Life without a car...is it possible?
Should we try such an extreme challenge?
I love driving. I am a big fan of it, I really am. It can provide freedom and improves ability to get where you want to go when you want to go and allows you the option to ram everything but the kitchen sink in before you go on your journey of choice!
Yet for so long I have yearned for the chance to not be so reliant on a vehicle. To let the Earth breathe a bit more without being destroyed by more car exhaust fumes. Until there is an appropriate option for an electric vehicle with affordability and accessibility then that option is off the cards.
You see it has got me thinking again. I am sat on the JustGo bus on the way to collect my car from its umpteenth time in the garage. What is it this time you may ask? Well just new brake pads and an alternator. At least it is not a re-conditioned engine this time though!!
Now I am contemplating the options for ditching the car and the stress it brings me on a daily basis and seeing if we could do it, if we could survive life without a car?
Are you in?
Have done it before, I know that life does exist! The big question is can you truly function though, with 2 young children at school in a town 3.8 miles from home. A job again 3.8 miles from home when you have been so used to the ease of access and driving as you please? Currently still on furlough so not actually going in to work and am sure that as long as that job retention scheme goes on I will not be going in either.
Could we get away with riding the local bus every where is what I’m thinking. Could we do a little experiment and trial to see if we could live that way and do it well whilst living in the middle of nowhere?
What we might be able to do is to use the bus service to get to and from school at a relatively good price. Easy transport picks and drops up from not far off a door to door service. Me take my laptop and work remotely for the day, cafes, sisters house, parents house or if I do go back to work then that is good as it is the same town as the school! In another very good point I also have an allotment that I could walk to and while away a few hours.
So day to day it should prove a good thing to do. Reduce payments and the stresses that go with owning a car that seems to almost always needs something doing to it.
We certainly would not miss times when the car plays up and causes way too much stress!!
Other things we do like football games and training are in the same area anyway so that should work fine and I am sure we can ask for lifts to get my son to the games if and when needed or if they are out of the area.
Currently we don’t really do that much except go on walks usually not far from home or nip to the shops which if we were more thoughtful about, we could plan these in even better. When my partner is out at work he could collect shopping on his way home. I could order more stuff to be delivered from local places and focusing more on what and how we eat is even better anyway.
In fact I can only think that it will be a good thing.
Downsides will come with lack of being able to see family and friends that are further away. That’s when you need to plan in advance and book buses or trains to see them. It’s not totally unthinkable is it?!
Say we fancied a trip away and wanted to drive. We just hire a car or van and do that. There are ways and there are means and I think I am genuinely looking at all the positives. Having to walk places! Perfect, I have to walk so I can’t choose not to get my arse moving!! No excuses!
When we joined our two households together me and my boyfriend found that we had an overflow of vehicles between us and this was not sitting very well with our eco ethos! I have a Mini Cooper and he had a van for his job with the RSPB plus his general vehicle, a Ford Focus Estate. Way too many vehicles for just the two of us. However with him out at work and me out taking the kids to school on a day to day basis then it meant that actually it made sense to keep them for a big proportion of the time. We used his more practical car for car camping and collecting pallets and going out with my children in as this gave us much more flexibility. He had to use his car for anything that wasn’t work related as other people are not allowed as passengers in the van. So even though we have a van we can’t use it for the things we would like to! It was coming up to the time that he would have to put his car through an MOT and due to its age we worried that it would end up costing us more than it was worth so the decision was made to get it gone as part of us joining forces and reducing our carbon footprint. My car only had 55,000 miles on the clock so it seemed the most sensible option to keep hold of. So then we ended up with his work van and my mini. As he is furloughed for the current time the van is now just sitting gathering snow and dust on the drive until the time it gets to go out again. We have found though that as I am too furloughed and the national lockdown has included schools closing again it has meant that we have hardly used the car. In fact we have purposefully tried not to. Working out better ways to shop or to get about to see if we could live without a car or any vehicle for that matter! We would be very keen to have an electric vehicle but unfortunately due to the cost of such we are very much unable to consider that at present. There has to be another way?! There has to be a good reason and a why that means we don’t need to use a vehicle and so we are really putting it to the test now. It is pretty amazing that we have hardly used the car at all. Fuel bills reduced dramatically and our impact improved vastly.
Would we miss our wild car camping trips!?
