My Trip: Holiday Transportation Options

What place, if any, does the concept of “alternative transportation” have in celebrating the holidays?

In my friend group, a couple of people are staying in Portland, but for the most part we’re traveling far and wide. Here’s just a sample of where we’re all heading from Portland (map here):

  • Alamo, CA
  • Astoria, OR
  • Auburndale, MA
  • Driggs, ID
  • East Lansing, MI
  • Everett, WA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Longview, WA
  • Monterey, CA
  • Nampa, ID
  • Portola Valley, CA
  • Silver Plume, CO
  • Soldotna, AK
  • Toledo, OH
  • Winthrop, ME

Sure, a few of those places are in driving distance (Astoria and Longview), but what do you do if, like me, you don’t have a car?

Flexcar sometimes has holiday specials, and car rental is an option (but remember, if you don’t have your own insurance, it costs a lot).

Still, you can feel isolated by a lack of transportation choices the way you never do during daily life in Portland when it’s the holidays and you can’t get where your family is.

In any case, most of us are going far enough away that it’s a plane or nothing. I believe that my individual transportation choices affect the environment and reflect my values, so what does it mean that I just get on a plane – the least environmentally-friendly form of transportation around – every time it’s a major holiday and I want to see my family?

It’s easy to think that I get a pass on those because I have an emissions-free vehicle 99% of the time, but hey, that sure sounds like justification to me.

Just as transportation can’t be separated from land use, it also can’t be separated from the fact that Americans move around, and we especially move away from our families. My friends in Europe are roughly the same demographic as my friends here, but most of them live within shouting distance of their extended families. That means that you can take a train or even bike to visit family…in America, that’s simply not an option. And as the cost of fuel continues to rise, what will that mean for families and the holidays? Will people move to be nearer to family if they no longer have the option of hopping on a plane 5 times a year? Or will we just miss each other more?

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