By Ramesh Nyberg
It all started with a crash.
My 25-year old stepdaughter was fine, but my 16-year old Prius was totaled. Here’s how that collision sent shock waves went from that highway in Virginia into our living room in Florida.
My wife and I lived in the extreme western suburbs of Miami, 45-minutes from the private school where she taught. Returning was anywhere from ninety minutes to two hours. The timing of the crash was terrible. In two weeks, Puja would start nursing school in Virginia. She did not live close enough to take public transportation. The insurance payout on the Prius was measly—maybe enough for a clunker, and I wasn’t crazy about her driving back in someone else’s former headache. We gave her our Hyundai, to take back, and we would find a way to cope.
I’m a Realtor, so I would keep our only car, dropping off my wife and younger daughter (who attends the same school).
“No,” my frugal wife said. “Too much gas back and forth. And if you get an important appointment during our pickup time, we’re stuck.” She proposed that she and Kareena walk to the bus stop near our house, then take the bus to the light rail station. They would take a 15-minute train ride to the station nearest her school, and then walk twenty minutesthe rest of the way. I protested. That sounded brutal.
“Let us try it,” she insisted. “I could use the exercise. I don’t mind walking.”
She was happy. “I love the walk,” she said. “It’s fine.” We just had to pay for two transit passes a month.
Then, it hit us. We were renting a 4-bedroom house on the west side of town, and she worked on the other side of the county, as far east as you can go. Why? Kareen was going off to college in seven months. Could we live in an apartment?
We started Googling and scouring the MLS like fiends. To our delight, we found a very nice building, on the doorstep of the same rail station my wife and daughter start their walk to school. A free trolley from there cut their walk in half. This building had meeting rooms, a fantastic pool deck with BBQ grills, and other amenities. They fixed anything that broke in your unit. Rent was less our house. We were excited—we were going to move, and change our lifestyle.
The rail station and free trolley was at our back door. Then something hit us again: Do I really need a car? I calculated how much it was costing us a year to keep our Lexus. The monthly payments, fuel, maintenance, registration, parking, and insurance came to over $8000 a year. I would take Ubers, trains, and trolleys. For those upscale, need-to-impress appointments, I could rent a nice car. Three nearby stores delivered groceries. On a yearly basis, if we streamlined and planned our outings, we could hold our transportation costs down to about $4500. My wife and daughter no longer needed the trains to get to school, so we cut the $230/month transit fees.
Changing one’s life involves a paradigm shift in one’s outlook. We Americans are addicted to owning things; cars, boats, lots of clothes, gadgets, our precious phones, lawnmowers–the list is endless. I took inventory of what I really needed in my life, and decided I was done owning machines to impress people. I had pumped enough emissions, used up enough gas, and spent thousands of hours in rush hour traffic in the last forty-six years of my driving life.
We sold half of our furniture, a generator, lawn equipment, and a gas-guzzling 2005 Lexus. It was time to live simpler, walk more, and use less. We saved lots of money, as well as something we can never get back: time.
I no longer dread gas prices and traffic, and I have no more costly car expenses. We are closer to everything and we sleep later. We spend more time together. We are car-less, not careless. We feel happier, healthier, and yes younger.
Ramesh grew up in Miami. He has been writing freelance since 1987. His published credits include articles in Police and Security New, the Miami Herald, Law and Order magazine, Writer’s Digest and others. Ramesh still lives in Miami. He and his wife have six children.