go car free course

Lesson 22

Fun Times: Socializing and Dating without a Car

Most of us grew up relying on cars to get us to social events – to school dances, parties, movies, concerts, and everyplace in between. It’s not surprising that as adults we assume a car is essential to an active social life.

It isn’t.

Without the financial drain of owning a car, you’ll have more discretionary cash pumping through your social system. And without the demands of car ownership, you’ll have more free time. That means more time and money for lunches with friends, weekend getaways, cocktail parties, dates, and dinners out.

Car Free Success Story:

The best part is that my social life has improved since I’ve stopped driving. Now that parking and traffic are no longer concerns, I do a lot more things throughout the city. There are occasional events in distant suburbs that can be harder to attend than if I drove. But anything that I’ve ever really wanted to do I’ve always found a way. I spend a lot more time socializing and involved in group activities since I’ve stopped driving. Driving is a fairly solitary activity.

Todd A., 40

Computer Programmer, Chicago, IL

Plan Your Way to Social Success

After you get rid of your car you can still go to all the social functions, activities, and get-togethers that you do now. But unlike when you own a car, you’ll have to think about your transportation ahead of time. When you have a car parked outside you can wait until the last minute to decide if you’re going to the company picnic. But without a car you’ll need to plan in advance.

The following is a list of common social activities and some creative car free ideas for getting to and from each.

Bar hopping and nightclubbing. You have several transportation options for this type of socializing. The first – and perhaps safest – is to rideshare with Lyft or Uber or take a taxi. Bar hopping and clubbing usually involve drinking, so it’s better to let someone else drive even if you do own a car.

Another option is to ask one member of the group you’ll be going out with to swing by and pick you up. Offer a small incentive, like agreeing to pay the driver’s cover charge at the bar or buy him a few drinks at the club.

A third strategy is to influence the choice of the bar. If you can convince your friends to meet at a bar near your home you won’t have to drive. Another possibility is to suggest meeting at your place for cocktails before going out. Then you’ll have your choice of rides.

The only firm rule for car free clubbing and bar hopping is to make sure you always keep enough cash for a taxi ride home – just in case your other options disappear or you can’t get an Uber.

Sporting events and concerts. Thanks to thoughtful urban planners, every professional sports stadium and most major concert venues are served by public transit. This is often the best way to get to the game – whether you own a car or not – because you avoid traffic jams and parking hassles. Parking at NFL games can be $25 or more. Also, many bars and restaurants offer free shuttle service to and from ball games.

Religious services. Many churches, temples, and other places of worship offer shuttle bus or van service to help members get to services. Simply call the office and inquire. Or, as church or temple members often live in nearby neighborhoods, finding someone to carpool with should not be difficult. Tack a notice on the bulletin board or place an ad in the weekly church newsletter. And since you can dress casual at many religious services, riding a bicycle may be an option.

Lunch and dinner dates. The key here is to influence the day, time, and location of the lunch or dinner, and then meet your date at the restaurant. If there are suitable restaurants near your office, try to schedule a lunch or an early dinner on a workday.

If there are restaurants close to your home, schedule a dinner date for later in the evening or on a weekend. If there are no restaurants close to work or home, suggest meeting at one that’s easy for you to get to by bike or one that’s close to a transit stop.

Holiday office parties and company picnics. Any event that is sponsored by your employer or involves many of the people you work with should be easy to get to without a car. A week or so before the event, begin inquiring who’s planning to attend. Then ask if you can carpool. Be sure to offer to split the cost of gas and parking. Many employers sponsor “care cabs” or van rides home for employees after holiday parties and other official company events where drinking may be involved.

Fundraisers and charity benefits. Many fundraisers are held at large venues like museums, concert halls, zoos, hotels, and public parks, most of which are served by public transit. If it’s a fancy black-tie event you could rent a limousine for the evening and split the cost with a few other couples.

Or if the event is being held at a hotel, call the front desk, tell them what event you’re coming to, and request the hotel shuttle to pick you up at home. Be sure to tip the driver.

Or plan a rental car weekend around a major charity event or social function. Then rent a fancy car for the weekend.

Family gatherings and holidays. Thanksgiving dinner wouldn’t be any fun if you were stuck at home while everyone else was gorging on turkey at Grandma’s house. Luckily, family functions are among the easiest gatherings to get to. You know everyone who’s going, so you know whom to call to arrange a carpool. Or you can eliminate the need to travel altogether by offering to host the family dinner, picnic, party, barbecue, or game night at your place.

