Sunday Guest Post Series: Living A Car-Free Lifestyle

Greetings everyone! I’m Natalie from ‘Natalie the Explorer.’ I wrote my first guest post on Donna’s blog at the end of October. That was such an enjoyable Guest-Hosting experience that I wanted to contribute to the extension of Donna’s fantastic Sunday Guest Post Series. So here I am writing my second guest post to share my thoughts on living car-free. I think it’s an atypical lifestyle, especially in North America. Do you agree?

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.

Natalie

From Retirement Reflections:I love reading and writing Guests Posts and hosting Guest Bloggers. I have learned so much this way that I otherwise would never have known. It also reinforces that blogging is all about community. Thank you to Natalie for suggesting and kicking off Round Two. I love her provocative post on embracing an ‘atypical lifestyle’. I look forward to reading your comments on this. Up next Sunday will be…me…sharing in more details what I’ve learned from Guest Blogging and Guest Hosting. Please join me then.

58 Replies to “Sunday Guest Post Series: Living A Car-Free Lifestyle”

  1. If I lived in a city with public transportation, I too, would give up car ownership. I’ve paid for public parking in the city and I know it’s quite expensive. For me, living in rural America, this is just not an option. I drive 8 miles (to another town) for water aerobics; 14 miles to a different town for duplicate bridge; and, of course, there is my hiking habit.
    Enjoyed your post.
    Karen recently posted…One hike, two daysMy Profile

    1. Hi, Karen – Thank you so much for dropping by and commenting. I love reading about your ‘hiking habit’. As you know, this little habit brings many on many, many health benefits. My husband and I live in a small island town. We could not survive without a car here. But we have just one car, so we walk as many places as possible (and regularly indulge our own hiking habit)!
      Retirement Reflections recently posted…Sunday Guest Post Series: Living A Car-Free LifestyleMy Profile

    2. Thank you, Karen, for your comment. Location and how pedestrian-friendly the town/ city is are key for the car-free lifestyle. It’s great that you have a hiking habit which brings on many health benefits.

  2. This sounds wonderful. I love to walk. While I don’t live close to a walkable city center, I do intend to at least ride my bike to do grocery shopping when I retire.
    And reading your thoughts on the money savings aspects struck a chord in me. We have an extra vehicle we pay all of the costly items you mentioned above. Do we really need it? Investigation to follow,
    Laura Smith recently posted…Volunteering-Gateway to HappinessMy Profile

    1. Hi, Laura – Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. I love when posts inspire others to reflect and ‘investigate’. As I mentioned to Karen, my husband and I transitioned to a single car (in a small town with minimal public transportation). We had originally planned to add an additional car…but simply haven’t missed it.

    2. Thank you, Laura, for your comment. Cycling brings many health benefits, too. I hope you’ll give it a try during your ‘investigation’ and share your experience with us.

  3. I am a “car guy.” I walk 12000 steps a day on average. Not counting the walks with our dog 1/4 mile each time. My wife and I travel
    regularly, North,South, East,and West. Just did the whole DelMarVa peninsula. Going skiing in the mountains of West Virginia for a week with the kids and grandkids for Christmas. For New Years we are going to Floridas’ forgotten coast for seafood just caught in the ocean. Then to California in March and the San Juan Islands.
    Cars are my passion. I spend about $2000/mo maintaining them. To not have my toys in retirement would be like cutting off my arms and legs. I am 77. The MD says I am in good health. He spends 15 minutes with me going over meds,cardio etc. the next 45minutes he wants to talk cars.

    1. Hi, Jack – My husband is a ‘car guy’ as well, so we will never likely be car-less (as long as he can help it). I think that Natalie’s post is about living an intentional lifestyle. It sounds like you are doing just that. Your regular daily steps, travel, skiing….and passion about cars are all very impressive. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing this.

