I walked about five miles yesterday: 1.5 miles from a Blogger’s event to the train, 2 miles to the expo center for a local tradeshow for artists and 1.5 miles to my house. It was 95 degrees.
Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have considered becoming a member of the car-free tribe —people who rely solely on public transit, rides from friends or walking to the bus station.
But now, I have this pull for a much simpler life.
Thankfully, Amazon Prime, Uber, Lyft, my guy
Arnold with his car service, and the DART train have made this a reality.
Given how I live close to Parker Road station, I knew I could follow through with my one year challenge to go car free. The train could always get me to at least halfway to where I need to be, but I can’t justify spending hundreds of dollars a month on a car that I only really need to use once every week or two.
So, I live carless.
I live carless in Plano Texas, the home of pickups, SUV’s and where one will see Bentleys and BMW’s pull up to valet at the Shops at Legacy.
For you readers who live in Dallas or Plano or McKinney or Denton or Ft Worth – or any city in North America, it might make you curious why anyone would forgo a car in the suburbs of a city that depends highly on gas and automobiles.
In August of last year, I moved forward on wanting ONE thing – a simple life. One that embraced the “slow movement” that was popular years ago. And to have a simpler life, I need to free myself of the car, gas tank fill ups, insurance, parking, maintenance, toll tag fees, registration renewals (or whatever it’s called that my husband tells me I am late on again), car washes, oil changes and various other costs that come with owning a vehicle. Oh, and the REI and Orvis dog covers at $150 per pop. Plus, the variable of the things that could go wrong from tickets to accidents.
There was just this one other thing, I lived like the rest of America, driving everywhere. A quick dash to Starbucks, an event across town. And there were some days I was worn out from driving, parking, getting out, getting back in, driving to the next spot, and repeating the cycle over. Add some triple digits and I just felt gross by the time I got home.
(speaking of the rest of America, the rest of North Texas is in our FB page, are you? click the pic)
I was already a fan of biking where I could roll out of my driveway and just go for it. On my own speed, typically not my husband’s speed (he says I’m slow). In addition to the love of bicycling, I felt like I was starting to shift in my desires and intentions – – I was slowly declining invitations to events and parties as I began building my own business and deciding that I wanted to live life on my own terms. I stopped rushing around in my car and began creating purposeful trips once or twice per week. If I had client appointments and needed eggs and stamps. I would plan out my route down 75, pop in to clients, walk to the nearby USPS and circle right back to Georgia’s Farmer’s Market on 15th Street in Plano for 2.5 dozen tray of eggs, hit the library/bookstore/coffee shop and come home.
And I noticed, as I became clear with my intentions in life, I was also becoming comfortable with the power of No.
(check out this amazing book by James Altucher by clicking on the pic)
If I had friends who wanted to meet at 8:00 in the Design District I just said no. Too far, would take too much time.
Heading to a Mavs game or Rangers game – NO.
Besides, when I was looking at the Painted Picture of my life (more on my visual goal map in another post) the only sporty events were Stand Up paddle boarding, snorkeling, tennis and biking.
Before I go on –
I’m not the only one considering it or doing it.
The New York Times columnist Paul Krug spent some time considering the pros and cons of this car-free lifestyle
“When you think about it, for most people, owning a car is quite wasteful,” he writes. “It’s an expensive item of equipment that sits idle most of the time; it requires parking (and often a parking structure) both at origin and at destination; it requires maintenance and is a big hassle all around.”
Or you can read from the Mr. Money Moustache blog who did it years ago on his journey
He writes about his quest for a badass leisure life in this blog
“A bike-based lifestyle is an all-encompassing change for the better. It’s like rolling back the past hundred years of humanity’s clueless paving-over of the surface of the Earth, without having to sacrifice a single benefit of modernization. It’s like shedding all of the stress and responsibility of adulthood that have crusted over you and going back to being eight years old again…without losing an ounce of that golden power and freedom that comes with being an adult.”
So this was all making sense to me and the more I thought about it, the more excited I became by the thought of a brick – or rather a 2-ton car – being lifted off of my shoulders.
So how DO you go without a car?
How does that work?
And, omg, you live in Plano, Texas . . . seriously, how does this work?
- You do a lot of walking. I walk a lot from train stations to cafes to meetings to convention centers.
- I do a lot of bike riding. sometimes on my cheap beach cruiser because I’m heading to a nearby place with a higher chance of it getting stolen (not a lot of functionality). And sometimes on my nicer bike with bells and whistles where I can lock it up and have my eye on it.
- I’ll take the DART (Dart Area Rapid Transit – light rail system) if I want to go downtown to the airport, downtown Dallas, Mockingbird Station or an event at SMU this is my main vessel. I can even get to the Bishop Arts District, Denton and downtown Garland easily from my house near Southfork Ranch.
- On very rare occasions I’ve gone to places in a car with a friend.
- On even more rare of an occasion, I’ve requested a ride from my neighbors across the alley to drive me to the Parker Road station so I could train to the Apple store and repair my blue screen computer. And yes, I teared up a little outside the water fountain in NorthPark because I had to ship my Mac to the Apple hospital. It was only a few tears though because I was in public and heck I had to take the bus connector back to the Park Lane train station with the public.
- My husband has a car he kinda has a crush on me.
- I work from my laptop. So as long as I have my iPhone and Macbook I can work from anywhere. Occasionally I get requested to speak or train out of town and I just use my guy Arnold to take me to DFW or Love Field.