So two big questions come from all of this…
Question 1: How did we start to go car free? The main thing to do to enable you to go car free is to look exactly at how you do use the car. What essential trips you make, what non essential trips you have done and work out how to find a common ground somewhere in the middle of the way you would like to live and if that is actually a real life change you can make or if it is just a fantasy. You see for many years I have dreamt of going car free and yet at no point has it ever actually been a feasible option for me. Not practical in any way. I had a job as a fashion and textiles lecturer in Chesterfield and due to the fact that I lived in Belper, Derbyshire I had to travel to work, racking up way too many miles every week. It hurt me that I was doing so much driving and my dream of going car free was so so so far away. See for me I was kind of living a car driving carbon burning nightmare every time I had to travel to work. I did not have the choice not to go to work (unfortunately). I was not able to move house. So like most normal people I just carried on doing it. I was finally able to make that call in 2017 and end my job and move house. Then my life shifted massively, I took my life back in to my own hands and reduced my travel almost completely (well from what I was doing to basically no more than 10 miles a day with a job closer to home. Some days I was even able to muster up the energy to ride my bike to and from work and those days felt so good. Unfortunately though things don’t always go to plan and I fell into the trap of getting back to using my car all too often. Rushing around from dropping kids off at before school childcare, to my work, back home to collect kids from childcare to then nip to some after school club to then go home and then…long story short I have battled with wanting and needing a vehicle for too long! We made a choice to reduce the amount of reasons we used the car and to do that it meant streamlining our lives and stopping journeys that we didn’t need to do. We got to a point where the three of us were rushing around too much using the car and it just got beyond what we were willing to do. We looked at the kinds of things we were doing and made some good life choices that meant we had less to do. Less after school clubs to go too.
Perhaps it may make is even more creative in how we live our life and how we travel around. More rolling down hills seems a great idea?
We refined our choices and found that we were happier because we weren’t running about like lunatics (driving around like it too) and I felt better. I still felt really frustrated in a morning and getting to school on time was getting trickier and trickier. The amount of meltdowns we all ended up having just trying to get in to the car and get to school on a morning was just ridiculous and it was making me so stressed and that was the opposite to what I wanted with life. I wanted other options. I wanted to walk (we live way too far away for the kids to do that) so I began to look at our other options, local buses etc and it wasn’t looking good or at the very least was looking like far more effort i.e walking to the bus stop 35 minutes away to get a bus that actually didn’t turn up at school on time and it seemed like it was just going to be too hard to do it. That was until I came across the new local service JustGo, a service where you use an app to book buses to collect you from near where you are, they come to the closest bus stop to your destination and then you travel on it. When you wish to return you do the same again and book yourself a bus back using the app. An easy to use very good service, when you can get a bus that is! Despite its low general cost per journey of anything from £2.50 anywhere in North Lincolnshire the amount of journeys that would need to be made per day meant that the monthly cost came out well over the cost of my car, its upkeep and the fuel so was quite difficult to get my head around the fact that it would cost me so much more in actual fact than if I just carried on as before. I knew that the benefits however were going to outweigh the monetary costs and so pursued with this way of sustainable travel where we trialed this for one half term getting to and from school. I was still furloughed from work and so therefore didn’t need to be at anywhere at any particular time apart from getting to school and so I knew that I could take it in my stride whilst trialling this new way of life! So with the kids we started getting the bus to school, some very early morning drop offs which was fun, waiting around outside school for ages before they went in, they seemed happy. Then once they were safely in school I set off with my walking boots on back home, only a mere one hour and a half journey that was pretty much blissful as I listened to podcasts on my way and it was great, what could be wrong with allowing myself time to listen, to walk, to be outside, to think, to get some exercise with a good motive, a real proper reason. I needed to get home and that was one way of doing it! It was quite an immense feeling of being out there doing it, feeling like finally something was achievable. My dream of living with a reduced carbon footprint was unravelling in front of me and it felt good. Some days I got the bus back home and I felt bad but things were moving in the right direction! Kids were far too excited and good at getting up for going to get the bus of a morning that it felt crazy that we hadn’t tried this before.
More change to get out and ride our bikes which is always good!
Next port of call was to figure out if I could do this as a bike ride, something I had been so keen to do. I did it and it was okay, hard at times because these things are but I could do it. I could leave my bike at one destination get the bus and then get the bus back to the bike the next day. Able to leave my bike in my mum and dads shed overnight. An even better excuse to see them nearly every day of the week, at least wave to them from the garden anyway! So things were going well. I was feeling less stressed, fitter and in a much better place if I am honest. Then here we are again in lockdown 3.0 now and well kids are not going to school and I am still furloughed and we have even less of a reason to go anywhere. We had done some good work before then in terms of getting the majority of our shopping and supplies that would be delivered or got locally. We even started recently going to the farm shops near to us as a trip out with the kids on a weekend, for something to do, another way of getting back to the roots of us and our community. A much better way to go and get supplies. Kids getting way too excited about picking the sprouts, carrots, mounds of potatoes and most especially some local made cheese and awesome jars of jam. Which is our great reason for going back each time. We just have to say to the kids, shall we go get some lemon curd or perhaps some blackcurrant jam and off we go with our hessian bags in hand, armed with veg crates to get our supplies for the next couple of weeks and so things really are working well in terms of going as car free as is possible for now. We have also been renovating, up-cycling and making things with parts in our garden which without being able to go and collect things in a car we would be a bit stuck. So we are as car free as we can possibly be at the minute and even so when we get back to school and work (one day). We will continue to do this way as it is the healthiest for our mental and physical health, I mean that for all of us. Which brings me nicely on to our second question…
No more pulling up at the side of the road side to grab a photo of a beautiful sunset!
