My primary mode of transportation is walking. I maintain a valid driver’s license, and occasionally we rent a car when we go on a road trip somewhere. I had a hand-me-down bicycle at one point, but it was not a good one for regular cycling, so I got rid of it. I plan to research and eventually buy a new bicycle as I also enjoy cycling.
After living car-free for about twenty-five years now (yes, it's a quarter of a century!), I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to reflect on the Top 5 tremendous benefits that I’ve gained from this lifestyle.
1. Increased Health Benefits:
I walk thousands of steps daily. My body becomes well conditioned for walking, and I have become a faster walker over time. While walking, my mind is free to wonder or reflect. I can do walking meditation if I want to. I notice the sights, sounds, and smells of my surroundings and appreciate what nature offers to us. This morning, for example, I saw flurries for the first time this season, and they made me smile. I doubt that many drivers where I live would smile at first sight of snow. I have no commuting stress and gain the health benefits of regular walking which Donna had written about in her excellent A Walk In The Woods post.
2. Huge Financial Savings:
I spend about CAD$15 per month on public transit, mainly to visit my relatives who live in the suburbs. Aside from the similarly low cost to renew my driver’s license, I do not have to pay for car insurance, license plate, gas, car maintenance, parking fees, etc. The low transportation cost enables me to save, invest, and reach financial independence sooner than I could if needing to use and maintain a car.
3. Intentional Living:
I'm exempt from the responsibilities, chores, and sometimes headaches associated with car ownership. This includes car bill payments, car cleaning, seasonal maintenance, clearing of the driveway and the car windshield, parking, fender benders...or even road rage from other stressed driver. I'm free to experience the journey, and not just to get from A to B as quickly as possible. At the same time, my 'trips' are more intentional. For example, when grocery shopping I buy only what we need and that I'm able to carry home. This eliminates impulse buying and naturally saves cash.
4. Connection with my neighbourhood and local businesses:
I have time to see what's new in my surroundings and become a regular contributor to the local economy in my neighbourhood. As I walk daily, I recognize the people who arrive or leave the area and vice versa. I recognize the local store employees, managers, or owners and they recognize me as one of their regular customers. It's like having a 'Neighbourhood Watch' program and the feelings of safety, comfort, and connectedness are priceless.
5. Fun 'survival science'...as well as confidence-boosting:
Living in a cold climate with four seasons and walking to get around means I need to be aware of weather-related data such as daily high or low temperatures, wind speed, rain/ snow precipitation, humidity, wind chill factors, UV indexes, as well as sunrise and sunset times for visibility reasons. I need to dress accordingly! I've become pretty good at directions, time and distance estimates. This has also served me well when I travel abroad and land in a new city. What I've learned in geography, math, and science classes become real and relevant on a daily basis. It's fascinating.
I feel very fortunate that I live close to a walkable city centre with a well-used public transit system and an increasing number of dedicated bike paths. For trips that require a vehicle, I can access services such as car rentals (a new car every time!), car shares, taxis, or online delivery.
No lifestyle is perfect. For me, the pros of living car-free outweigh the cons significantly.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.