- I say NO to a lot of things. And a lot of people. I’m sorry friends, but if it isn’t a hell yes then it’s a no. Its that simple.
- I keep as much local as possible – that means the Neighborhood grocery store is a 5 minute bike ride, the library is a 20 min bike ride, the closest “cool” place to meet up with a friend is in downtown Plano about 25 minutes (via bike) and I’ve made more neighborhood friends – Laverne and Nancy. These gals are a blast and we play games together at my house or the café about 1 minute away, Café Bohemia.
- To repeat the first point…you do a lot of walking…and that’s a good thing! I’m 39 going on 40 in October and I still have strangers complimenting my legs. I feel like Amy Schumer who states she gladly welcomes and encourages the compliments in her 30’s. I’m turning 40!! OMG! Deep breaths, aging beats the alternative
What have been the benefits of going without a car for over a year?
- I’ve maintained my weight! Maintaining my goal weight is a very happy place for me
- I don’t have to pay for gas, car insurance, car maintenance, parking, car washes, valet, my tolls on the Dallas Parkway or George Bush, car inspection, registration or anything to do with a car. Or anything that could happen with a car -> hail, accidents, speeding tickets.
- I never get stuck in traffic. My train just keeps cranking by all the people who are backed up in traffic.
- My life is simple. When I lived on the beach in SoCal, we would all stay within the 101 via beach cruisers and longer distances we jumped on the Coaster. Just because a highway can take us from Sherman, TX to Ft. Worth and back again doesn’t mean we need to or have to zigzag the city.
- I force myself to make better choices. Tempted to head out for a glass of wine or a 9pm chocolate craving. Nope. Its not happening.
- I’ve taken a car off the road and that means one less car on 75. And a little less pollution.
- I get to be outside in nature, more oxygen, more sunlight.
- I have slowed down and experienced less busy-ness and less stress.
- I’m more creative, planning out routes and doing the impossible from Plano. And while I’m walking or training around town, I get more time to read, listen to podcasts and just think
The cons of going carless?
- The weather – if its 105 degrees and I need to show up somewhere without sweat dripping down my body, I’ll need to Uber. I can’t always walk to the places I need to get to.
- I have to make outfits work, functional, cute, professional is the name of the game. I have a pair of ankle strap sandals that have gotten thousands of miles this year because they foot the bill. Literally.
- I’ve walked 10 miles in one day, only to be 20 minutes from home when a car on the road next to me hit a puddle that came over me like a tsunami. So there’s shit like that.
- I am in constant awareness of my surroundings due to people texting in their cars or not willing to share the road with a surprise bicyclist. Sometimes I am pedaling for my life.
- Friends have been less than supportive, even severely judgmental, especially the “green” ones. Living in the South, I feel that a car is a status symbol. Without one, you are viewed differently. I’ve always been and thought differently so . . oh well.
- I get to about 10% of the places I want to go (perhaps this is a pro of the simple life)
- When my husband’s car had issues, we were both stuck for quite some time with bike trips to the grocery story every other day.
- Sometimes it sucks. It just totally sucks. And all the haters can smile because its not perfect. There’s nothing perfect or convenient about this. And the haters are right. I guess we just have to define convenience and at what cost do we want it.
So what’s next?
I challenged myself to one year, quite willingly of course. Its kept my life simple, saved a good load of money and kept my weight in check. And, there are no more useless trips around town just because I can. If I cannot walk to it or bike to it, I don’t go.
Those are just a few things about my time since going without a car. I am healthier, I do not rush around. I can enjoy life more and get to know my city and area better. A life without the stress is magnificent. No more road rage or trying to text and drive (before it was illegal). Oh, and no more sitting around in traffic. All in all, I could not be happier.
A few more tips from Kurt and Kati Woock from Denver who have also gone without a car:
If you’re thinking of going carless, it’s tempting to fixate on trips that seem the most challenging without an engine — heading to the mountains, for example. Don’t do that. It’s discouraging. Instead, arrange all the trips you take in a year into a pyramid, with the most frequent trips (like your commute) at the bottom. Replace those trips first. Next, work your way up, replacing trips that repeat weekly, like the grocery store. Already you’ve replaced 75 percent of your car trips, which you’ll realize are only to a few different destinations. This discovery builds confidence. […]
The tip of the pyramid usually consists of trips that require a major haul, like furniture, or trips that take you beyond the reaches of Denver’s transportation network. Car sharing works well for hauling. For long-distance, overnight trips where carpooling isn’t an option, renting a car makes sense. The savings of not owning a car are insane. We can rent one for a weekend every month if we want and still come out ahead. And the cost of a single month of our (former) car insurance coverage buys an entire year of the gold-plated B-cycle membership. (source)
And, I found a fantastic, actionable article from another Plano-ite, Trevor Huxham. Click here and go read the whole thing.
There are plenty of ways Dallas and it’s suburbs of Plano, McKinney, Lewisville, Richardson and all the awesome cities in Collin County and beyond must become a better place for people to drive less or not at all, but don’t let that stop you.
The public transit system will continue to improve but only with continued usage and demand by us.
Choosing how you get around is completely up to you. And choosing how you want your life to look whether you want to fit in in Dallas or Plano is up to you too.
I am really open to your comments and questions especially if you are thinking about going car-free too!
P.S. If you shared this article with even one person you wouldn’t just make my day BUT my whole entire year!!
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