Perhaps it took moving to a beautifully small country and a quaint city for us to realize that simplicity can greatly impact happiness levels. But with our new-found life in Europe, we painfully (we received far less than what we paid because the old saying is ever so true, cars are lousy investments) sold our two cars, caught a plane to the unknown and thought we would try to live car – free for a while. You know, just to see if it was possible.
Ahem…six years later and a lot of train, tram, and funicular tracks beneath us, we are actually quite comfortable not owning a car. It certainly helps that we live in a country that is incredibly easy to get around without four wheels, and for that we are truly grateful. Sure, there are times we would prefer to have a car (like going into labor twice and having to rely on a taxi to get us to the hospital), but most of the time, we appreciate not having to worry about traffic jams, car maintenance, parking woes, insurance costs, petrol costs (and boy are they high here in Switzerland).
We like that in our little neighborhood we can walk virtually anywhere, yet another tick on the simple living list. Our son’s school is a mere two-minute walk from our home, the pediatrician is two blocks away, the grocery store a five-minute walk, the bank could possibly be about eight minutes and oh, the treks we make to get to one of three playgrounds in the area of roughly ten minutes are blissfully close.
We have come to appreciate walking or tramming it wherever we may go. We get a real sense of the seasons, we see sun rises and sunsets stretch out right before us and we can hear the birds sing. We can walk downtown in 15 minutes and to the river in about 10 minutes. Life is easier not having to worry about the car and to be perfectly honest, I find myself less stressed each time one of us ventures out the door. I used to worry about bad road conditions, crazy drivers, imperfect weather and accidents. I don’t spend time thinking about that now. Instead I use the time on the tram to read to my children, time on the train to either play (yeah, Switzerland has fun cars on some of their trains), sitting together as a family without having to worry about the road, and simply watching the beautiful landscape out the passing window.
Being car free is certainly not for everyone, but with over one billion cars in the world (article on Huffington Post), certainly our planet could do with one or two fewer vehicles. It is surely not possible to go car free in many places, which is part of a huge global problem. In fact, we often talk about that. Could we have lived without a car in our previous American neighborhood? The answer is a swift “no!” Without sidewalks, and poor public transportation, we would have felt confined to a small radius from our home. We would have also felt incredibly unsafe traveling by foot or bike, especially with our children. To stay in our neighborhood would be fine – we could walk (very carefully) to the grocery store, a gorgeous national park, playgrounds and possibly school, but to commute to work and elsewhere for that matter, would simply not have been possible. Needless to say, we were and had to be, a two-car family.
But because we are now living in a country that makes it so incredibly easy to get virtually anywhere via public transport, we have elected to go car free for as long as we possibly can, hoping to leave a smaller footprint on this earth we love.