At the end of last year, due to unforeseen circumstances, we lost our car. There’s no quicker way to figure out how to live without convenient transportation than to find yourself suddenly without it. We did not welcome the change willingly.
At the time, we were living in Clarksville, TN, a small military town about an hour away from Nashville. Public transportation there existed and was fairly reliable, but it started late in the morning and ended early in the evening. The buses also came only every hour or half hour, depending on the route. This severely limited our ability to get around, especially since my husband was in school at night and got out of class after the bus had already stopped running. Thankfully, I was working from home and my daughter’s preschool was within walking distance. Of course, walking anywhere with a 3-year-old in the dead of winter is a challenge, but those daily walks are largely responsible for the 40+ pounds I’ve lost over the past several months.
I won’t lie to you — the first few weeks without a car were really difficult. We didn’t even have bikes, so we were truly unprepared to handle the situation. Tasks like grocery shopping had to be well coordinated so we didn’t wind up waiting an hour for the bus after we’d finished shopping or walking back to the house from the bus stop (about a half-mile walk) with too many heavy bags. And though snow days were just a minor nuisance when we had a car, they were a real problem when we had to walk.
It took some time, but we eventually got used to our new car-free lifestyle and started embracing the change instead of resenting it. Sure, there were still times when we wished we could hop in our car and just go wherever, but taking the bus wasn’t so bad, and the walks were refreshing. I learned to put my daughter in a stroller instead of making her walk alongside me on our way to and from preschool, and a neighbor often gave us a ride, particularly on rainy days or when the temperature really dipped. I owe her a lot of gratitude, because she really was a blessing to us, and she’s one of the few friends I made during the 5 months or so we spend in Tennessee. We got into a routine and started enjoying the fact that we no longer had to worry about gas prices, car insurance or maintenance. All it took was a shift in perspective. We also realized that we had probably cut our household carbon emissions by more than half simply by living without a car.
But a carless lifestyle isn’t practical everywhere. Whether you’ll be able to do it depends greatly upon where you live and the size (and ages) of your family.
Now that we’re back in Georgia, we still don’t have a car of our own, but we do share a car with family members. This is essential for getting my husband to and from work and my daughter to and from preschool. We live outside the range of public transportation, and the nearest grocery store is about 12 miles away. Nothing is in walking distance, except my niece’s middle school and a bunch of cows and horses on the ranches that surround us. If we lived in Atlanta, or even near downtown Athens, Clarke County, we could easily swing it. We’d be close to shopping, restaurants, public transportation, schools and, if needed, rental cars or car-share programs.
But here in Athens, Jackson County (the city spans 2 counties), life demands transportation. For my husband, that means riding a bike when he needs to go to the corner store. With a 4-year-old in tow and a major road standing between us and any of the places we’d need to go, biking wouldn’t work for most circumstances. While car-free living was possible in Clarksville, I don’t see how it could work here. We will have to get a car.
That said, I’ve been doing a lot of research about sustainability, emissions, fuel efficiency, etc., and I’ll present my some of the greenest cars I’ve found and some of my other findings here in the Transportation & Travel category. (Anyone heard of the Chevy Volt? )
So what about you? Are any of you living without a car? If so, where do you live (major city, pedestrian- or bike-friendly town, etc.)? Are you single or do you have a family? How do you make it work for you? I’d love to hear everyone’s stories!