Two Years Without a Car

two years without a car

Two years ago I packed up my life in Sydney and moved up the coast to Queensland, Australia. Since then, I haven’t owned a car. I’ve been using my bicycle as my main means of transport. Around sixteen months ago, I wrote an article and even produced a little video about my life since going car-free eight months prior. If you would like to learn more about my car and why I gave it away, see here to read my article.

It’s been two years now since I had a car to call my own, and life since then has certainly changed.

I’ve spent this time adapting my lifestyle to suit a carless one. I’ve started a new job, built friendships along the way, gotten to know the community around me, started some new hobbies like freediving and beach volleyball, been on dates, changed up my grocery shopping routine, and learnt my limits on how far I can really travel on a bicycle before it becomes too difficult.

I’ve managed to ride or catch public transport (or carpool if necessary) anywhere I’ve needed to go. But, this new lifestyle hasn’t been without its challenges or struggles. So, here are a few updates from my experience of life without a car over the past couple of years, and what I’m looking to do moving forward.

two years without a car
two years without a car
two years without a car

I Replaced My Car With a Bike Two Years Ago… This is What Happened

It’s been two years… And it’s interesting to look back and see how different my life really is.

I wanted to try car-free living when I moved to the coast, as it had been a long-standing dream of mine to ride on my bike (that, of course, had to have a basket on the front) along the path that ran alongside the beach each day, just like I’d seen others doing on all of our family holidays to the coast.

I’ve written a lot about my bicycle adventures in the early days already, and how I found adjusting to the whole car-free life during the early months, so I won’t talk about it again. But, what I learnt during this time was how it was possible to live a simple life by the sea without needing a vehicle of my own for the most part.

I understand circumstances are different, and it really is a privilege that this car-free lifestyle has been accessible for me. As I live within a five to ten kilometre radius of all the places I mostly visit, I find biking to be convenient. However, if I’m going on longer road trips that aren’t accessible by public transport, I’ll usually carpool. Car-free living is definitely a lot easier if you live in a city.

The first eight months of car-free living were really difficult to adjust to. As biking took a lot out of me energy wise (my fitness level was really low to start out with), I stayed home a lot as biking felt like too much of an effort and the idea of going to the beach seemed less appealing when you had to ride half an hour to get there. I became a bit of a hermit, and loneliness was something I really struggled with for the first year and a half.

Two years on, I’ve managed to create a routine with biking that I love. I ride to work each night, four days a week, I ride to church, ride to my local café each morning to grab a coffee and read a book, ride to the beach to walk along the sand or go freediving, ride to meeting spots with friends, ride to my favourite plastic-free store, Biome, ride to the bulk foods store, ride to the organic farmers market, ride to volleyball. Almost any activity that I want to do, I’d ride my bike to it (except hiking). Riding has become second nature to me. A real enjoyment.

But, don’t get me wrong. It’s had its challenges and there have been many times when I’ve wished I had a car (mainly when friends or family come to visit and I have no means of driving everyone around, or when I’ve really wanted to go for a hike in the mountains), but most of the time I am pretty content getting around by bike and bus.

That being said, I have recently decided to save for a car of my own.

two years without a car
two years without a car

Why I’m Getting a Car

A huge reason for this is accessibility. I’m not able to participate in certain volunteer opportunities in the marine environment field as I cannot get to them. Places like Moreton Bay and Stradbroke Island are very challenging to get to without a car, and they host a wide range of volunteer programs there.

Plus, I miss hiking. I am such a nature girl, and being away from the Blue Mountains in Sydney has been one of the hardest things for me. The mountains are where I go to think, escape the busyness of life in the city, and reconnect with myself. It fills my soul when I sit out in the forest, listening to the sounds of the birds and the trickle of water running along the creeks. But, I’m limited in being able to visit the mountains near me here on the coast, as it’s about an hour’s drive from where I live. So, I usually need to arrange to go with somebody, which is wonderful and I love it, but sometimes I’d love to just go to the mountains on my own, and simply be in my own company as I explore the trails there.

So, hiking usually only happens once or twice a month (at most) for me, and I crave it.

The third reason, which I touched on briefly before, is I would love to have a way of transporting my friends and family around when they come to visit. At the moment we bus everywhere, or use the e-scooter and e-bike sharing service, Lime. But, it is still quite inconvenient, especially when you have three or four of us.

I also came across a problem that I hadn’t encountered before during my two years of biking. Flat tires.