Car Free Success Story:

Car free socializing works very well in San Francisco. I bike to clubs, parties, restaurants. Sometimes I take transit as well. The train is very convenient. Caltrain has provided bike cars that hold sixteen or thirty-two bikes depending on model. I and many other bikers use them daily. It works very, very well. We even have a weekly party on the bike car (Partycar.com).

Amanda J., 36

Software Engineer, San Francisco, CA

Develop Your Own System

Some of the strategies in this lesson may seem complicated or cumbersome to you right now. And in the first few weeks of going car free you may hesitate to try them. But as you become more experienced at living without a car you will gradually develop a system that’s comfortable for you. And you’ll rapidly become proficient at arranging transportation that fits your social schedule and lifestyle.


Car free Dating and Romance

Because dating in this country is traditionally done in cars, you might worry that your love life will wither away if you don’t have one. That’s not going to happen. On the contrary, when you live car free the opposite sex will consider you interesting, maybe even mysterious.

You’ll begin to notice potential partners trying to “figure you out.” And a bed of mystery makes fertile soil for romance to bloom. The remainder of this lesson offers combat-tested techniques for maintaining an active dating life without maintaining a personal vehicle.

Not Gender-Specific

Some readers may argue that men are the ones who usually do the driving on dates, so car free dating will be more difficult for men than for women. Although this assumption may be true in many cases, this course takes a unisex approach.

The suggestions and strategies outlined in this lesson are applicable to men and women. If women have it a little easier due to cultural traditions, so be it. But the author must assume that in the 2020s in this country a person of either gender may invite someone (of either gender) on a date. So throughout this course the pronouns he or him and she or her are used only for brevity; they are not meant to be gender specific.

First and Second Date Strategies

You meet someone you’re interested in, you exchange phone numbers, and now you’re ready to ask for that all-important first date. But if you recently got rid of your car, you’ll probably worry what the person will think about your not owning one.

First, relax. This is going to be much easier than you think. There are actually a couple things working in your favor at this point.

Number one, on a first date it’s perfectly acceptable (even preferred) to meet your date at an agreed-upon location instead of traveling there together. “Let’s have lunch at Eataly at Century City Mall. Shall we meet there around one o’clock?”

Many people feel more comfortable meeting in a public place, especially when it’s someone they hardly know. And if you arrange to meet your date at the restaurant, there’s no reason to discuss your choice of transportation ahead of time. You can keep that information to yourself for the time being. Or share it up front; whatever feels right.

The second thing working in your favor is the natural bonding that takes place when two people spend time together. Before the first date, you are an unknown quantity. But after the first date you have begun to get to know each other on a more personal level.

When you discuss your car free lifestyle, your date will know you better and be inclined to understand. If someone has already started to like you as a person, not owning a car shouldn’t be an obstacle to getting additional dates.



What to Do on a Car Free Date

Below is a list of car free first and second date strategies. Experience will teach you which one to use in which situation and with which person.

“Let’s meet there.” As discussed above, this is a perfectly acceptable way to arrange a first, second, or even a third date. This strategy works for restaurants, coffee shops, jazz clubs, sporting events, movies, and many other types of location-specific dates.

Invite her to your house for dinner. If you can cook, you’re golden. When you invite someone to your home for dinner, it’s understood that she’s going to drive herself there (and probably show up with a bottle of wine).

To make the evening even more romantic, ask your date to come over and help you cook. That way it becomes a team effort. And since you’re now a team, you can even ask her to stop by the store and pick up a few things: “On your way over would you mind grabbing a loaf of French bread and some fresh arugula?”

If you can’t cook, you can surely order restaurant delivery – which may be even better. Just make sure you serve the food on real plates and set the table with fresh flowers. Either way, you get to spend quality time with your date and you don’t have to drive.

You and your friends meet up with her and her friends. This is an exciting car free date because on the way there you can ride with your friends, and if things work out, you can ride home with her. There’s no pressure because each party knows if they’re not interested, they can just walk away. Plus, each person has friends there as a built-in support system.

Invite him over to watch his favorite TV show on your big screen. To make this work, you better actually have a big-screen television. This technique almost never fails when you sweeten the deal with pizza and beer. Sushi and sake might be a better choice, depending on the person.

