Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Thank you for the freedom

This is what the view from a top of a mountain looks like. It’s the Lenong Viewing Point in Marakele National Park. I drove there on Sunday because something in me really, really needed to stand on top of a mountain.


It wasn’t easy driving up that mountain, because the road is incredibly narrow and potholed and it was rainy and misty and I was alone. But I got to the top and I’m glad I did it.

Something like that – spontaneous, possibly mad (I’d never have done something like that in the past) – was only possible because of the car I drive. Or used to drive until yesterday, when I handed it back to Land Rover after two years of the Pulse of the City campaign.

You can do things like this, drive 250km to a narrow road up a steep mountain, when you have a good car, one that’s safe and comfortable to drive, and has high ground clearance and 4×4 capability for some of the trickier parts of the park road.

Now that I am carless, I can say this with conviction: a car gives you freedom in a way that few others things do. You can head for the wide horizon and you don’t have to ask anyone. Yes, I know about payments and insurance and maintenance and petrol and all the inconveniences associated with car ownership — but then I’ve spent the past two years not owning a car, and it was wonderful.

In my case, the freedom extended beyond the road. Because I didn’t have to pay off a car, I was able to leave my job to pursue things I’m passionate about. I was able to launch an art career and take the risk of doing things rather than waiting around for a brief from a client. Freelancing meant taking a huge knock in income, and I was only able to do that because of the luxury car I drove, the one that coded for earns-a-massive-salary-to-afford-the-repayments.

(Ah, the irony.)

The cars I’ve driven over the past two years have given me freedom in so many ways. To drive to the bush, to the sea, to the mountains. Thanks to them I’ve connected with friends and family. I’ve met interesting new people. Researched a crime novel. Reported on Khulubuse Zuma’s auction. Looked out of God’s Window, explored giant hats and giant shoes, and spent a lot of time driving around a city I love and often loathe in equal measure.

To the cars I’ve driven over the past two years, thank you for the mountains and the bridges, the waterfalls and the sea. Most of all, thank you for the wide horizons. We all need those. I need them still.

Thank you for the freedom, the greatest gift of all.

Top of the mountain

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    • PM

      you are absolutely right about the sense of powerlessness/captivity that comes with being car-less. I am also car-less at the moment–although by choice. We decided that we had enough cars in our household, and got rid of one–mine. It has now been about 4 months.

      In most ways the loss is really inconsequential. I have never yet been unable to do something because of the loss of the car. I am always able to coordinate a ride or errands or even delegate errands to others, but that does not mean that i do not feel its loss. I no longer get to choose what is on the stereo by myself, i can’t leave whenever i want, i have to coordinate errands, etc. It is a psychological dependence.

      One of the things that I enjoyed the most was being alone in the car–being alone in MY car–the sense that this was a private space where I could listen to whatever i wanted, eat or drink whatever i wanted, and that it was a space that would not be invaded by others unless they were invited in. Everything about it was mine, and personal and private. Even when I have had cars that i didn’t particularly like, they were still personal–still private–still mine.

      i have a beautiful home, plenty of space, even my own office–but it still isn’t private or even mine like a car is.

      Maybe it is nostalgia for a simpler, more independent time– i distinctly remember being at university and reveling in the independence that all of my possessions would fit in my car–and I could pack up and go…

    • impedimenta

      It will be fun to watch where you go (grow) from here, Sarah.

    • Liam

      1st time reader..very impressed by your views and outlook on life…very cool