I live about an hour and a half’s walk away from my local bike repair shop, so I asked a friend if she could take me and my bike in her boyfriend’s van to the bike shop (only ten minutes drive away) as my bike won’t fit in a normal car (it’s humongous). I tried taking it on the bus once, and I swore never again. It got stuck in the isle way and took so much manoeuvring to get the thing back off the bus.

So, I usually ride it to the bike shop when I need to get it serviced. However, as it had a flat tire, I couldn’t. This was fine, as my friend took me and we got it fixed, but the following week the other tire popped and she wasn’t free to pick me up, so I had to walk the hour and a half there and the route ran right along the side of a highway, so every two seconds I’d have cars speeding past just inches away from me. I was super unimpressed by the whole ordeal.

So, I thought having a car would prove helpful in situations like that (a van would be even better).

I am super grateful for my bike as she’s sturdy, easy to ride, gets me (almost) anywhere I want to go, and only needs to be serviced once a year. Plus, she’s cheap to run as my legs don’t need petrol to work. Riding everywhere has also really built up my fitness level over these past two years. I really enjoy it now (as opposed to when I first started), and I find it to be really therapeutic when I can hop on my bike and just ride. I sit with my thoughts or listen to an audiobook or my favourite music, and just take in the scenery around me.

two years without a car
two years without a car
two years without a car

What about E-Biking?

I have had some wonderful suggestions sent in, too, by those who watched my video on living car-free. I had shared that grocery shopping was a huge challenge for me on a bike, as I couldn’t hold all my grocery bags and ride at the same time, so I had to catch the bus. Which is fine. But sometimes the bus never shows up, and that’s a little frustrating.

Many have suggested buying an electric bike with bigger, sturdier tires, as it would make long commutes much more achievable, or buying a trailer to hook onto the back of my bike to use for grocery shopping. These suggestions were fantastic, and I did contemplate doing these things for a while (and I may even buy an e-bike in future), but for now I’ve settled on the decision to buy a car first, to have for long trips, volunteering, and when family and friends come to visit. I’ll save for an e-bike next to have for longer trips around the Gold Coast area (and even day trips to the mountains to hike).

I would still predominantly use my bike as my main mode of transport, as it’s more eco-friendly and cheap to run, and reserve the car for longer trips, which would allow me to go to places I have never been to before simply because my range of travel would increase by leaps and bounds. When running errands, I’d take my bicycle (and buy a trailer for grocery shopping). When I just need to get out of the house after a long day of work, I’d go for a ride. The car would simply be there as an option for when I need to go someplace that is outside my possible range of biking.

But, to be clear, you don’t have to live car-free to make some changes for your life and your environmental impact.

When I write about being car-free I get a lot of comments of ‘that just isn’t possible for my family.’ And I get it. It is definitely true for many. Public transportation isn’t perfect or even available to some people. Tight schedules can mean a car is the only option. And if you live in a rural area, biking everywhere is definitely not feasible.

But what about just trying to use the car a little bit less? Try and do as many errands as you need to in the one trip. Have a no drive day. Walk more. Bike to your local café. It really is a great way to slow down and soak up the moment when you get out on the bike and go for a ride.

two years without a car
two years without a car

Moving Forward

For the time being, it’s still just me and my bike. Saving has been a little slower than anticipated, and I’m only half way there (I started saving at the beginning of the year), so I probably won’t be able to buy a car until the start of next year, which doesn’t faze me. I love to ride, and even once I have a car, I’ll continue to ride as much as possible. I’ve come to love riding over these past two years, so much so that I can’t imagine my life without it now. It’s one of my favourite things to do; hop on my bike and just see where my legs take me.

Again, I’m very privileged to have been able to live car-free for this long, and I am so thankful for the lessons biking has taught me and the perspective it has given me. I no longer take driving for granted, that’s for sure. It feels like a luxury now when I carpool with friends. To arrive at your destination in half the time…

While there are times when I wish I had a car, 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’s no longer something I really think about. Running errands and living a normal life with a bicycle as my sole means of transportation has been such an adventure, and I’m so grateful for the experience.

two years without a car
two years without a car

As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor before trying or using any new products. I am not a doctor. All opinions expressed are my own personal thoughts and feelings of the products mentioned. Check with your doctor or health practitioner if you are uncertain about trying out any of the products, recipes or tips mentioned in this post.  

Have you tried biking to a destination instead of driving? Did you like it? Share in the comments below.

Lots of love,

🖤 Vanessa

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