In many parts of the world, earning a driver's license is a rite of passage. Hours of classes, driving tests and more than a handful of awkward instruction sessions with senior family members culminate in the freedom to hit the road.

But driving's not for everyone.

Public transport, taxis, cycling and hitching rides can do the trick just as well, if not better, in some places. That's the general consensus from respondents on Quora.com, the online question and answer community.

Why they leave the cars behind

For Ara Ogle, learning how to drive has been the biggest deterrent to getting on the road. "I've tried several times, and never gotten out of the 'circling the parking lot' stage," she writes. "Frankly, it scares me, I'm not very good at it, and I'm not good at learning things when someone is sitting next to me constantly correcting my errors."

But for some Quora users, it's simply not practical to own a car. They cite the expense, or if they live in a major city, the presence (if not quality) of public transport, which obviates them from needing a personal vehicle.

Jon Groubert and his wife live in Manhattan and haven't owned a car in over 12 years. "As someone else here has pointed out, paying to have a car in the city is practically like paying for second apartment," he says.

Quora user Tom Berntson, a Canadian living in Germany, has three kids and no car. His family gets around using a Dutch cargo bike, or bakfiets, essentially a bicycle with a large cart in the front. "It's amazing how freeing it is to not have that big expensive machine hanging over your head, waiting to break down and bankrupt you."

More spontaneity

But aside from staying away from the mechanic there are other, smaller, benefits to not driving.

Ogle said her favourite part of living in New York was her ability to get around without a car. She no longer lives there, but still argues not driving has its own rewards. "I can nap or study or read [and] play games on the bus. Sometimes I meet cool people and have interesting conversations," she says.

More than a few Quora users mentioned they get great exercise and benefit from being outside more. "I was able to appreciate nature much better when I did not have a vehicle than when I [did]," Adi Ven, who lives in a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, writes. He has a license now and says he “hardly ever stop my car to watch a squirrel nibble on a nut or notice how the leaves have changed color."

Guilt down the road

Forgoing driving, however, is not all speed walking and squirrel watching. Bianca Pellet, a 28-year-old Briton living in France, rattled off a list of drawbacks from going license-less. First and foremost: a lack of independence. "If I want to go anywhere even remotely off grid, I have to get my husband or parents to drive me."

She also cites guilt as an unfortunate byproduct of her choice, particularly as she can’t share driving duties with her husband to his parents’ house, a daylong trip by car. And aside from depriving her from “feeling like a fully-fledged adult”, lacking a license makes Pellet feel limited in where she can live and work. "You are tied to expensive areas with good public transportation systems," she writes.

Living license-less

Stephanie Vardavas says she has taken great pains to live in cities with access to good public transport. "I have chosen apartments and houses that were convenient to public transit and to whatever commute I needed to make, as well as shopping and social outings," Vardavas writes.

For the Manhattanite Groubert, the most difficult part is the outsize grocery run. "I have to then lug my enormous quantities of food a few blocks to catch a downtown bus, and then schlep the bags of food another couple of blocks from the bus stop to our apartment." He recalls an instance when he stopped every few hundred feet to rest his muscles.

Whereas forgoing a license may be a lifestyle choice for many urbanites, not everyone is content to remain without wheels. At least for France resident Pellet, the drawbacks of not having a car far outweigh any benefits. "Believe me, when I pass my test, EVERYONE will know."

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