Question 2: How will we maintain it when life gets back to normal? It is almost like there is no option to go backwards, no reason to change this or stop the momentum. Each and every day I become less and less consumed with the car and it is very few times that I think of going out in it. In fact I think less of going anywhere at present. Whether that is a symptom of lockdown or merely are we just in our happy place at home doing what we do? Building the life we want to live and enjoying life in a more sustainable way. Every day we work towards creating the right life around us. We are surrounding ourselves with everything we want and everything we need to live within our means. So when life tries to get back to normal we are armed with how we want to go about the daily tasks. We will continue to do the buses to get to school and then I return to using the bike (which I am very lucky that the boyfriend for my fortieth turned my bike electric) so it will make it even more exciting to do that on a daily basis. Seen as though the children were so much more happier and at ease with getting the bus it makes sense to carry on with that. I can leave the bike as I had to make those return journeys even easier. As we have now missed most of winter it will perhaps even be easier to get back to doing that in Spring when we return to school. If and when I do return to my job sometime this year I work very close to the kids school and can simply get to work after dropping the kids off and then walk and collect them to get back on the bus. In fact those days will be easier as I won’t need to travel home. On those days that I am working from home for Slow Circular Earth I can feel confident knowing that I have had some daily exercise and thinking time, all before I start my writing day at home. Food shopping wise we will continue with our cow’s milk, orange juice and fruit juice deliveries, plus all our other items that come to the house. For those that we haven’t sorted deliveries for, those will be the next thing to get sorted so we don’t need to go anywhere! As we are currently not doing anything else, kids clubs etc we don’t need to worry about how we get there but it will certainly need to be something I will consider when we return to football training. Will we be able to get the buses to that too? I am not entirely sure as the buses don’t run as late as the sessions did. I think it is very sensible to keep a vehicle as where we live is remote and if we need to go anywhere for emergencies then we want to know that we can go. I had to take my son to A & E recently and felt like I was lucky that I could take him.
Not as simple getting to and from the allotment without doing regular trips to town.
The other thing that we need to travel to is our allotment plot in the nearby town. We love having it but it certainly proves harder to get to when we are in lockdown and unable to go anywhere. When we do go it feels bad that we are driving to get there and yes it is great for exercise and growing our food which is exactly what we want to do. Yet if we have to drive there to maintain it but driving all that way for no other reason it feels selfish and it feels a little hypocritical and like the opposite reason to having an allotment!! Or is that just me? Probably!! So we need to consider whether we could move our allotment over the next year to our home, to our garden and to continue to permaculture ourselves in to that property, which should really be the main aim for us to live more sustainable and self reliant. In fact this will become one of the challenges we shall enter into this year!!!
So here we are at the end of the start of our little story of attempting to go car free. It is like anything a work in progress and some days we do better than others. Sometime we work really hard at it and some days it almost doesn’t exist. We are so glad that we are living as we see fit. Things go wrong. Things don’t go to plan and sometimes you just need to drive. We are happy that this is even a thing for us and that it is definitely on our radar. Feeling like we can help save our planet for the future generations in what little way we can.
If you start this little journey yourselves we would love to hear about it. Any questions feel free to shout out and let us know what you think to our words.
We hope you get on well with your second challenge. Don’t feel like you need to rush through all ten steps within this guide. Take your time going through each one when you are ready and grasp each one with both hands and get in to it!
Life in this eco way is so rewarding when you give it a chance. This second challenge merely scratches the service and you will be itching to delve deeper. We love to see how you are progressing so keep us updated with how your eco mindset journey is going, send us an email, tag us in socials>>>>>
This ‘year’ challenge can be started at any time without question!
When you sign up for this challenge you will then receive weekly emails of what you can do to improve your sustainability and how you may live more green. You can choose to except the challenge or leave it in your inbox for when you are ready to accept. That’s the thing with this challenge. It can’t be limited by time. It needs to happen when you are ready for it to happen and that’s when you create the momentum for your life to truly start greening it up and when it does, that’s it you are totally hooked!
We will be here every step of the way. This journey is an unforgettable one and you won’t quite believe why you didn’t try it before. You won’t let fear or worry hold you back ever again (hopefully…or if it does pop up you will be more equipped to tell it what you think and that it should do one!!)
5 ways to live car free
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Another challenge you can get into!
Hope and time for yourself...
I hope that you can find hope for yourself within this challenge, make your own thoughts for the future. A catalyst for your own change.
Remember whatever you do, to make it true to yourself and your beliefs. Make it so your heart will gain from whatever you do. In whatever way it can be satisfied. I’d love to hear from you in your eco adventures but for now I wish you the best with a happy guilt free time for you to get lost in your own thinking.
Grab a pencil and some paper. Sit still, breathe deep, close your eyes and dream….
By Amie Alissa Watson
Founder of Slow Circular Earth UK
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