That has been our question ever since we started our quest to live in a bus.
For the first several years of our nomadic journey, we towed our home behind a vehicle – so thus, we always had a means of transportation while leaving the house parked behind.
We intentionally kept our trailers small and lightweight (16′ and 17′, respectively), in part so that our tow vehicle was also a somewhat practical local transportation vehicle. Neither of us liked big vehicles (recall, we met because we both owned a Prius) – so we wanted our local transportation to be as small and efficient as possible.
When we decided it was time to try something different, we left it undetermined if we’d get a vehicle to tow behind (or ‘toad’ – as is more common in RV lingo. Get it? It sounds like ‘towed’.)
6 months of being carless
We sold our Oliver and Toyota Tundra as a package deal in early May, and it’s hard to believe that was 6 months ago! Since then, we’ve been carless.
Heck, for some of that time – we were homeless backpackers riding the rails.
Being carless is something both of us has had desires to do. Planting ourselves in a big city for several months with ample public transportation and being within walking distance of everything we need. So it’s been a fun experiment these past months living without a vehicle of our own.
Sure, since we’ve had the bus – we do technically have transportation. But that’s not ideal for a quick run to the grocery store if we run out of milk. Using our home as local transportation is not the same, to us, as having smaller more maneuverable wheels for getting around town. In this time, we’ve not had any means – of our own – of transportation but the bus and our legs.
We haven’t owned a car, scooters, motorcycles, bikes or even rollerblades.
It’s interesting how car centric our society is. For instance, when we went to insure our bus, the first company our agent put us with (Progressive) actually ended up canceling our policy after they realized we didn’t own a car. We can understand their reasoning, they don’t want to encourage RVers to use their motorhome for running errands – their policy is rated based on driving to a campground and parking.
Which ironically is exactly what we were intending to do – even without having a vehicle!
Progressive just couldn’t get it. Even with us already having a non-owners liability policy with them to cover us when renting & borrowing vehicles, they just couldn’t comprehend that any full time RVer could possibly intend to be carless and not depend on their motorhome for local errands.
Here’s how we survived being carless:
- Walk! We’ve gotten a lot more walking to pick up a few groceries.
- Stock up! Before pulling into a location we were intending to park for a while, we tried to pre-think of everything we might need for a week or two. It changed the way we approached shopping, as there may not be an option to run out for more salsa later. We kinda looked at it as preparing for Burning Man (minus copious amounts of booze) with every stop.
- Borrow! We have been incredibly fortunate and blessed with the number of folks who have loaned us their vehicles. It has seemed that most places we’ve pulled in for more than a night or two, there’s been a friend who has offered a lift into town, or their keys.
- Shop Online! We generally do a lot of our shopping online anyway, particularly using Amazon Prime – which gets us anything they carry shipped 2-day for free. Amazon carries a lot of stuff, including dry groceries. So instead of worrying about stocking up on pre-made hummus, I ordered tahini sauce and garbanzo beans to blend on my own as desired.
- Rent! In the rare cases that we’ve not been somewhere with a vehicle to borrow, we’ve rented one. Enterprise is in most cities, and they will come pick us up at our campsite (but more often, they’ve been within walking distance). In some cities, they even have weekend deals of just $10/day. In our 6 months of being carless – we spent about $860 on rental cars. And $560 of that was for the 3 week period of our time in Arizona searching for our bus and getting it rolling (it was undriveable with a shredded tire for our first 10 days). Since the bus got new tires in early July, we’ve actually only rented cars on two occasions for a total of $160.
- (2017) Lyft/Uber: Since our early motorhome days, Uber and Lyft have entered the market – on demand car share programs. Open an app on your phone, and someone magically shows up to take you where you want to be. Now that we’re traveling part of the year by boat with out a car at our disposal again, we rely on this method regularly. But when we’re RVing, we still prefer a vehicle – as campgrounds tend to be more ‘in the sticks’ than where we go by boat.
Without being able to just hop in a car at any moment and go, we’ve had to very consciously think about our errands. It’s made our outings incredibly efficient and targeted.
So.. a Toad?
We’ve made it 6 months without owning a vehicle. And we do consider the experiment a success. We’re all about experimenting with testing the norm – after all, how is one to know what they truly and consciously want, instead of just accepting the defaults?
Our conversation on this topic however has differed. It’s gone something like this several times:
Chris: Ahhh.. being carless is awesome!!
Cherie: It’s nice, but I really do miss having a car.
Chris: Cars always appear when we need them most.
Cherie: But I feel a bit trapped at times. Especially when we’re not staying near friends or family, or close to town.
Chris: But we’re carless! It rocks! It’s simple and easy!
It is true, not towing a vehicle is simpler and easier. We haven’t had to worry about pulling into parking lots with a car shadowing us or unhitching to back into a camp spot. That’s been a definite bonus while we’ve had enough new stuff to learn about bus life.
And we have been on a lucky streak of cars appearing when we need them.
But that streak can’t last, and I don’t want a lifestyle that is dependent upon assuming the generosity of others, or dealing with the hassle of having to arrange a rental car every time we need to run errands.
If we were stationary and living somewhere with public transit and within walking distance to everything we need – being carless would indeed rock. But we don’t. We move around. We’re in and out of urban, suburban and rural areas. We’re sometimes surrounded by friends, and we’re sometimes totally on our own. We sometimes pull into situations where we need long term reliable access to a car, and monthly rentals get expensive.
And, honestly, not having a car has had me feeling trapped more and more often.
- I worry about medical urgencies, that would be much easier to handle if we could just hop in a car and go get help (I remember specifically instances with needing to get Kiki to a vet ASAP, such as after her rattlesnake bite last summer).
- I worry about the bus breaking down in the middle of nowhere. (Uh.. this one came true!)
- I worry about not getting out and exploring the area we’re in because it’s too much effort… it is far too easy to fall into patterns of our homebodied nature.
- As a traveling couple who spends a lot of time together in a small space, I’d like us to have the option to go different directions on occasion. It is sometimes nice to go do our own thing, and with just having the bus – that’s often constrained to one of us going to take a walk. I want more options for us.
So, Chris finally came around and agreed with me. He’d rather deal with the increased complexity of towing a vehicle than live in a small space with a feeling trapped red head.
Next up.. I’ll share the tale of how our new-to-us vehicle came into our lives, and my fun adventure of getting it!