  4. Hi Natalie,
    I absolutely love my rural property and, right now, can’t imagine living anywhere else. That said, it has ALWAYS been my desire to be car-free. There is no question that when I make a move, it will be to a place where I can walk everywhere. I don’t want a city; I’m actually always on the lookout for either a village or a very tiny town that is quiet and spacious feeling, but still has the amenities I would want – at the very least a grocery store and post office and pharmacy. A couple of quaint little shops and a restaurant or two would be pretty terrific too!
    Thank you for this post of the benefits of living an intentional car-free lifestyle. I am envious…and, sooner or later, on my way to joining you in this healthy, mindful and financially responsive choice.

    1. Thank you, Karen, for your comment. I’m glad to hear that when you make a move, it will be to a place where you can walk everywhere. My extended family lives in the Greater Toronto Area so this city is where I am. Otherwise, I’d consider places like Vancouver Island.

  5. I can’t imagine you not living on your rural property either, Karen. It sounds beautiful! If you do make a move, you could consider Vancouver Island (selfish of me, I realize)! There are several areas here where many people live car-free …. and that match your specifications above. Thanks so much for stopping by. I have been having MASSIVE technical difficulties with my website this week, so I am glad to see that my posts are reaching people!
    Retirement Reflections recently posted…Sunday Guest Post Series: Living A Car-Free LifestyleMy Profile

  6. Great topic, Natalie. If I were to live in a city, I’d be car-free as well and would love it. I lived in Belgium until I was 28 and never owned a car (or a house). Right now, in San Diego, we have vowed to use our van as little as possible and that is working out splendidly, because we can walk to stores, bars and parks with the dogs. Lovely! It keeps us fit and we save, especially because fuel prices in Southern California as excessive. Crazy! Every month, we put $25 of diesel in the tank and have to make due. 🙂
    Liesbet recently posted…From Maupiti to San Diego and Other ReunionsMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Liesbet, for your comment. Glad to hear that you can walk where you are in San Diego. Stay fit and save money, what’s not to love about it? Many European cities have extensive public transit systems and tight space in the city centre which enforce people to walk, bike, or use public transit. I love cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Den Hague, where the use of bicycles has matured so much, it’s the way to get around.

  7. Your car-free lifestyle sounds enviable! Sacramento suburbs were designed for cars to drive everywhere! Nothing very walkable, and I thought about riding my bike for groceries or to the gym, but would be afraid it wouldn’t be there when I was done! I hope city planners are looking more into these walkable communities as they develop new plans, especially as we Boomers keep getting older!

    1. Thanks, Terri, for your comment. It’s a public health improvement when city planners develop more walkable communities. As more people live longer and baby boomers keep getting older, we all need to look at ways to keep health care cost down and to have quality of life.

  8. Very commendable! I get very frustrated in North America because so many towns seem not set up adequately for pedestrians, but at the same time public transport can be minimal. We love to walk everywhere and (some) North Americans find us odd. Recently, in Canada, we were told that the best restaurant in town was too far to walk. It took us less than half an hour!

    At home (Glasgow, Scotland), I walk everywhere in the city, when possible, or use public transport. Having said that, we do drive to get out into the countryside, and I also need my car to take my mum out as she’s not very mobile these days. Some day I would like to be car free too.
    Anabel Marsh recently posted…A walk round KerreraMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Anabel, for your comment. I understand your frustration in North America. Glad you can walk or use public transit when at home, and use your car only when you need to.

