Two years ago I donated my car to charity and since that time I’ve been using my bicycle as my main means of getting around. At about this time two years ago, I wrote an article and even produced a little video about my car – a 1992 Ford Explorer (picture above). If you would like to learn more about my car and why I gave it away, click here to read my article from two years ago.
This article, however, is about life without a vehicle. It’s been two years now since I had a car to call my own, and life since then has certainly changed.
Since I wrote that article in October of 2008 I have spent 9 months traveling through Europe, an entire winter skiing in the mountains of Utah, and just recently I’ve purchased a motorcycle as an alternative to a car, but as a means of going faster and further than I could ever go on a bicycle.
Before I get into the motorcycle and all of that however, I should first discuss my initial reaction to giving away my car. When I wrote that article about giving my car away back in 2008, I had yet to actually go without the vehicle. Now, however, it’s been two years… and it’s interesting to look back and see how different my life really is.
The day my car was taken away was a sad one. At the time, I was working just one day a week at a nearby mattress store and the day the tow truck was scheduled to come and get my car was the same day I needed to work at the store. So, I parked my car out on the street where the tow truck driver could easily find it, left the doors unlocked, and placed the car key under the floor mat on the drivers’ side of the vehicle. I then called the tow company and told the tow truck driver where to pick up the vehicle and where to find the key. I then walked to work that day and when I returned home later, my car was gone!
This was a very strange feeling – returning home and seeing that my car was no longer there. Even though I knew that they would be taking my car, returning home and seeing that it was gone felt like a kick in the stomach. It felt like I had been robbed… and I feared that I had made a very bad decision.
I remember being afraid, thinking that I could have possibly made a decision I would very soon regret. I realized that not having a car would limit me in many ways, but knew that not having it would also free me up in others. So at this point in time, I was just very nervous about the future and I was unsure as to whether or not I would be able to survive without a vehicle of my own.
The first month without my car was the hardest. There were numerous times when I wanted to just jump in a vehicle and go somewhere, but I couldn’t. This would usually happen at night when I’d get a craving for ice cream and didn’t have any in the house. When I had my car I would often times jump in and drive to the local supermarket, pick up some ice cream, and then return home to devour the ice cold treat while sitting on my sofa. But without my car, making a short trip to the supermarket became a whole lot more difficult.
After a while, however, I got used to not having my car. In fact, I actually found that I was eating better because I wasn’t making these impulsive ice cream runs… and I was saving a whole lot of money because I was no longer paying for gas, insurance, maintenance, etc.
After two months without my car, I flew to California to stay with my family for a while. Then, on the second to last day of December, 2008, I jumped on an airplane and flew to Zurich, Switzerland for the start of a 9-month bike tour through 16 different European countries.
I’ve written a lot about my bicycle touring adventures in Europe already, so I won’t talk about it again… but what is important to note here is that I was able to successfully travel for 9 months straight and cover thousands and thousands of miles without a vehicle of my own.
To get around Europe I rode my bike, walked hundreds of miles on foot, took 35 different trains, and I did hitch a few rides in automobiles while I was there (4 to be exact). In Europe, I didn’t miss my car one bit… and I was glad not to be paying the outrageous fees that Europeans have to pay for their Petrol. We think we have it bad here in America. Europe and many other places around the world have it a while lot worse! Be happy you’re only paying $3.00 per gallon.
When I returned from Europe in late September 2009, I returned to my home in Park City, Utah and returned to my life without an automobile. My bicycle was once again my sole means of transportation and I have been living quite comfortably for the last several months without a car of any kind.
The thing is, I don’t miss my car at all. There are times when I wish I had a car (mainly when friends or family come to visit and I have no means of driving everyone around), but 99% of the time I am perfectly content getting around by bike and bus (I live in a ski resort town where there is a free bus service that runs all year long that will take you just about anywhere in town, so I’m lucky in this regards).
That said, I do live up in the mountains in a somewhat isolated city. The nearest big city (Salt Lake City, Utah) is about 30 miles away and more than 2,000 feet in elevation below me. That means that if I want to go to Salt Lake City I have to ride my bike for about 3 hours down a long, descending mountain pass… and then ride back uphill for several more hours. It’s pretty much impossible to go to Salt Lake City and back in a single day by bike… and because of the massive elevation gain, it certainly isn’t any fun.
So, that’s why I recently decided to purchase a motorcycle.
Now I know that there are some people out there who will say that a motorcycle is no better than a car, but let me explain to you why I decided to get a motorbike in the first place.
First of all, I was turned on to motorcycling sometime turning my trip through Europe last year. In countries like Montenegro and Greece it seemed like everyone had a motorcycle… and in places like this where the cars were often times parked on the sidewalks, a motorcycle really did seem like the best way to get around.
Plus, motorcycles for the most part get excellent gas mileage. The motorcycle that I purchased (a Kawasaki KLR 650) gets about 55 miles per gallon, whereas my old Ford Explorer SUV was getting close to 12 miles per gallon. Since I’ve had my motorcycle I have driven more than 1,200 miles and it has cost me less than $65 in gas. Filling up my old car used to cost me $50 or more each and every time I filled it up… and that would only carry me for about 200 miles. So the gas and money savings with a motorcycle has been significant.
The final reason I wanted a motorcycle is because even though it has a motor on it, it is still a bicycle. I wanted to get a bike (a motorbike) that I could drive long distances with, that I could tour on, and that would be capable of driving on both paved and non-paved surfaces. The Kawasaki KLR 650 that I purchased is perfect for exactly that type of riding!
I don’t want to talk too much about motorcycles, because that’s not what this article is really about. I should say, however, that since getting the motorcycle I have been able to go to places I have never gone to before, simply because my range has increased by leaps and bounds. And yet, I should also say that the motorcycle has in no way replaced my bicycle as my main means of transportation. My bicycle still reigns supreme in this regards. When running errands, I take my bicycle. When picking up food from the supermarket, I ride my bicycle. When I just need to get out of the house after a long day of work, I ride my bicycle. The motorcycle sits much of the time and I usually only ride it when I need to go someplace that is outside the possible range of my bicycle.
I could go on and on here, but the point I am trying to make is this: Life without a car is not as difficult as you might think. There are times when I wish I had a car, but those moments are few and far between. Most of the time I am not only happy without a vehicle of my own, but it’s been so long now since I last had a car that it is no longer something I even think about.
Running errands and living a normal life with a bicycle as your sole means of transportation is not only possible, it’s a great, fun, and healthy way to live.