By Gavin Arucan | Staff Writer

When you live in Kunia and attend college over 20 miles away in Kaimukī, the ability to drive is a necessity. Having my mother drop me off several miles past her workplace or taking the 2-hour-long ride on the bus is simply out of the question. Therefore, since I’ve turned 18 in early 2016 and received my driver’s license and car, I’ve been making the hour-long commute to and from KCC through traffic every school day.

It’s not just the drive to school that racks up my miles either. Since I attended high school in town, most of my friends reside in Honolulu or even further east. To make matters worse, only a couple of them have their own car and license, so whenever we want to get together for a group outing, I’m always called upon to drive my “ride-less” friends to and from the destination, which is almost always far from the west side.

Probably the worst driving experience in terms of length would be the time I drove to pick up friends in town, then to Haleʻiwa and Mokulēʻia, back to town to drop off my friends, and back home to jump into bed after a long day of North Shore beaches and driving. It’s especially difficult for me to show off the best parts of the west side to my friends because it would require me to drive to the east side first before returning to the west side and then back to the east side. I did this once to show my friends the beauty of Kaʻena Point, which is actually the furthest west one can go on Oʻahu. The full drive that day totaled to a little over 100 miles. Thankfully I was reimbursed most of the money I spent on gas. Though I’m generous enough to take long drives for my friends, there are times I need to put my foot down and refuse to drive practically around the entire island.

In short, I can spend hours a day, most days of the week, behind the steering wheel of my car, and though the independence can be rejuvenating, the constant hours spent driving long distances takes its toll on me.

The cost of fuel, of which I need to refill on a weekly basis, is a burden on my bank account. I need to fight back sleep as I make my way through the 5:00 P.M. traffic back home after eight exhausting hours at school. I always worry about the safety of my car both on the road and off. Driving has become a just as equally important part of my life as my jobs and college.

However, as draining as driving can be, I still enjoy it. I dislike having to rely on other people to make it through my life. Without my own car or license, I would be living a lifestyle that would be inconvenient for both myself and someone else.

Instead of driving 15 minutes to my part-time job, I would be taking the bus there and calling my parents at 1:00 in the morning to pick me up. If I wanted to hang out with my friends, my closest licensed friends, who would be coming from Salt Lake or Kāneʻohe might have to pick me up all the way in Kunia if I had no other ride. I would also most likely be attending Leeward Community College instead of KCC.

I’d much rather carry the burden of getting myself to places instead of pleading someone else to. I’d be leading my life based on other people’s availability, and my politeness would probably result in me becoming a complete recluse.

I’ve done more and seen more throughout the year I’ve been able to drive than throughout most of the free time I’ve had before I earned my license. I’ve driven to parts of the island that I didn’t even know existed, much less been to. The freedom to explore on my own is exhilarating, and despite the long distances and exhausting drives, I couldn’t be more thankful to have my own car and license.