Symbiosis | Sharing | Harmony

To Reduce Stress In Our Lives, Simply Stop Driving.

by Lee Sok Lian|李淑莲

My Chinese friends, laboring under the illusion that I make a lot of money, have asked why I am not buying property in Shanghai. A large number have acquired property as a result of the large-scale demolition of old houses; part of the ongoing transformation of urban villages. Farmlands cultivated by the villagers are purchased by developers and turned into urban land by the government who compensates those whose homes are torn down. My Chinese friends are puzzled that I have no wish to own private property in Shanghai.

I laugh and ask, “But why would I want to create my own stress?”

In our daily life, each of us must confront people and situations that bring with them a great deal of stress, or the potential for stress. We not only create our own stress but also our stress reactions. I have chosen this way of life to avoid creating too much stress in my life, knowing all too well that chronic stress kills. One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to give up ownership of personal transportation, such as cars and buggies.

When I first arrived on the island, I was assigned an electric buggy. I appreciated the ease and convenience afforded by the buggy but eventually found it troublesome to maintain the vehicle for a number of reasons:

  1. Like regular cars, electric buggies require daily maintenance, including checking the lights, the batteries, and brakes. A perceptive colleague once alerted me to a flat tyre. I had to find a way to get the buggy to the vehicle maintenance department. The mechanics spotted other problems which needed fixing. When the buggy was ready for collection, I had to return to the workshop. All this took up precious time.

  2. The buggy assigned to me was the property of the golf department. Buggies are in short supply on weekends; the golfers use them. I would surrender the buggy and walk, use the shuttle bus, or hitch a ride from a buggy-driving colleague. I soon discovered the freedom that comes with not possessing a buggy. As a passenger, I get to rest my mind and enjoy the beautiful resort scenery throughout the journey. In the driver’s seat, I am often tense, from having to watch out for traffic and errant drivers. Walking is by far safer, healthier, and more enjoyable.

  3. Since a very small number of staff are assigned personal buggies, those in urgent need of transportation sometimes asked to use my buggy. Once in a while, the batteries were practically flat by the time the vehicle was returned to me at the end of the day. I had to send it to the charging station right away, and collect it the next day.

The ownership of a buggy proved to be more trouble than it was worth. I gave up ownership of the buggy early last year and relieved myself of another source of stress in my life.

These days, when I have an urgent appointment, I simply walk over to the golf department office and request the use of a buggy for a couple of hours. The buggies managed by the golf department are in pristine condition; they rarely have flat tyres or weak batteries. In severe wintry weather with freezing temperatures and frost on the ground, concerned colleagues, friends and guests as well as the island’s suppliers (and my bosses!) frequently stop their electric buggies, cars, buses, goods vans, and motorbikes to offer rides. Not only did I get rid of a source of stress, I now get to choose from various modes of transportation which makes life more interesting and colourful!

Kind colleagues giving me a ride on a cold wintry day with blustery winds

People choose simple living for a variety of personal reasons, the most common being:

  • spirituality
  • health
  • increase in quality time for family and friends
  • work-life balance
  • living in alignment with one’s values
  • frugality
  • reducing personal ecological footprint and
  • reducing stress.

By not owning a buggy or car, I am reducing my personal ecological footprint (while doing penance for all those years when I drove). I now have more time on my hands since I have one less item to take care of. I am much, much happier, and completely at peace with myself and the world.