I remember when I turned 16 I couldn’t wait to get my first car because of how much freedom it would give me. Just to get from my house to the entrance of my neighborhood in the suburbs of Kentucky was a 20 minute walk, and then once I got to that point there wasn’t really anything within walking distance. So if I was at my house, I was stuck there. But having a car would be the ultimate freedom – I could go to my friend’s houses, restaurants, movies – anything I wanted without having to depend on my parents.
My first month of having a car in the states, almost my entire part-time paycheck went to paying for gas. So I had freedom, but no money. I eventually made more money to cover the expenses of having a car but I still didn’t understand why everything had to be so far away. It just didn’t seem efficient to have to drive 25 minutes to go everywhere.
So when I moved to Panama I decided to sell my car and see what the pedestrian life is like. I discovered it’s actually better and here is why:
1. Nothing is far here
The radius of places within walking distance of my apartment is pretty awesome. I live directly next to a grocery store, there is another grocery store if I want to walk 10 more minutes, three gyms within walking distance, a park, a mall with a movie theater that is a 20 minute walk away, a lot of places to eat, a few places to drink, three vets, a dentist, and two doctor’s offices. I literally have everything I could ever want or need within a 20 minute walking bubble. I used to drive at least 25 minutes to go to places back home!
2. I can drink as much as I want when I go out
I am against drinking and driving, especially here where taxis are so affordable and we have apps like Uber and Tu Chofer. So being able to drink and not have to drive home is pretty awesome. I mean I don’t get wasted every weekend but when I do drink the “Four Drink Limit” never crosses my mind. I can drink as much as I want and then hop in a cab for $2 – $3 to get home. At night I recommend using one of these taxi apps to get home because the drivers are registered and it’s much safer.
3. I’m richer
Well I’m not rich but I’m not wasting money on gas. Between walking, using the Metro Bus, and taxis I spend around $30 a month on transportation. Not many people can say that. It costs me $2.50 to go in a taxi from my apartment in San Francisco to Casco Viejo which is 8 km, which is less than the cost of a subway ride in New York. I used to spend $250 in gas a month back in Kentucky so now I am able to put that towards being able to eat and stuff.
4. It keeps me in shape
Incorporating walking into my daily routine means I am constantly keeping myself activate and staying fit. I don’t feel so guilty if I miss a day or two at the gym.
5. I actually see, feel, and smell Panama City
While the smells of Panama City are not always pleasant, I do feel like I have gotten to know the city really well from walking its streets daily. Walking through a city is the ultimate way to explore it and there has been numerous times I’ve come across a neat new restaurant or business that I would have never discovered speeding by in a car.
If you have lived in Panama City for a while you’ll notice that people DO NOT like to walk here and I frequently get asked why I don’t get a car. Yes the sidewalks suck, yes it’s hot, but get over it. I used to walk an hour home from work everyday (I recently started working from home so I don’t have to do that anymore) and it’s really not that bad. I hope that more people in Panama City will give the pedestrian life a try because it’s a lot more convenient than having a car (check out my other blog post Three Reasons Not To Drive In Panama).
As a side note, not having a car is really only convenient within Panama City. Relying on public transportation and walking places outside the city isn’t as possible so in those circumstances a car is recommended.