I haven’t owned/driven a car for the better part of six years now.
And it feels great.
It’s not just the costs of owning a car that I’m happy to be free of, though. While the savings are rather significant, I think the non-financial benefits of not owning a car are arguably just as considerable.
The simple act of having a car in my life at all is totally undesirable.
There’s the parking, cleaning, driving, worrying, insuring, maintaining, repairing, etc.
It’s a giant hunk of metal that takes up a massive amount of space in one’s life and mind. As a minimalist, it’s a huge object that takes away space and adds noise. It reduces my quality of life, rather than adding to it. It’s almost all drawbacks with very little benefits.
Even if I had unlimited money, I wouldn’t want or own a car. I would instead continue to walk almost everywhere.
However, I still have to get around. I can’t just magically transport myself from one location to another.
While public transportation is my preferred mode when I need to travel longer distances, walking is by far my favorite mode of transportation overall.
I thoroughly enjoy walking. I walk great distances every day. And I don’t plan to ever change this.
Walking is a fantastic mode of transportation for a variety of reasons, but here are my three favorite reasons:
You’re Physically Experiencing, Exposing Yourself To, And Reacting With Your World
I used to drive great distances at a time, for many years.
The drive to and from work, back when I lived in Michigan, and worked at the car dealership used to be 30 miles, each way. I’d be in the car, in my little “bubble”, for 45 minutes or longer at a time.
I’d sit in a seat, listen to music, try not to get stressed out by traffic, and completely focus on the tasks at hand.
There’s practically nothing pleasurable about the process of driving.
And you’re almost completely cut off from your surroundings, as you’re simply moving yourself as fast as possible from one place to another – which is work and home, most of the time, for most people.
But now that I walk almost everywhere, I feel completely connected to my environment. I feel at one with the world.
The sights, the sounds, the smells, the people…
By exposing myself to and reacting with my surroundings, I feel more alive than ever. And I’m more in touch with life itself.
Instead of my immediate tangible environment being a steering wheel, a dashboard, and a windshield, I’m now surrounded by trees, birds, people, sunshine, the sky, sidewalks, crosswalks, and storefronts. It’s dynamic, as well, because that tangible environment is constantly shifting and changing as I walk. Conversely, driving even great distances will not change the fact that you’re still sitting in a seat and steering a wheel.
Our physical world exists to enjoy, improve, and interact with. Walking is one of the best ways to accomplish all three.
Americans love their cars. America leads the world – by far – in terms of large, developed countries with the most vehicles per 1,000 people.
Of course, America also has the highest prevalence of overweight adults in the English-speaking world.
You be the judge.
Regardless, there’s no doubt that it’s far healthier to walk than it is to drive, all else equal.
I used to walk a lot in the States, especially relative to the average American. But I walk even more now that I’ve relocated to Chiang Mai, Thailand as a dividend expat.
That’s because the environment invites pleasurable walking.
I’m surrounded by dynamic and vibrant urbanity everywhere I go.
There are people to see, coffee shops to visit, gyms to hit, and restaurants to try.
Walking a lot – as well as living a much better and healthier lifestyle in general – has turned my body into a lean and mean machine, with the loss of more than 10 pounds in four months having occurred since relocating abroad.
While fad diets come and go, and while many Americans struggle with obesity, I simply maintain a reasonable diet, exercise frequently, avoid stress, and walk almost everywhere. As a result, I’m in the best shape of my life.
Plus, there’s the fact that almost 40,000 Americans were killed in auto accidents in 2016. That’s not even getting into the life-altering injuries. Whizzing around in a giant metal box, next to many other people doing the same thing, at incredibly fast speeds, is obviously not the safest way to move around.
Significant Financial Benefits
I noted that even if I had unlimited money, I wouldn’t want own a car.
So what do financial benefits have to do with it?
Well, just because you can afford to do or buy something, it doesn’t mean you automatically should.
I appreciate a good value, regardless of how much wealth I have or go on to attain.
And I align my life, time, and spending with what I value, regardless of how much wealth I have or go on to attain.
This is a point that seems to escape many people. It’s perhaps human nature to assign spending necessity with available money. Said another way, people seem to assume that having money means you must figure out a way to spend it. If you have a million in the bank, you thus have a million to spend.
My brain doesn’t work this way.
I look at Warren Buffett, who is one of my personal heroes. He still lives in the same house he bought back in the ’50s for less than $40,000. Just because he could go out and buy an entire city block and build a 500,000-square-foot castle, it doesn’t mean he should.
If spending money doesn’t meet a certain threshold for utility, purpose, and happiness, it’s a complete waste. And it will probably do more harm to one’s quality of life than good.
I constantly allocate my capital in a way that simultaneously maximizes utility, purpose, and happiness. If attaining all three on any given action/decision requires no money at all, that’s even better. I’ll simply have more money to eventually give away via philanthropy.
Owning a car runs the average American ~$8,500 per year, according to a recent study by AAA.
I’m not your average American. So let’s say I could do it on half. Well, compounding even just $4,000 per year at 8% annually over the next 30 years (because I don’t plan to ever own a car again) results in $500,000.
A car isn’t worth $0 to me. It certainly isn’t worth half a million dollars. In fact, I’d probably decline being paid to own a car and drive around. So the fact that I could (and likely will) end up with an extra $500,000 or so in my 60s by simply abstaining from owning something I don’t want is a clear no-brainer to me.
Not wasting those valuable resources will end up serving the world (that world I enjoy being a tangible part of) much better, all while reducing congestion, pollution, and noise all along the way. It makes my world better, all while allowing me greater access and more time to enjoy the world. It’s so easy, it’s a non-choice.
Many people don’t walk around much for many reasons.
Some don’t like walking.
Some people are just plain lazy.
Some people have disabilities that prevent it.
I would venture a guess that most people don’t walk because they can’t. They make choices that prohibit it. Be it living very far from work, moving to a place where everything is spread out (with no public transportation), or not having the time (because they’re too busy working) to stretch their legs and stroll, walking is not a reasonable mode of transportation for many people.
And that’s why it’s important to structure a holistic life in not just a way that maximizes the journey toward financial independence, but also in a way that presents ample opportunities to be a greater part of the world that you’ll soon be able to spend so much more time in.
We don’t have time unless we make time.
And walking more will directly contribute to one’s ability to have more time to walk (and enjoy many other activities), which is on top of the numerous financial and non-financial benefits.
If you build a life that emphasizes walking (or even bicycling, for that matter), you’ll build a holistic circle that feeds into itself, making the journey to financial independence faster and more enjoyable, all while improving the very world waiting for you with open arms when you’re ready to experience it on a more regular basis.
Plus, you’ll be healthier for it, giving you a better shot at a long, healthy life with which to savor all of that financial independence.
In the end, it’s to each their own. It’s a form of arbitrage for me to not drive while others drive, as I personally profit from people buying and driving cars. I earn growing dividend income from many companies that cater to the car lifestyle. It doesn’t financially behoove me in any way to convince people to drive less.
However, I do feel like a lot of people are really missing out on something special.
Walking is incredibly rewarding, both in financial and non-financial terms. And it’s by far my favorite mode of transportation. I honestly couldn’t imagine transporting myself in a better or more enjoyable capacity than via my own two legs.
Time will tell, but I plan to never own a car again for the rest of my life. In fact, my driver’s license is set to expire in two months. And I have no plans to renew it – ever.
What do you think? Do you walk a lot? Is it your favorite mode of transportation? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: surasakiStock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re interested in becoming financially independent, which could allow you more time to walk and enjoy the life and world that surrounds you, check out the numerous resources that personally helped me become financially independent in my early 30s!