After selling my car last summer and living without a car for an extended period of time for the first time since I was 16 years old, I was surprised, frustrated, excited and scared at various times throughout the process. Initially, the process was a bit difficult as I learned to make my way through a city that is very unfriendly to anyone living without a car. However, as always, I learned to adapt after a little while and I began to appreciate the opportunity to save a ton of money (my car was costing me $500/mo at that time) and at the same time live a slower paced life. I was spending significantly less and getting much more. After a brief relapse earlier this year, I’m now car-free once again and appreciating all the different aspects and nuances of this lifestyle. I just wanted to share a few different awesome things about living car-free.
Try buying two cart loads of groceries and walk/bike/bus them home. I guarantee you won’t do that again. I’ve never been the type of person to aimlessly walk around the grocery store and load up on things I didn’t go there for. I’ve always gone into stores with a purpose and more or less stick to what I went in for. However, living without a car simply reinforces this. I only buy what I can I can carry in my hands and/or my backpack because I have no choice.
2. The savings are all that and then some.
What can I say here? I’m saving at least $500/mo and I’m basing that on what I was paying for a used Pontiac G6 (I’m including gas, insurance, maintenance in that calculation). If you buy a fairly nice car, like an Audi A4, and you buy it new you’ll be paying much more than that when you add up all your transportation costs. A monthly bus pass is just over $50 where I live, and my little scooter costs less than $10 in gas to operate. The savings add up quickly.
3. You stay fit.
Walking/jogging/biking to locations like the grocery store or bus stop are little tiny calorie burning moments that I wouldn’t have if I had a car. When you own a car you naturally tend to park as close as possible to wherever you need to go and you tend to drive to locations even if they are within walking distance. Not having a car forces you to use your feet.
4. You enjoy your surroundings.
I’m not a big tree hugger or nature freak, I promise you that. But what is good for nature is good for you and me. I tend to enjoy nature and the weather much more when I’m walking in it instead of driving through it. When I’m driving a car to/from work I’m simply trying to get from point A to point B as fast as possible, which usually involves darting through traffic, timing lights and using my accelerator pedal gratuitously. Now I take my time and enjoy the birds chirping, the greenery around me and I love seeing the clouds slowly pass by. I don’t know how or why, but I really see so much more around me when I’m walking to places I need to go. Even riding my scooter, I tend to watch everything around me much closer. Not only am I trying to avoid getting hit by a driver more interested in tweeting than driving, but I’m also enjoying the breeze hit my face and the sun in my face.
5. You become more social.
When I’m driving in a car, I’m typically jamming to some tunes and I have the radio cranked. I can tell you what I’m not doing: talking to other people. When you’re in your car you can’t be social with anyone because a lot of the time you’re driving by yourself. You’re driving to/from work or to/from the grocery store or to/from the gym. Even if other people are in the car it’s people you already know: your family and/or friends. But, when I’m riding the bus I open myself up to many more experiences for better or worse. Believe me, I’ve had more interesting experiences during the last 9 months of riding the bus than I ever had in a lifetime of driving a car. You meet all kinds of interesting people and who knows; you might forge a long-term friendship. Although there are quite a few dangerous/shady people that ride the bus everyday, there’s also a load of interesting and funny characters who get on and share stories or pass the time by with jokes.
After this is all said and done, I’m not saying I’ll never own a car again. For now, however, I’m really enjoying the cost savings and other benefits that can’t be measured in terms of dollars and cents. It’s allowed me to really be aware of, and enjoy, my surroundings and live a much different lifestyle. Everything slows down a bit when you’re living without a car, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I currently live in a city that’s not particularly easy to get around in without a car, but I’m doing my best to make it work!
What about you? Every try living car-free?
Thanks for reading.
Photo Credit: foto76