovely parents’ shipping expertise, it cost $80. I’ll take that over a whole uHaul any day.

Apartment hunting adventures

Since we didn’t have an apartment ready for us, we hit the ground running immediately, trying to find a suitable place to live. The third apartment we visited on the first day of our search was it! We signed that day and moved in the next morning. What mattered to us?

  • Price (although this became less important when we saw the location)
  • Location (walking distance to necessities was a must)
  • Safety (too many odd people lingering and broken down windowless vans in my last apartment’s parking lot)
  • Size (we preferred small to spacious, since we didn’t want to furnish a giant place)
  • Condition (no run-down, potentially haunted places for me anymore)
  • Immediate availability (yeah, I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase anymore)

We’ve since dealt with roaches and multiple necessary adjustments to the apartment (including a phone jack installation so that we could get internet…two weeks in). But I can really, truly say that we’re here and finally settling in!

I’ll do a rundown of what all we bought as necessities to make the empty apartment into our home and maybe give you a brief tour with my next post.

Thanks for your patience after my long absence! What’s new with you?

The Car Purchase Dilemma

It’s about that time of life when, you know, a man and a woman fall in love and get married and then suddenly….it’s time to get a car!

Or so they think.

My husband and I decided that in order to move west, we’re going to need something more than just a little old Honda Civic, and so I’ve been researching Toyota Highlanders and Honda CR-Vs like it’s my new job. I’ve fretted more than once about the cost vs. quality aspect and realized that if we wanted to get a suitable vehicle, we’d have to shell out a pretty penny.

But with a big move coming up (including deposits and superhigh rent) and our student loans stalking in the shadows, I got scared. Really scared. 

Can we afford a newer vehicle? Is it a good choice to get something so pricey at this pivotal moment in our lives? Why should I willingly sacrifice my freedom for another big chunk of debt?

The Verdict

Well, finally I realized that the bad feeling in my gut had to mean something. So we took this dilemma to a third party – my mother.

After talking it through, she cheerfully threw an idea on to the table: “What about shipping?”

We’re getting rid of all of our furniture and large belongings, so why couldn’t we just pack up the Civic with what fit and ship the rest as needed? It was a groundbreaking idea. Cheaper than a new car or a U-Haul.

So, the verdict: we’re getting rid of most of our things, packing up our necessities in the Civic (including Rorschach the bunny) and driving out west. My parents will ship things as needed and store the few things that we don’t end up needing.

I felt a giant weight lift off of my shoulders and am completely thrilled with this decision. Going against what may be considered “normal” (like having two cars or purchasing a newer one) isn’t always easy, but it can be rewarding.

I just wanted to share that story with you all because I think it speaks strongly to following your gut instincts – if a purchase doesn’t feel right, or screams UNNECCESSARY to you, then you should probably listen. Same goes for nearly everything else, the trick is just training your gut.

And that’s not always easy.

Happy Saturday!

One Car to Rule Them All (On Being a One-Car Couple)

My husband and I have been doing something for months that shocks some of our friends and family – we’re sharing a car. Thanks to some engine repairs in the Mr.’s car that were far more expensive than the car itself, we’re now a “one-car family” so to speak. The verdict?

It’s awesome.

But, like many things it comes with its pros and cons. Let’s talk about what’s great and not-so-great about this setup, then I’ll give you a little tidbit about what’s next for my husband and I.

Toy Car

What’s great about having one car

Of course, there are the expected benefits: only one car to fill up and maintain and register and worry about parking tickets for. And only one car to fill up with random receipts and water bottles and shoes and – how did my toothbrush end up in here?

But really, the two best things about it are the exercise and communication. First, when one of us doesn’t have the car, it’s up to us to get from one place to another. We don’t live in the most walkable area of town, but there’s a Target, a Trader Joe’s and a couple of bars nearby. That’s all you need, right?

My husband also works two miles from home, so if he has a day shift, he’s comfortable walking there. And if he needs a ride? I work four miles from home, so I can easily pick him up on my lunch break. A few extra trips, but it’s working out so far.

And communication – we now operate like a well-oiled machine. We know each others’ work schedules, social schedules and have even started planning in advance. We don’t operate separately because, well, we just can’t. It’s nice to coordinate these details together.

What’s not so great about having one car

Surprised? There are definitely some drawbacks here. Like I said earlier, the extra running isn’t so much of a big deal since we’re a stone’s throw from each other and from home.

But the biggest drawback is if one of us heads two hours north to see our families – since our work schedules are so different, we rarely get to see them when we’re together. That requires the carless spouse to walk or bum rides – not a huge hassle, but it can get agitating.

Why it works for us

The only reason we’re doing well with one vehicle right now, though, is that we both live so close to where we work. I hear friends and colleagues talking about their nearly hour-long commutes, and I cringe about the wasted time and money that goes into those drives. We really are fortunate to be so close, and now whenever we move next that proximity will be one of my top priorities.

Which leads me to my semi-announcement. We’re planning a move (and a downsize!) at the very beginning of next year, and I can’t wait! As part of our transition, we are going to be getting another, larger vehicle to help us get from point A to point B. We’ll then sell our smaller car and return to being a one-car couple. We’ve both enjoyed the collaboration and the walking, so why stop now?

How about you – have you fared well with a single car, or thought about becoming a single car family?