Ask her to drive. This is the direct approach. Just invite the person out on a date and say, “Of course I’ll pay for everything, but I am car free by choice. Would it be possible for you to drive?”

You’ll probably feel a bit uncomfortable the first time you ask this. But that feeling will evaporate the moment she says, “That sounds fair.” You will be successful in getting the date, but she’ll probably ask you about it when you get together.

Car Free Success Story:

I think being car free has affected my social life positively. I am more fit than most people half my age. I’ve interacted socially with my community more as I run into people while riding my bike that I would not have in a car.

Sometimes I am slightly apprehensive about telling a woman whom I don’t know well that I don’t drive. But 99 percent of the time when I explain how I’m living my values, they understand.

Generally, on a first or second date, we meet up somewhere – that’s easy, I just bike or bus it there. This includes doing things like meeting for dinner, movies, museums, readings, walks, parties, walk in the park, etc.

From there it depends more on the person I am dating. Some women have no interest in doing anything without a car. This isn’t my preference, but it works OK. I will bike over to her place, or she will swing by and get me on the way somewhere. When we get gas, I pay to fill her tank, and I pay for the date.

Los Angeles has hundreds of thousands of people without cars (I’ve heard it estimated at four hundred thousand.) If you think about dates, you don’t spend that much time in the car anyway. I don’t think it’s a problem. If a woman is interested in me, it’s because of who I am, not how I get around.

Joe L., 41

Artist-Designer, Los Angeles, CA

Explaining Why You Don’t Have a Car

Because we still live in a car-centered culture in which everyone is expected to own a vehicle (thankfully this is changing), eventually you will want to explain why you don’t. Chances are the topic will come up in conversation sometime on the second or third date.

Think about why it is that you choose to live car free, and be prepared to answer. As food for thought, here is a list of common reasons people adopt a car free lifestyle. 

  • “I live in a compact, walkable community close to where I work so I don’t need a car.”
  • “I ride my bike/my motorcycle/the bus/the train to work. So I don’t need a car.”
  • “The lease expired on my previous car so I turned it in. I’m now in the process of deciding whether I want another car or not.”
  • “My car kept getting broken into. I was so fed up I got rid of it.”
  • “Since I ride my bike to work I was using my car only once a week. I did the math and it just made no sense. So I got rid of it.”
  • “I have to park on the street and my car was constantly getting dinged and dented. I finally said the heck with it.”
  • “I believe in protecting the environment and fighting climate change. Not owning a car is my way of helping the planet.”
  • “I got rid of my car in order to live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle. Now I ride my bike or walk to work. And I feel great.”
  • “I’m trying to save enough money to pay cash for a house. So I got rid of the car expense.”
  • “I think cars are mostly a way to display status. And I’m not out to impress anyone.”
  • “Financial independence is more important to me than image.”
  • “I don’t believe in blood for oil, which I think is the basis of U.S. foreign policy. So I choose not to be part of that equation.”
  • “I think the automobile industry and the big oil companies are ruining our planet. So I refuse to own a car.”

Any of the above reasons usually provides sufficient explanation to satisfy most inquirers. Over time you will become less concerned with explaining your decision to live car free.

Car Free Success Story:

Being car free has, if anything, improved my social life. On a simple level, I have met people on organized bike rides and just walking down the street. On a more complex level, staying in shape and being outdoors has made me a more confident person. I now feel more comfortable in social settings. I haven’t lost any friends because I don’t have a car. Plus, car free dating is great. You see more of the city together. And what’s better than cuddling up with a romantic interest over hot chocolate after a long winter walk?

Jennifer M., 26

Production Manager, Chicago, IL

Car free Date Ideas

Now that you’ve explained why you don’t have a car, it’s time to go on some car free dates. When you own a car it’s easy to fall into a boring dating rut – dinner and a movie again?

Car free dating, however, encourages you to think creatively, to focus on each other, and to enjoy simple pleasures. Below is a list of date ideas that you should be able to do without a car.

