Why Renting A Jeep Cost Me My Freedom

We had the pleasure of renting a Jeep last week while family was in town. Trips that had taken hours were whittled down to mere minutes; we didn’t have to leave home early to arrive on time, and the rhythms of our day no longer followed the bus schedule.

I felt wealthy.

With this bounty came a realization: how different a life we’ve lived these past six months. I can say we have never been great lovers of ‘things’. We don’t have a television, we’ve lived without a vehicle for a year, and we own no furniture of our own.

But the first months on this island were an adjustment that I found difficult. We aren’t talking about lacking a cable package- we’re talking about lacking hot water. And living with severely restricted electricity use; because when your average electric bill is $400 a month, you learn to do without. Instead I bought candles, unplugged the microwave, and cooked on our propane stove.

Our priorities have shifted. Can I wash my clothes today, or is it raining? When you need to hang your clothes to dry outside, the weather matters. Do I want to go to the beach when I have to walk two miles in the hot sun? Life becomes far more limited. I am frequently hot, sticky, exhausted, and longing for relief.

Over and over we’ve debated the merits of purchasing a car, for the freedom to explore the island, and to relieve the physical pressure on our bodies. The island, though only nine miles long, may as well be 500. We are severely constrained by how many miles we can trek in the midday sun, or where the bus line goes. I know people who live in Cruz Bay without a car and have never traveled the eight miles to Coral Bay.

In the end, with thoughts of endless paperwork, bureaucracy, and the money pit the car would likely end up becoming, we declined, and decided to continue on with our mountain hikes.

This does mean, however, that every time we have a chance to explore, we are drowning in gratitude. We are in awe of everything we behold- it’s rare to see all sides of the island, and they are precious to us. Having a Jeep this week was an exercise in thankfulness. It made life so much easier. Easier to scoot to the market, easier to zip along the windy roads to the beaches, easier to dash on over to our favorite restaurants.

However, with this ease came a distinct lessening of amazement.

All of a sudden our huge and previously unattainable island felt very small. The joy we felt upon arriving at our destinations diminished without the usual built-up anticipation.

I’ve learned the reward is greater when it mirrors the expense of the journey.

Though returning the Jeep was painful, my husband and I gave small, silent, sighs of relief. With a car, it’s hard to encounter new people. We’ve met most of our friends here when they picked us up hitchhiking.

Walking my husband to work today, he looked over at me. “I’m glad we brought the Jeep back. I felt like I was missing the pulse of St. John.”

It’s easy to think that convenience makes life easier, more palatable; when truthfully, it can make life smaller. If I didn’t have to walk to town, would I have had the chance to befriend all of my neighbors- especially the ones at the end of my road? Every day I am engaged in a conversation with someone I’ve never met before. Would we have had these experiences inside our air conditioned vehicle?

Our life is an adventure. But adventure does not promise comfort.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that “adventure” and “comfort” are antonyms: Isn’t that why they tell us to leave our comfort zone to have an adventure? Comfort can deaden the senses, and the pursuit of it doesn’t allow for unpredictable and possibly life-enhancing experiences. Comfort usually arrives through the establishment of routine; it squashes spontaneity, which can strip you of freedom.

I believe that making yourself uncomfortable while traveling encourages you to move outside of your normal circles. Choosing to experience potentially awkward or disagreeable situations can help prepare you for the bumps in the road and mishaps that will inevitably happen- not just in travel, but in life.

My own practice has led me to become more flexible, less worried, and far more willing to find the fun and humor in situations that could otherwise seem trying. Even though it can feel exasperating at times, my favorite moments of the day usually come while experiencing a circumstance that most people would typically avoid. Climbing into the back of a grimy pickup truck with your groceries doesn’t ordinarily rank high with great experiences- thoughts dart through your mind of oversized tarantulas, rusty nails, and wet paint.

The reality of my choices is never as trying as I imagine. In fact, if I had declined these experiences, I would have missed out on the wind running its hands through my hair, the giant constellations racing above me, and the mountain breeze caressing my freckled face.

Life is kinda like that: you think you know what’s coming, and you’re wrong.

But isn’t that the beauty of it?

How would you make yourself uncomfortable to pursue adventure?

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