I am a big fan of “Location Efficiency.” I learned this fancy term from the transportation expert I am married to. It means I like to live close to everything. I love living here in Coogee because I can walk to the grocery store and Mae’s ballet class and cafes and the beach. I can actually walk, get a coffee, and be back home in the same amount of time it would take me just to drive one way to the town center back in Denver.
Now, if you know anything about where we live in Denver it SCREAMS “location efficiency.” The kids’ schools, grocery store, restaurants, etc….are all a hop, skip, and a jump away. It’s a good way to live. However, Denver gets cold and a car is a necessary evil. We are fortunate to be able to walk to many places in our Denver neighborhood (shout out to Stanley Marketplace) and have quick drives everywhere else. My kids don’t spend much time in the car and that is good with me. When we sign up for an activity or find a new doctor, the first thing I do is Google Map it. I like to live close. We all have friends a stone’s throw away, and I’ve even ridden my bike with girlfriends for happy hour. That’s my life in Denver. We don’t drive much, but we certainly do need a car.
Now in Sydney, we decided not to have a car. This decision has proven wise, but not without its difficulties. First of all, Sydney is a big city and that means traffic and parking nightmares. We knew there was a grocery store and beach within walking distance. We also knew there was a bus stop close by and car share programs all over. So we came here with no intention of getting a car. When we sold my car before we left, it felt so freeing. Wes hung on to his beloved Wrangler and left it in the hands of a good friend. I will need a new car when we return. Cars are just not my thing. They seem like a boring way to spend a whole lot of hard earned money.
Anyway, we got our bus passes as soon as we arrived. They’re awesome. They work like a debit card. You “tap on” and “tap off” when you board and exit the bus. You can “top up” your card by adding more money online to your account. Easy peasy. These cards actually work for the bus, train and ferry systems. On Sunday, the max you can pay to travel by any mode of transport is $2.50, so that’s a great day to take advantage and travel far. It’s a pretty good system, in general, and it’s how we get around. Wes, of course, commutes to work by bike. I’ll have him write a blog about that. It’s not an easy commute, but he gets his exercise and has gotten to know more about the roads here, which is helpful for his work. The rest of us don’t have bikes and our neighborhood isn’t really condusive anyway. The kids have scooters.
When we arrived (via taxi ride from the airport), I was pleasantly surprised at how very close to us everything really was. I am ashamed to admit that I don’t have a great understanding of the metric system. So when my landlord told us we are 150m to the grocery store, I didn’t really grasp how close that is. Same with the beach. We can see the ocean from our windows, and it’s just down the street. And in between are bunches of cafes, shops of all kinds and restaurants galore. It is definitely location efficiency at its best. The bus stop is right at the beach and busses come frequently. They come so frequently that we never check the schedule, which is called a timetable around here. When we want to go somewhere, we just head to the bus stop and soon enough a bus comes. Very convenient.
We don’t LOVE traveling by bus. It can be gross and busy and bumpy and windy and long, but it gets us where we need to go in this big city. Almost everywhere. Occasionally, we need to take a 2nd mode of transportation after a bus ride. Maybe a ferry or a train. We are all thrilled when we can go somewhere via ferry, and the train is decent. But this can make for some very long trips to places that aren’t very far away. The worst is a transfer to a 2nd bus. We avoid that at all costs.
We have used the car share, and we rented a car when we went to Melbourne for 5 days. I have only driven on “the other side of the road” once and it was in the parking lot (or car park) of our hotel so that doesn’t really count. I’m scared. City driving + opposite side of the car and opposite side of the road terrifies me. I leave that to the one with a PhD in transportation.
Occasionally, we run into some places that are just difficult to get to based on their location in relation to our house. We have, on 3 occasions, resorted to Uber. I’m not a fan of getting into strangers’ cars and said stranger offering me mints. My kids find it enchanting and lost their minds when they got FREE bottles of water in the Uber. We can’t all fit in a typical Uber, so it isn’t really a typical option. However, we’ve done it a few times to the kids’ delight.
One day we were going surfing and our friend was joining us. She offered to pick us up IN HER CAR and drive us. It was like she offered us a million dollars. It was crazy how fast we got to that beach. It’s now foreign to us to actually be IN a car and get somewhere fast. It’s a treat. We got to ride in another friend’s car recently when they picked us up from somewhere nearby and brought us to their house. I’d been to their house a couple of times, but only via ferry. I had never seen or knew how it looked to drive up to their house by roads. It was a different world. Luke slept at their house one night and went with them to drop the kids off at school. We had a million questions for Luke about this. We were fascinated he had been in a car and they had driven over the Harbour Bridge to get to school. None of the rest of us had even been on the bridge. Since then, we have walked across it and taken a train across it. The rest of us haven’t done it by car. Lucky Luke!
Someday we will tell stories and stories of our bus rides. Or we may keep them between us. What happens on the bus; stays on the bus?!?!?! I can tell you that our bus time has been a source of bonding. We usually go to the back row where there are 5 seats across. That means the little 2 each get a window and Elle sits smack in the middle with parents on either side of her. However, the kids end up talking over us playing games. A favorite game is “I’m thinking of a person.” Many of you reading this have been the “person.” If you play with Luke, he will always guess 3 people first…Colton, Uncle Michael and Elvis (so don’t choose any of those.) They also play the rivotting game, “I’m thinking of a number.” Sometimes they tell jokes. Elle and Luke tell Mae stories that are to-die-for adorable and Mae couldn’t love this more. Sometimes everyone is grumpy and quiet…or hot or wet or tired. It isn’t always pleasant, and we always can’t wait to get off. One night we were stuck in bus traffic, so Elle and Wes did get off and walked home. It gets us where we need to go and the bus has been a big part of our adventure of living in Sydney.
I feel like I’ve gotten used to this lifestyle, and I don’t mind it for me personally. A family of 5 is a different story. Personally, I like sitting back and just arriving at my destination. I like not dealing with parking lots and traffic. I can read on the bus and chat with my family. I find it a fun challenge to find our way places. One day I took a bus to go shopping (alone) and couldn’t find what I needed. I was wandering around inside a shopping mall, and next thing I knew I was at a train station. So I hopped on. Eleven minutes later (and one chapter in my book), I was at a new shopping area. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve traveled around sans kids. I don’t even miss having a car for grocery shopping. We get to cut out the whole step of taking bags out to the car and loading and unloading them. I just walk up the hill. I can carry a lot of bags at one time and sometimes I don’t buy something because I can tell my basket is full of “heavy” or “bulky” things. We could shop online, but I enjoy daily trips for groceries. It’s also my “alone time.”
I didn’t realize how not having a car would be such a big deal. It affects us daily and everytime we want to go somewhere outside of Coogee. It’s been a learning experience about public transportation, but we’ve also learned other valuable lessons as we journey around Sydney on the 374, 373, 370, m50, etc… Life lessons.