Meet Murciélago, my 2005 Honda Element 4WD EX
In 2012, I surrendered to the siren song of international travel by resigning from an office job and moving to the state of Jalisco, Mexico. Twelve months later, I left for the coast of Colombia, where I remained teaching, traveling, and writing for four challenging but amazing years.
“It’s the only way to live. In cars.”
~ Gary Numan, British pilot and singer-songwriter
Prior to my departure to foreign lands, I sold nearly everything I owned, including a well-worn, 1996 Ford Ranger. With most of my material items gifted or donated, I went on to live successfully for several years abroad taking taxis, riding buses, hopping on motorcycles, and walking extensively for transportation.
In 2018, I returned to the United States and spent countless months borrowing friends’ cars and doing my best to avoid buying a vehicle: a typically-normal thought for most people that somehow caused me anxiety and refuse.
I debated going car-free, referring to books like “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car” by Chris Balish and researching options like public transit and car shares.
Finally, I asked The Universe to give me a sign on what to do. A few weeks later I received one: Search for a pre-owned car that you can live in as well as transport your beloved 1981 Vespa P200. A cool vehicle that is economical and handles well that may be easily sold should you get the sudden urge to return abroad.
Enter the Element
With an idea in mind, I began to focus on a car that was roomy but not ginormous, reliable and gas-efficient, more badass than a minivan but less sporty than a Jeep and, most importantly, able to accommodate both me and my scooter comfortably.
Finally, I decided on a Honda Element: a vehicle known for the reliability and decent MPG that comes with a Honda, as well as its unique, adventure-friendly design featuring all-access “suicide” doors, flat-folding/removable seats and a pop-up rear sunroof.
The Search and Score of My Element
In my quest to track down an Element, I learned these coveted vehicles were produced by Honda from 2003 to 2011. I found online forums and groups created by Element owners, and an entire culture dedicated to literally living in their Element. My reticular activating system was focused on something material that resonated with me as being adventurous, reliable, responsible, fun, and unique. Bam!
From October to December 2018, I test drove pre-owned Elements, dodging snarky comments about a woman searching for an adventure car. I ignored slimy “your credit is your down payment” offers from dealerships and walked away from unsolicited opinions, refusing to sign “as is” warranties without detailed inspection reports.
One morning in late January 2019, I received an email notification from a dealership where a longtime friend worked as the finance manager. I jumped at the chance to purchase the Element from her workplace. In return, she did me a solid by offering a fair price and excellent service. I finally had my Element and I was elated with the way it transpired: another miracle manifested.
Murciélago, The Adventure Bat
When I first began driving the Element, I was thrilled with its spaciousness, including the headroom, which for me at 5’3″ feels vast. Being a Honda, I found it easy to drive, plus the flat-folding seats made a great place for afternoon naps.
It didn’t take long to name my car Murciélago, Spanish for bat, since the Element is black, stealthy, and enjoys hanging out (parked) as well as flying (down the road). Even with her 170,000 + miles and dorky but well-made paw-print seat covers, I am pretty much enamored with Murcié, if that applies to material objects.
So far, our excursions have been fairly short-distanced, but they do include transporting El Banano to and from the Rides of March scooter rally in San Luis Obispo: a 5-hour drive from Sacramento through the picturesque landscape of the Central Coast Valley.
We have also hauled numerous household items and furniture to and from secondhand stores as both purchases and donations, including a queen-sized box spring carefully strapped to the roof.
Onward and Into the Elements
Living in California, a state with limitless opportunities for encounters with natural spaces, my next adventure will probably be some overnight “car camping,” influenced by full-time Element dwellers such as Ethan Maurice and YouTubers Phil and Vanessa Chan. Whatever is ahead for Murcié and me, I’m sure it will be fun and worthwhile.
Do you own a Honda Element or similar “adventure car” that inspires you to seek more in life while keeping material possessions to a minimum? Or maybe a vehicle that motivates you to forge ahead in life, seeing what’s next? Leave a comment and let me know!