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Surviving without Driving

An awesome personalized flea market cart, courtesy of kitschykitten.com

I’ve had a car with me throughout my life, in high school, through college, down to my first apartment in Washington, DC, and certainly to my new place in North Carolina (where life was simply not survivable without one). Yet now that I’m settling here in Chicago (where gas prices are very quickly nearing $5 USD per gallon, may I add) it’s time to realize that I simply don’t need a vehicle.

I gave my beloved Toyota Camry away a few weeks ago, and we’re just a Craigslist message away from the sale of my fiance’s car, too.

In some ways, we’re settling down–but in other ways, we’re cutting the cords that tie us down. Now, we’ll be free to book flights as we please without worrying about when street sweeping is in the city again and if we’ll be able to move our cars without earning a ticket. And we’ll be forced to explore our new city by the pure nature of riding the buses and trains wherever we go.

In preparation for the day we are officially no longer car owners, we have been refraining from using our cars for the past few months to test the waters. Now that we’re selling them, we’re happy to see them go. Though there are times when cars are extremely useful, there are other times when they’re so much of a burden (remember that time we had to spend $700 on a quick run to the garage? Oh, and the other time, too?).

Yet I realize that those without cars need to reserve a solid amount of preparedness when they go, so I have listed a few investments that every non-car-owner should purchase before getting rid of Rhonda (or Black Betty, or Suzanne, or whatever you have named your clunker).

1. A large umbrella. Not one that can fit in your bag, but one of those long ones that you use like a cane when not poised above your head. The ones that can fit you and maybe one other person without either of you getting wet. When the rain is pounding and it’s a much sweeter deal to get into a car, you’ll thank me for getting something that’s not flimsy and will keep you pleasantly dry, while everyone else with their pocket umbrellas shows up to work miserable.

An awesome personalized flea market cart, courtesy of kitschykitten.com

2. A flea market cart. This one is absolutely necessary, and a life saver in so many ways. Four boxes of wedding candlesticks too heavy to possibly carry (and too far away to make multiple trips)? Check. A 35-lb bag of dog food? Check. All of the heavy groceries that you want? Check. A new set of weights? Check. You may look like an old lady carting this thing around, but it makes you all the cooler. Plus, people are starting to add their own swag to their carts to make them personalized and even more functional.

3. Footzyrolls. Maybe the best invention ever, these are little rollable shoes that fit into a small zipper bag that may even be able to fit into an evening bag. So when your shoes start to kill you and you still have a long walk home, you can throw these on. They’re nothing extraordinary for your arches, but they’re flat. And that makes them incredibly valuable. Just got my first pair yesterday, and can’t wait to try them out in action.

4. A Zipcar. For those days when you really do need something to drive around in, and a cab won’t cut it, Zipcar (and other similar companies) is a great deal. I’m still shocked that my fiance didn’t know what Zipcar was until just recently, but as a vehicle owner, why would he need to? The best part is, gas is included in the hourly rental rate (which means a lot with prices the way they are these days). All you have to do is have a membership, and you can pick one up with the click of a button and the swipe of your member card. Note: In Chicago, we have I-Go cars also, which is a non-profit car sharing company. Definitely to be considered.

5. A really, really good coat in the winter, and a good water bottle in the summer. As mentioned in #1, you need to be prepared for the weather, and this includes the temperature. Don’t suffer through the cold without a good coat and hat; and make sure you bring a water bottle with you when it’s sunny and you’re walking. Your body already thanks you for the additional exercise; now treat it well, too.

That’s my list. What other things would you add to yours?

Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

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4 Comments

  1. Well I have to survive without a car as unfortunately ALL (and there were several!)of my driving instructors were kind enough to advise me that I may be one of those people who isn’t exactly cut out for driving! That said, I’ve pretty much always lived where public transport is readily available, so as yet it has never been too much of an issue. But I would strongly recommend swapping your ‘fancy’ handbag, for something more practical; not only does a waterproof receptacle for your bits and bobs come in very handy in soggy conditions, but a bag that requires much re-positioning,as a lot of beautiful but impractical handbags do, can be very tiresome when scrambling from bus to tube etc, a rucksack would be a good investment. If you are one of those people who feels incomplete without an attractive bag to accessorise with however, just pop your handbag inside your rucksack and whip it out whenever you feel it necessary!

  2. Something to read — public transportation is one of mankind’s greatest achievements, but the reality is that you spend a lot of time waiting and trying to avoid eye contact with the people sitting across from you. Always have a book/magazine/newspaper/e-reader in your bag!

  3. Great tip! I never leave the house without a novel in my bag. Keeps me occupied, especially when the buses/trains are late!

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