  • Take a walk at sunset – snap a few photos with your phone and text them to your date later
  • Go for a bike ride – with the money you’ll be saving you can buy his-and-hers bicycles
  • Have a backyard grill-out – no need to drive anywhere
  • Go in-line skating – show her your favorite five-mile route around your neighborhood
  • Exercise together – attending the same yoga class can be very sexy
  • Have rooftop cocktails – a creative way to have drinks if you live in an apartment building
  • Run or jog together – see what kind of shape he’s really in
  • Cook dinner together – food can be so sensual
  • Play tennis in the park – always have two rackets and a can of tennis balls
  • Invite her for a swim – many condo complexes have pools
  • Have a mini film festival – you each choose three movies, then hibernate all weekend
  • Do a 5K or 10K charity run – you can train together leading up to the race
  • Attend a sporting event – most are easy to reach by public transit
  • Read poetry to each other – you each bring a selection of your favorites
  • Share photo albums – a great way to learn about each other’s childhood and family
  • Make wine or brew beer together – and then drink it together!
  • Host a dinner party – invite some of your friends and some of hers
  • Attend church together – a good way to see if he has a spiritual side
  • Play a board game – see how competitive he is, and how intelligent
  • Have a backyard camp-out – set up a tent and sleeping bags outside
  • Have an indoor camp-out – set up a tent and sleeping bags in the living room
  • Go to a neighborhood church festival – easy to get to on foot or on bicycles
  • Attend a community parade – free entertainment often within cycling distance
  • Go to a museum – most are served by public transit
  • Visit a local library or bookstore – you’ll learn a lot from what the other person reads
  • Organize a pub crawl – take an Uber or a taxi so you’re both free to drink and party
  • Take a dance lesson – then invite her over to practice, practice, practice
  • Have a picnic in the park – many neighborhoods have a park or green space within walking distance

This is merely a list of suggestions intended to spark your imagination. You’ll soon find yourself coming up with your own creative, car free dating ideas. And like all acquired skills, the more you do it the better you’ll get.


Will Someone Not Date You Because You Don’t Have a Car?

As you may have guessed, not everyone will be crazy about your car free lifestyle. But based on my experience, I would estimate that maybe 5 percent of people (one in twenty) won’t go on a date with you simply because you don’t have a car.

Your results may vary. But as we all know, some people are into status and image. And some men and women do judge others by what kind of car they drive.

Here again, not having a car is advantageous. It will help you avoid dating people who are shallow, image-conscious status-seekers. After all, do you really want a relationship with someone who judges people based on what they own, instead of what kind of person they are?

Car Free Success Story:

I live car free and my social life is so busy I barely have an evening free. Let’s take this week for example.

Tonight (Monday) I meet with colleagues at the Lucky Lab, a pub about three miles from where I work and about five miles from my house. I’ll ride my bike. If I am out past dark, I use a flashing front light on my bicycle and a red light on the back, and often a flashing light on my bag as well.

Tuesday I am meeting a friend for dinner in her neighborhood, about four miles from my house.

Wednesday at lunch time I will meet a colleague for lunch downtown – it takes me ten minutes to get down there by bike, faster than by car probably, plus I don’t pay for parking.

After lunch there will be a meeting, also downtown, that I’ll bike to, and I will again park for free. The best part about parking a bike isn’t the cash savings as much as it is not having to spend time looking for a spot! After work, I bike up to St. John’s (my old neighborhood) to work with an eight-year-old boy through a local mentoring program.

Thursday is free. Until recently, I spent Thursday evenings teaching a writing workshop about ten minutes from my house at a youth facility for high school boys in recovery from addiction.

Friday night I will meet friends to see a movie back in St. Johns.

Saturday a friend is in town and I will hang out with her, and also attend a training session (four to five miles from my house). My friend who is in town will stay in Beaverton, a suburb that I’ll get to by biking to the Max (light rail), riding the Max out to Beaverton, and then biking to a place where we’ll have brunch on Sunday.

I also have occasional dog-sitting gigs, potluck dinners to attend, music shows to go to, movies to see, etc. with friends. All without ever setting foot in a car!

I have never felt limited in dating without a car. If someone doesn’t want to date you because you don’t have a car, what kind of a loser is that anyway? Not compatible with your lifestyle, and I bet on more than that one level.

Amy P., 32

Manager of Non-Profit, Portland, OR

Lesson 23 is titled Think Outside the Metal Box: Special Situations Require Creativity

When you are new to living car free you will run into some bumps along the way, literally and figuratively. Occasionally you might come across a specific problem that you can’t seem to overcome. Relax. Practically every situation has a car free solution. All it takes is a positive attitude and some creative thinking – and maybe a visit to the GoCarFree.org forum where you can post a question to the group. Click below and let’s go to Lesson 23.

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