the benefits of slow transportation

Chris and Henry walking on the Promenade.

Not having a car makes for some interesting discussions when developing new friendships here on the Isle of Man. Because our new friends know the island as car owners they aren’t as aware of the transportation options available. People have offered us rides multiple times when we have been fine to walk. We had some stunned looks the other weekend when we explained that we had walked to an event, a pleasant 40 minute stroll, and that we planned on walking home. A few people have been puzzled by our decision not to buy a car and we have had to, rather self-consciously, explain that it’s not because we can’t afford it. We just enjoy the lifestyle of getting around without a car.

We’ve been here less than two months and have already visited a handful of little towns. All by train, bus or on foot. Sure it takes longer and a bit of planning is required, but we love it.

I’m hesitant to say we’ll be car-free forever. We haven’t experienced a winter here yet and we’re on a short term lease in our current flat. If we move farther away from Chris’s office it might not be as practical to go without a car. But I hope we stick to it. There are so many advantages to going without a car.

  • Health: we walk a lot. Somedays I might walk up to 10 kilometres if the weather is okay and I have errands or playdates on opposite ends of town. For Chris his 15 minute walk to work with a small hill is a great way to start the day and then unwind before arriving home.
  • Conversation: walking together and chatting is a nice way for my husband and I to relax and connect. Since we ditched the iPhones we’re finding our walking time even more enjoyable.
  • See more: in a car the greenery and scenery just whizzes by you. By train or on foot, or even by bus, we’ve been able to really see our new city. We’ve wandered neighborhoods and found parks that we wouldn’t have found or seen in a car. On the train we’re free to enjoy the breathtaking views as the train slowly chugs its way to our destination.

I know going without a car isn’t possible for everyone. Schedules, lack of public transport and city sprawl can all thwart any possibility of being a car-free family. But I urge you to give it a try for an outing a week. Dust off the bikes or look up bus service in your area. Ask around to see if there are any local walking paths into town. Slow down for one day a week. I promise there is more to be enjoyed than just the gas savings.

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  • I have to agree that one of the things that I like most about living here in the Netherlands is that we don’t have car that I can drive, so I am forced to do more walking. Although, at the same time it makes me feel a bit “cut off” & limited (not having a car). If only taking the bus would be easier to do by myself with two little people (2 & six months). :-)

    • If we were living even a little farther from town I would get that “cut off” feeling without a car too. You’re brave to even attempt the bus with two little ones! I am finding almost 2 a great but challenging time for getting around. He can walk decent distances but usually not in the right direction =)

      • Oh geez…don’t get me wrong, I haven’t even attempted; doesn’t seem stroller friendly, and with the two of them would be tough without a stroller. Like you said at the around 2 years old age…they don’t necessarily like walking in the right direction. :-)

  • You hit the nail on the head! Walking to the grocery store and our other various errands is one of my favorite parts of each day. And, we often do it as a family, which I LOVE. Although we do have a car, we don’t use it often. My daughter is 2 months old and has only been in her car seat a handful of times – all for visits to grandma. Although I feel bad when she’s fussing, I secretly appreciate that she’s confused (and irritated) when she finds herself strapped in.

  • We are a car-free family too! Well, I even don’t have a driving licence… We used to have a car, but we sold it and now we are thinking if we need a new one or not. Actually, we don’t even miss it. I walk everywhere anyway and my two year old loves walking too :) but my husband needs a car for his work… but anyway, it good to be car free :)

    • Nice work! Love hearing about other families going car-free. Now tell me how you get your two year old to walk in the right direction? Henry likes to turn around after a block.

  • I wish I could go without a car. The area we are in currently is too spread out for non car living and I would take the bus, except we don’t have one. But as it is, people still look at us as though we have two heads because we have
    “only” one car. Isn’t that just so silly?

  • I love the sense of grounding (pun intended) that walking, biking, running, bus/train riding gives you because you do connect with your community, your family and your environment so much more as you discuss here. I always come back refreshed and we do have a car.

    I think that making time for a one day a week excursion is a big step toward minimalism (albeit not the only way) as it is a way to stop and consider your priorities and probably do some “spring cleaning” in your schedule to make it work.

    The more my family does to fit in actual priorities, the more we weed out of our lives and the more refreshed we feel. I am just absolutely AMAZED at the amount of stress that we’ve lost in our minimalist efforts.

    • No-car day could go along with a no-spend day, one day a week. I like mini challenges like that.

      Congratulations on ditching the stuff and the stress! I feel the same way. =)

  • We do own two cars, but soon, we’ll be down to one. My husband is going to be taking the bus to work. Mind you, it only works because there is an express bus from a station near our home to his workplace–it actually drops him off right in front! I’ve lived other places where being car-free means hours and hours of tedious commuting, so I’m grateful for this opportunity here in Kansas City.

  • I love the idea of no car for just one day a week. A couple of years ago, we gave up our car for a full month, and it was a wonderful, wonderful time! We have only had one car for the last 10 years, thanks to my husbands bike/ bus commuting. Back in 2007, when we gave up our car, we connected with our city, I lost a lot of weight with the self-imposed biking and walking everywhere, we worked our muscles, and we had lots of stories to tell about our adventures!

    We have been trying to do a car-less month again, but it has become too daunting. Our kids are older, and need to be shuttled around more than before. Their playdates are all around town, and they go to camps now during the summer. The thought of a car-less day once a week is so much more do-able. We might give that idea a spin 😉

    • Was it just a challenge you came up with or was it out of necessity? I loved what you said about stories and adventures. It’s so true: you seem more when you go slower.

  • I don’t necessarily see us getting rid of our cars anytime soon, but oddly enough, I think we will probably use them less often once we have the baby. Most of the places we drive to are reasonably close to home, and I feel like it’s probably going to be a lot less hassle to put the little guy into the Ergo or the stroller and walk or take transit than to go through the whole rigamarole of strapping him into the car seat, dragging him, his car seat and the stroller down to the car, loading everything in the car, unloading on the other end, and then doing it all again to go back home.

    Even though I enjoy the freedom and spontaneity my car allows – especially with regard to being able to do all the outdoor stuff I love – I do fondly remember the days when I used to get around exclusively by foot or by bike. My pace of life was a lot slower, and I felt a lot more connected to my surroundings. I’m looking forward to re-capturing that feeling.

    • I only went grocery shopping a few times with our car but found it to be a pain. Just like you said, in and out of the car seat, etc. A stroller with a decent basket makes getting a shop in without a car easy.

      You’re going to have such a nice fall walking the sea wall and around town with your newborn!

  • I think it’s great that you’re still car free. I do wonder how you’ll cope in winter but when the weather gets that bad, you can’t safely drive anywhere either! I have driven perhaps a handful of times while living in the UK and never since moving to London. So that’s nearly five years of not driving and I don’t miss it at all.

    My grandmother has never had a car. She has always chosen to live near a bus stop or train station (preferably both) and still gets around everywhere on public transport by herself – and she’s in her 80s now! So it’s definitely something that can be kept up long term.

  • Yes, absolutely! I have a car, and my area doesn’t lend itself to getting rid of it altogether (a little too spread out, too snowy, and insufficiently supported by public transit) but I LOVE the days when I can take the bus and walk to work or errands. So many people don’t get it, but getting a walk then letting someone else drive while I read or daydream is such a nice way to start and end my day.

  • I know this is an older post, but I would like to chime in. We are a family of seven and share a 92 pick up truck:) We all have nice bikes and a few carriers for youngest children. We love it. It certainly slows down your life..and helps to teach “sharing”. Even for the parents!

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