    2. Hi, Anabel – I am horrified to hear that a fellow Canadian told you that a half-hour walk would be too far. Recent stats have stated that the average Canadian adult takes 3,500 to 5,000 steps in a day (as opposed to the recommend 7,000 – 13,000 steps ). I agree that many North Americans have much to learn from Europeans in this regard.
      Retirement Reflections recently posted…Sunday Guest Post Series: Living A Car-Free LifestyleMy Profile

  9. Hi Natalie! I absolutely LOVE public transportation. But like so many other commenters, living in the U.S. –especially in smaller towns or cities makes it very challenging to live without a car. Fortunately we live pretty near a small town, downtown, so we are able to walk and bike to many places…but still need a car for other services. However we have a hybrid that is 5 years old and another vehicle that is 14 years old (both free and clear of course) so as long as they keep running we have no plans to replace them. It is definitely a different mindset and I think if people are honest about the money and time they put into owing cars they would be much more willing to let them go and scale back to something more sustainable. ~Kathy
    Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com recently posted…Getting Naked, Dropping the BS, and Embracing The Integrity AdvantageMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Kathy, for your comment. Yes, unfortunately, there are many towns/ cities where it’s very challenging to live without a car. In those situations, using the car as efficiently as possible seems to be the more sustainable strategy.

  10. Although I love my neighborhood, I would love to live in a more walkable area. I really enjoy being completely car-less when we travel to places that allow us to get around on foot (including Toronto). At home, I have my daily powerwalk for exercise, but most errands require a car. I have found that, now that we are retired, we don’t drive nearly as much as we used to. I can go several days without taking my car out of the garage.

    Unfortunately, local public transportation leaves a lot to be desired too, so, I’m afraid, cars – for us – are here to stay (but my next one will be an electric car).
    Janis @ RetirementallyChallenged.com recently posted…Neighborhood WatchMy Profile

  11. Hi, Janis – I agree that electric cars offer a very attractive alternative to traditional cars (no gas required, zero emissions, low maintenance, reduced noise pollution, cost effective, etc.), I also agree that retirement can mean less need for driving (at least it does for Richard and me). Knowing your recent experiences with your car’s GPS, I wonder if electric cars come with a better GPS solution?! 🙂
    Retirement Reflections recently posted…Sunday Guest Post Series: Living A Car-Free LifestyleMy Profile

  12. Thanks Donna, this was really interesting and I love how you share other bloggers and their stories here. I wish I could go car less but I do try to walk and cycle as much as I can. It’s hard living in the mountains in a small town without public transport or even a taxi!! Lovely to read your post Natalie, it was nice to hear from you again!
    Debbie Harris recently posted…Riding the Hauraki Rail TrailMy Profile

  13. Hi Natalie great to see you as a repeat guest. We have two cars but when we go to our home on the Gold Coast we don’t need one. We have the light rail at our door and I love walking along the Esplanade to the local shops. We need a car at the moment to take my grandson to kind or taking my MIL out from her aged care home. I can see a future though where we are car free and I don’t think I will mind at all.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond recently posted…Over the Moon Link Party #102My Profile

    1. Hi Sue, Knowing your active lifestyle from your blog, and some pictures from your Gold Coast, I’m pretty sure you won’t mind to be car free in the future. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  14. When we were looking to purchase our retirement home on Vancouver Island, living in a walkable neighbourhood was on our wish list. However, we ended up purchasing a place that we fell in love with in a rural area near the ocean. There are excellent hiking trails right outside our door. Although the area immediately around us is rural, within a radius of 4 kilometres, there is a grocery store, pharmacy, liquor store, library, restaurant, community centre, recreation centre, and marina. The grocery store is a 7km round trip, which is bikable, but not easily walkable, especially seeing as the area is very hilly. So we tend to drive more than we had hoped. But we love where we live.

    Jude
    Dr Sock recently posted…Why I Enjoy Writing FictionMy Profile

  15. What a freedom it must be to live car-free, Natalie. I love to walk, however, we don’t live in a city and fairly long distances to get to a store, work, and to do errands. We own two cars, and I do advocate going down to one when we retire to cut our costs in half. Cars are indeed expensive and you are an inspiration!

