Exploring living without a car

I own a car. It’s ten years old and never gives me a problem.  I purchased this vehicle used and have spent very little in the way of repairs which is a first for a used vehicle in my experience.  A year ago I made my big move to living inside my town as opposed to ten miles outside of town.  Once I made this move I realized I was using very little in the way of gasoline in my car,  using only one gallon or less a week!  With the warmer weather I have been exploring how to live without my car, and have found many benefits to this way of life.

Why have I held on to my car if I use it so little? The answer is simply that there are a few things I like to do which are too far to get to without it.  I live in a cold climate and can’t imagine having to do everything in the winter without it.  I also have a son who lives with his family 130 miles from me and like to visit with him every four to six weeks.

I  am considering a form of car share with my son who lives just two miles from me.  With his work schedule it would be convenient for his wife to have a second vehicle available, just for emergencies.  I could then borrow the car from them when I wanted to go out-of-town or for those really inclement days.  This would allow me to pay them a little to insure me on the car when I borrowed it, but save on repairs, most upkeep, the licensing and finally the state inspections. I’m not the only one to consider life without a car today.  One family has created a series of articles on life without a car.

Noticing what I have been missing

It has been cold out the past week, but today it warmed up some.  I decided to head out and pick up my groceries, without the car. It is amazing what you will see and do when you don’t have a car.   Here’s what I encountered today:

  • Going at a slower pace I was able to take in the beautiful scenery I usually miss.
  • Our daffodils have reached the end of their lives and are giving way to sprouting of other perennials
  • Residents have already been out working in their gardens and mowing the yards
  • I need to keep to my shopping list.  If I purchase too much I won’t be able to carry it home.
  • My town is special, there are plenty of opportunities for bikes, joggers, and wheelchairs to easily access all the amenities.
  • I am meeting others who are out and getting to know people in my community.

Knowing I had to be able to get my purchases home today I needed to keep my grocery list simple.  Here’s what I bought for the next few days.

  • Rice and black beans
  • Vegetable broth to make a soup
  • Edamame to use in my soup
  • bananas,  raspberries, and small bag of grapes
  • leafy greens and spinach for salads
  • Raw almonds
  • Raw sunflower seeds
  • Greek yogurt for my grand-children
  • dish soap

As you can see,  I will be eating pretty darn healthy.  Usually I tend to over buy, especially fresh produce, it’s been a difficult transition to shopping for one person after feeding a family for 21 years!  By buying only for a few days I was able to limit the amount of food that may end up in the compost pile!

I know what you are going to say, sure if you are single it would be easy to live car free but what about families?  Families are going car free too.  Follow the experiment of one family as they experiment with living car free for one year. It hasn’t all been rosy, but it can be done.

Recalling a life before my car

When I was growing up, we walked every where.  I can still remember walking to the grocery store a few blocks away to purchase items we needed for dinner instead of taking the car.  I knew most everyone in the neighborhood and really knew the individuals who owned or worked in the local stores.

I walked to school each day, until I bought my first car.  My car was my pride and joy and allowed me to get where I was going faster, but it wasn’t until today that I realized what I lost by driving so much.  We had a local business my siblings and I walked by each day, when the holidays came by they would give us penny candy and stop to ask us how our family was spending the holiday.

I was fortunate, in my opinion, to grow up near a fresh water lake. I loved spending time at the beach and went nearly every nice day each summer.  Before buying my car I would walk a block to catch a city bus which would take me to what we called “the dock”.  There I would pay .75 for a ride on a ferry which would drop me off about half a mile from my favorite beach.  I would hike the trial to the beach, which gave me time to enjoy the sounds of nature.

After I purchased my car, the trip that used to take me close to 45 minutes now took 20.  It took that long because I spent most of it stuck in traffic waiting at red lights. The peaceful ride across the lake on the ferry and the quiet of the hike was replaced with the frustration of traffic, increased costs for gasoline and everything else that comes with owning a vehicle.

Seeing the benefits

I am not one who enjoys shopping, I prefer to spend my time in nature.  I don’t live near a shopping mall, the closest being 15 miles from me. I have given some thought to how I would get to places in the nearby city from where I am without a car and realized I could still get there, it would just need to take a little planning on my part.  I could catch a bus from right outside my home, but I would need to have a schedule and return to scheduling my time so I wouldn’t miss my ride.  So it is possible to live in at least the suburban area I do and still do anything I would like to do.  Here are tips for families to make that transition.

The rising gas prices may be giving us an opportunity to return to a better way of life.   By parking our cars we will save money, not only on gas but in repair costs as well. Our health will improve as we get more exercise as well.  Instead of simply knowing the few individuals who work at the businesses I frequent, I am now getting to know so many more people who have been here all along.


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