Going car-free with a kid – easier done than said

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Good times!

Two months ago I sold my car. My old 1968 blue beattle, my surf mobile. It was a cool car, very pop (always had people smiling at it or asking me stuff, from the rich to the poor) and very handy, like all cars are. I owned for 3,5 years.

But as an old car, it had big disadvantages too. The high consumption of gas (actually alcohol) and braking down constantly were the worse.

One day, a friend who bikes for years made a remark that after you are 30, you need to exercise more. Hummm, I´m 32 and that really made me wonder about biking more. But with the car handy, I simply would turn it on and drive.

Then I started to visualize an extended trip for me and Luísa and I was reading a few blogs on minimalism (like Far Beyond The Stars and ),  so I was really making my mind to get rid of things and live with less (with less than what I have already, anyway). This is what made me diminish drastically Luísa´s toys, for instance.

I cleared a lot of clutter in my house but there was this big and most difficult step to take: selling the car.

One day, Luísa and I went on a 10-day trip and drove the first piece of traveling for two hours. When the car broke down – AGAIN – I didn´t feel angry or anything, I simply smiled and thought: “I´ll sell this car!” As I pulled over in front of a mechanic (the single-mom luck in action), I immediately called a friend back home to spread the news of selling it. Getting rid of the car would be a big push in planning my big trip.

I knew I had to make a sort of mental picture of my happy feeling about selling the car to use it later when I would hesitate on the selling action. I did feel like hesitating a few times, but I remembered that happy feeling I had with the decision and did it before giving up.

How our life became better

Health – The obvious benefit of selling it is biking and walking everywhere. Feeling healthy, using our legs at it´s full potential and setting the example for a healthier life.

Economy – I spend much less money, obviously  I´m lucky that I didn´t need to sell the car in order to use the money in something more urgent (like a trip to Costa Rica :) ). But before thinking about selling it I wasn’t completely aware of how much I spent in gas and in its annual maintenance. I guess all car owners kind of hide from themselves the hideous truth: that the car is a big time money sucker and you can use your money in much more valuable ways. Only after I decided to get rid of it, I realized how much I was spending a year, and it simply doesn´t pay the benefits.

More Freedom – I feel so much freer. Contrary to the common perception that the car makes you free (to go wherever whenever quickly), I love the fact that we walk out from home and maybe we get a ride back, maybe we catch a moto-taxi (for 1,5 dollars in our town), maybe we take the public transportation, maybe we will go by bike. I´m not worried about where to park and going back to the car, I can simply keep going forward. This is true freedom.

Experiencing more the nature (free entertainment) – I live in a small beach town and any bike ride or walk lets me appreciate the local beauty much more than a car ride. I specially love watching the sky. During the day, fluffy clouds, at night, beautiful stars and maybe the moon. All this on the way home, for free! None of this you see while driving a car.

More fun – Sometimes we are walking and a friend offers a ride. We end up talking on the way and planning on getting together for something later. This encounter would simply not happen if I was inside my onw car. Luísa has a lot of fun in the public trasnportation too. There is always some kid or adult interested in her and making her smile. She really enjoys our bus rides with strangers. I also think that this makes life more real. How many people own a car anyway?

If you are thinking that going car-free looks nice but it´s impossible for you, one effective change you can do is going car-lite. Simply reduce your use of the car and increase the times you can walk out of your house and use a bike or the public transportation. If you live in the US (I´m Brazilian, I can´t really use the word America, it feels like talking about the whole continent for me) you can not own a car and still have one available with services like Zip Car and if you live in the UK there is Share a Car. Going car-lite will bring you all the benefits I described as well.

Depending on your financial situation, going car-free can really make a difference as in making you pay your debt and be not just car-free but also debt-free.

Tammy Strobel and her husband sold their two cars and payed $30k of debt in two years. This would unlikely have happened if they kept their cars. She tells the whole story, gives ideas for an action plan and shares great sources for whoever is interested in taking this path in her ebook Simply Car-free

When I decided to sell my car, I thought that I could at least go on a trial period of six months without it. If life was too unbearable without a car, I could always buy another oldie.

I´m sure I won´t consider having a car for the next year at least. For one thing we will be traveling, but if I was to stay home, I wouldn´t consider buying one so soon.

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on November 18, 2010. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.

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