Survival in the Garret

The bohemian guide to getting around

Getting from home to class, from class to band practice, and from band practice to your dishwashing job are all necessary to your survival and, to some extent, to your overall happiness.  But being short on funds as well as ecologically conscious necessitates a whole new attitude toward travel—to a mindset that values environment and economy over status and comfort.  Rest assured that even when your financial circumstances improve, the habits you develop now will make your life better in the long-term.  So here goes.

Make a list

Think of all the places you need to get to regularly and ask yourself if each destination might be reached by a means that would be cheaper, healthier, and create fewer carbon emissions.  Shopping local might be a little more expensive, but if driving to the megalomonolithmart is the only reason you own a car, you’ll save money by getting rid of the car and choosing a less expensive mode of transport to local supermarkets.

Do it from home.

Many of the obligations we once had to drive to can now be reached from the desktop with a computer and an internet connection, or even from the veranda with a smartphone.  Work, shopping, visits, and even, as distance learners know, university study can all be conducted from home.

Do keep in mind that you need to rise at least every 20 minutes and move around—do some exercises or a bit of housework— so your brains don’t settle in your butt.  And make sure that when you do go out you’re disengaged from the internet so that every step of your journey is mindful, inviting in-person connection.


Whenever you can, put on yo’ walkin’ shoes and hoof it.  Not only is walking relatively safe, it’s a very healthy form of exercise and allows you to experience life at a slower pace, putting you in closer contact with your environment.  Acquire light backpacks, handbags, instrument cases, and tote bags so as not to weary yourself more than necessary.  Also carry a water bottle and snacks to keep your blood sugar up so you don’t end up frittering away your savings at trendy eateries.  Wear comfortable shoes with good arch support.

If you need to cover long distances often, consider…


The bicycle is one of the most efficient and ingenious of inventions.  It packs the same health-enhancing wallop as walking but gets you over longer distances in less time.  You’ll need to exercise more caution to stay safe on a bike, and it will also be a good idea to join those cyclists who are lobbying city planners to create more bike-friendly conditions.  This does require you to spend money on renting or buying a bicycle, but the purchase will pay for itself in no time in savings from gas, taxis, and public transport.

But sometimes little things like weather, hazardous routes, and the need to arrive sweat-free make it necessary to seek other modes of travel. When that’s the case…

Use public transport.

We can greatly reduce greenhouse gases and save money by reducing car travel in favour of buses, shuttles, and subways.  Do a little research to find out the discounts your city offers and take advantage, tailoring them to your needs.  Do a cost-benefit analysis.  For example, if you need to use public transport twice a day five times a week, it might be cheaper for you to put a monthly pass on a plastic metro card than to pay for trips one at a time.  This will also allow you to move around on weekends.

If you must, drive a car.

This often happens, so don’t waste time feeling guilty. You can make the most of your car—to turn it into an investment and not just a necessary evil—with these tips:

  • try to keep your stable to one vehicle
  • save money by buying used
  • seek opportunities to share rides with people willing to chip in on gas
  • carpool as often as possible (Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May gave up her car years ago when she realised that there were usually at least a dozen colleagues moving in the same direction who’d be happy to give her a lift.)
  • don’t own a car just for vacations; you can rent vehicles on the rare occasions when you need them for long road trips
  • keep your car tuned up and free of excess weight
  • looks for discounts on gas, maintenance, repairs, and insurance
  • always stay below the speed limit
  • minimise the frequency of sudden stopping
  • getting only a half tank of gas at a time instead of a fill-up also improves fuel efficiency by reducing weight
  • You can also save money and help your local economy by spending your money closer to home and purchasing more items that are grown or made locally. This means shorter car trips.
If you must, fly.

There’s no way around the fact that airplanes throw truckloads of carbon into the atmosphere, so if you can get somewhere by train, bus, or boat you can feel slightly less responsible for global warming.  But sometimes you just have to go places that can only be reached by air.  You can at least try to reduce the price by accepting layovers and planning your trips for days when ticket sales are lower.  If you’re going for a getaway you can get more bang for your buck by planning stopovers in two or more places on your route.