    1. It is very freeing, Molly, and very natural if people are open to the idea. As other commenters have noted, the need to do daily drives tends to decrease after retirement so keeping one car, if you need to, is a very viable option. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  16. Hi, Molly – It’s interesting that most of us believe that our cars give us freedom, but living car-free can bring a profound freedom in the right areas. During our 32-day Camino Hike this past summer, the only form of transportation that my husband and I used was walking. The liberation that we felt was incredible. And, it was a very intimate and personal way to explore the villages, towns and cities that we passed through. I agree that Natalie’s post is very inspiring.
    Retirement Reflections recently posted…Sunday Guest Post Series: Living A Car-Free LifestyleMy Profile

  17. Thanks, Natalie, for sharing your car-free lifestyle. From reading through the comments, it appears you started a lot of us thinking. I thought about the many places I drive on a regular basis, and I could definitely walk to more of them, but many would be impractical to walk to and difficult to reach on public transit without greatly increasing my travel time. At this point in my life, that doesn’t feel like an option. That said, I will definitely be more mindful and ask myself if walking is an option when I am making plans.

    Thanks, as always, Donna for keeping us all connected!
    Christie Hawkes recently posted…Friday favorites: Blogging Grandmothers Link Party #22My Profile

    1. Hi Christie, It’s my pleasure to share my car-free lifestyle and exchange our thoughts on this topic. I think if each of us walks a little bit more often, and uses a car a little bit less often, we’ll gain the above benefits at individual as well as societal levels, and be kinder to our planet earth, too. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment.

  18. Wow, Natalie – That’s amazing. Like the others, I think it would be very cool to live somewhere and be car free. Every time we are in Seattle, I think, “We could so do this.” But alas, like Richard, hubs is a car guy…I’ve always said that at least I know where he is – out in the garage polishing something! (He’s not out at the bars chasing skirts! LOL!) The good news is that now on the Voyage, we find that we actually drive all these vehicles far less than before!
    Lynn ~ Encore Voyage recently posted…Encore Quotes – Random ReflectionsMy Profile

    1. Thank you, Lynn, for your comment. I think driving less, keeping just one car, cycling or walking more are all good actions towards healthy living. It’s also important to keep the spouses occupied with their hobbies during retirement 🙂

  19. We just moved into town and are walking a lot more — to shops, movies, restaurants. I have a leased car, and now will never put on all the miles I have allotted to me the contract. Maybe when the lease is up . . . we’ll see.

    1. Thank you, Tom, for your comment. It’s so great that you’re walking more at your new home location. When your lease is up, hopefully you can find savings either by committing to less mileage or no lease and just rent a car when you need to. The savings can go towards pleasant experiences like walking to that restaurant you like for a nice dinner or enjoying a movie and more.

  20. I commend you, Natalie. For about seven or eight years my ex-wife and I lived in Washington, DC without a car. I always thought it was the most liberating time for me because, as you mention, there are no responsibilities such as repairs, maintenance, parking, etc. I’d go back to that way of life in a second if I could. Congrats!

    1. Hi, Marty – I agree that location, lifestyle, timing….and how much you or your partner are “car-people” are all factors that come heavily into play regarding whether or not going “car-free” is right for you. We are not car-free, but do walk everywhere within the boundaries of our town (okay, unless it is raining heavily…or dark or…..). Thanks so much for stopping by!
      Retirement Reflections recently posted…Sunday Guest Post Series: Living A Car-Free LifestyleMy Profile

    2. Thank you, Marty, for your comment and sharing your experience. I had the pleasure to visit Washington DC and stayed a few blocks near the city centre. It was great to be able to walk to the White House, and several other landmarks.

    1. Hi, Dee – Sadly, many areas simply aren’t walkable. Our current location provides a good mixture…but it would be incredibly challenging to be completely car-free due to minimal public transportation here. Thanks for stopping by, I greatly appreciate it.

    2. Thank you, Dee, for your comment. As Donna noted, many areas aren’t walkable. I think when we continue to find ways to move our body more, and become less dependent on a car, we’re making progress to gain the health and financial benefits.

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