I remember the day I left my car behind in England. I hadn’t figured out a practical way to bring it to Turkey, and though it was my pride and joy, I resigned myself to the fact that it would just have to stay parked alongside the curb in front of my friend’s house until I either learned of a loophole through Turkish import restrictions, or came up with a better idea. I panicked at the thought of not being independently mobile, but one does what one has to do, and at that point my top priority was getting myself to Turkey. But I knew the car would have to follow soon, of course— how could I live without driving?

But less than a year later, I reluctantly agreed to sell the car to a mechanic in England after my friend reported that the car was wasting away in its parking space, and it wasn’t getting any younger, and it would have a happy life as the mechanic’s wife’s daily transportation. The mechanic agreed to take on all the repair costs, and still gave me more than a fair price. I felt a pang of sadness, but I knew that I could make better use of the cash than I could of a car rotting on the side of the road on another continent. So I sold it, and to be honest, I didn’t think too much more about it. It didn’t hurt nearly as much as I expected.

I’m two years on from the sale of the car now, and I’m to the point where I can’t remember why I ever thought a personal vehicle was a good idea in the first place. Losing that car may have been the best thing that ever happened to me.

Like most Americans, I learned how to drive young (Dad took me out for the first time when I was about 14), and I got my license as soon as it was legally possible, followed by my first car soon after. For my parents, it spelled the end of sixteen years of having to drive me everywhere— school, the mall, choir practice, dance classes. For me, it was a right of passage I felt was absolutely god-given— I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t have a car? Come on, seriously. I’d heard stories of places like New York and London where subways were convenient and people took the train or the bus to work, but as far as I was concerned those places might as well have been on Neptune. This was San Antonio, and you went nowhere if you didn’t have a car. So of course, I had one.

Even when I moved to England, I never got the hang of alternative modes of transport. They had buses and trains and stuff there, but they were even more expensive than the cost of running a car, so it made sense to me to skip the inconvenience of being at the mercy of the city bus schedule and just get a car instead. So I did. And other than a precious few park-and-ride experiences, I don’t think I ever used public transportation in England. Why on earth would I do that when I could just take the car?


A few weeks ago I had to take a long day trip out of Antalya, and I decided the best course of action would be to get a rental car for the day. I looked forward to driving a car again. I thought it would be a wonderful feeling to have that independence back.Oh dear. First there’s the problem of propelling the thing. In a nutshell, it needs gas, which means you have to be on the lookout for gas stations, and you have to make sure you have enough cash on you to pay for all the gas you’re going to need all day. I had to refill twice during my trip, and the second of those two times was a near disaster when I kept thinking there must be a gas station here somewhere, and there just wasn’t one until the absolute last minute. That was a panic I could have done without.

Next is the actual physical hassle of taking a car out. It’s like babysitting a child: you can’t go anywhere without considering the restrictions of having the car with you. Will there be a place to park? What will we do if there’s not? Is parking going to be expensive? What’s the traffic going to be like? Is the car in good enough shape to make such a long journey? What if we need to head back during rush hour and we get stuck in one place and don’t make it back on time?

Finally, there’s the relaxation aspect. I used to think that going out for a drive was the most relaxing thing in the world. But really, I was kidding myself. You can’t relax, you can’t enjoy, and in fact you can’t do anything except pay attention to your driving, which, let’s face it, isn’t really all that interesting, and can be exasperating at times. When I take a bus journey (we don’t have trains in this part of Turkey), I can relax. Traffic is the driver’s problem. I can listen to my iPod or play games on my phone or chat with the person next to me or just gaze out the window at the beautiful world rolling by. I don’t have to worry about gas. I don’t have to worry about parking. Sure, I might have to walk a few blocks after I get off the bus, but since when did a short walk hurt anyone? Even now that I don’t have a car, I still think I don’t get enough exercise. I cringe when I think about how lazy I was when I did have a car. I laugh at all the times I drove to the gym. Drove somewhere so that I could exercise! Silly.

Our local supermarket recently had a contest where you could buy a certain amount of groceries in exchange for a chance to win a car. The car was parked in front of the store. My boyfriend thought we should try to win it. Our weekly shopping bill was over the required amount anyway, so he filled out the entry form. I was actually scared that we might win the car. How would I handle that? Would I go back to driving everywhere and give up my new healthier and less stressful lifestyle? I’m still not sure what the answer to that question is, and since we didn’t win the car, I’m hoping never to find out.

Melissa, 34, Antalya

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