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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 10-02-11, 10:23 PM   #1
mnutz
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One family's quest to go car-free in rural America (no public transportation).

Here's our story...

A couple of years ago my wife and I were living in a large city. Running the rat race every day, paying too much for rent, making 2 car payments, working way too much to enjoy life. I worked 70 hours a week in a management job, and was miserable. We wanted to start enjoying life again, wanted to have another child, did not have time for anything.

We inherited a small cottage in a remote location. A very small town in the middle of nowhere, where we knew no one. With no jobs in this area we thought we would have to sell the cottage. We struggled with the decision, but finally decided I would quit my job, sell everything we could, and try to make a major shift to the simple life.

Fast forward 2 years, and it is working out great. I was lucky to find a 32 hour a week job close to home. Just enough to pay our minimal bills. We've got a big garden, we do some canning, and freeze food. Trying to do everything DIY and as simpley as possible. We were able to have a beautiful baby boy. Now we are a family of 4, still adjusting to rural life.

We sold the SUV and just kept 1 car. We began to use our bikes for everything, the car would sit weeks at a time. In our small town we have a small grocery store, a library, a clinic and hospital with emergency room. We shop online for household goods. 2 months ago we decided to try car-free. It's been easy so far, but the winters here are very harsh, lots of blowing snow and very cold. That worries me. We haven't gotten rid of the car yet, but we want to.

Everyone here thinks we are insane. They all drive HUGE pickups, this is farm country. We are 25 miles of wind-blown, rolling prairie away from the nearest larger shopping area. 60 miles of the same to the nearest Wal-Mart. Not that I want to shop there anyway, but just giving you some perspective. If you don't drive here, it's because you had too many DUIs and they took your license away. They lynch people who talk about the environment. There is no public transportation of any sort.

Our biggest issue is culture, entertainment, etc. Our daughter is not happy about not being able to go to museums, etc. anymore. There is an Amtrak station 25 miles away, but I can't imagine loading all of us on the bikes and trailer and riding that far. Our daughter could not do it, and I wouldn't take the baby on that narrow, hilly highway.

For now we are still ignoring our car, but it's starting to look like we may have to settle for car-lite.
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Old 10-02-11, 11:17 PM   #2
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What an inspirational story.

I guess I would probably keep the car for the winter (at least) and just try not to use it. If you don't use it at all, it might be safe to get rid or it in the spring. OTOH, if it's paid for and the insurance isn't much, you might want to keep it indefinitely. It wuld get you to the train, which would get your daughter to the city and the museums.

How are your neighbors? Once they get to know you, they might enjoy taking you to the Walmart with them. I've lived in small towns, and it's hard to gain acceptance, but people do believe in helping out their neighbors. Are you involved in any school, church or community activities?
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Old 10-02-11, 11:52 PM   #3
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what an inspirational story.

thanks!

i guess i would probably keep the car for the winter (at least) and just try not to use it. If you don't use it at all, it might be safe to get rid or it in the spring. Otoh, if it's paid for and the insurance isn't much, you might want to keep it indefinitely. It wuld get you to the train, which would get your daughter to the city and the museums.


the car is paid for, and the insurance is dirt cheap. We just don't want to admit that car-free may not work here, for us, right now.

how are your neighbors? Once they get to know you, they might enjoy taking you to the walmart with them. I've lived in small towns, and it's hard to gain acceptance, but people do believe in helping out their neighbors. Are you involved in any school, church or community activities?

yes we do feel it's hard to gain acceptance here. It seems everyone we meet has values and opinions so different from ours, and the folks here do not like "different". We're not close with the neighbors. Admittedly, we do keep mostly to ourselves, that comes from years of living in the city. We are involved in some community activities, i should probably network that route a little harder.

Last edited by mnutz; 10-02-11 at 11:56 PM. Reason: formatting
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Old 10-03-11, 04:54 AM   #4
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In your current situation I think car light is perfectly acceptable. I live on what is left of my wife's old family farm. For years it was 9 miles to the nearest grocery store, then suburbia overran us, now the nearest store is only 1.5 miles away, but the traffic has increased exponentially. Work with what you have and be happy.

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Old 10-03-11, 05:33 AM   #5
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"We just don't want to admit that car-free may not work here, for us, right now."

If it's the truth go ahead and admit it. If you don't drive it, somebody else will and a lot more than you.

You seem a sensible guy and already have the answers so my message is "you're doing fine, carry on".
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Old 10-03-11, 06:32 AM   #6
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I agree with everyone else. it's important not to turn this stuff into some sort of religious dogma. Cars are not the work of the devil, there is no shame in using one occasionally when it makes more sense than the alternative. Congratulate yourselves for what you are doing instead of worrying abut the purity of some ideal, and take your daughter to the museum.
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Old 10-03-11, 10:05 AM   #7
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In the 1980s, I lived in the country. I attempted to live without a car for a while (actually the car died... and I didn't have funds for a new one). It was tough.

In your situation, I would keep some kind of vehicle. But I would also try not to drive it to the local grocery store.
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Old 10-04-11, 07:36 AM   #8
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Thanks everyone for your input! We've decided to keep the car. We've made the committment to only use it for occasional out of town trips.
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Old 10-04-11, 10:29 AM   #9
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glad you kept the car...you'll need it. it's good to have as an alternative transportation on days you have to carry loads, to pick-up visitors, or just days when you can't use the bicycle.. healthy balance in life is what you want.
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Old 10-21-11, 07:52 PM   #10
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This was a great story thanks for sharing it with us.
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Old 10-23-11, 07:56 AM   #11
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Great story, more power to you! Really, in your situation (with kids and all) car light is probably your best choice. Keep the car for emergencies (injuries, etc.) and major shopping trips (try and combine as much as possible). Like you mentioned, a car in Nebraska's winters is a good thing to have. Just don't use it much...
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Old 10-23-11, 03:15 PM   #12
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There's no need to be militantly anti-car. However, cars are a bit like drugs in that it is difficult for many people to restrict their use to the minimum necessary. It takes great strength to not succumb to frivolous driving. It sounds like you have that strength.
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Old 10-23-11, 05:59 PM   #13
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There's no need to be militantly anti-car. However, cars are a bit like drugs in that it is difficult for many people to restrict their use to the minimum necessary. It takes great strength to not succumb to frivolous driving. It sounds like you have that strength.
+1 Well said.
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Old 10-25-11, 06:21 PM   #14
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We went from a truck and a van, to just the van. My wife misses my ex truck more than I do.
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Old 12-06-11, 10:49 PM   #15
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Well, thought I'd update this thread. Things are still working out great. We did keep the car, but have probably driven it less than 1 time a month for the past 6 months or so. The day before Thanksgiving we were leaving town for the Holiday, we hit a deer, a big one. It totalled the car. Luckily no one was hurt. So now we really are car free, we are going to buy another one though. We're looking for something older and cheap to just have as back up transportation. I had really hoped to not have to buy another car anytime soon, if ever. But hey, what can ya do?
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Old 12-07-11, 08:22 AM   #16
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Well, thought I'd update this thread. Things are still working out great. We did keep the car, but have probably driven it less than 1 time a month for the past 6 months or so. The day before Thanksgiving we were leaving town for the Holiday, we hit a deer, a big one. It totalled the car. Luckily no one was hurt. So now we really are car free, we are going to buy another one though. We're looking for something older and cheap to just have as back up transportation. I had really hoped to not have to buy another car anytime soon, if ever. But hey, what can ya do?
Ever thought about blogging about your experiences as a car free/light family? Sorry about the deer incident, they are a major issue where I live in the Carolinas, but I think yours are probably larger and do more damage.

Aaron
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