Living (Well) Without a Car
I never imagined that our family would one day be without a car of our own. I still remember 4 of us (we had only 2 children in 2000) selling my Honda Accord and getting into my husband's truck to drive from Corpus Christi to San Antonio, Texas to buy our Toyota Sienna minivan. We'd spotted it on the internet (yes, there were actually cars listed online for sale back in 2000…we were VERY progressive!) and drove up to buy it.
We had that same minivan, complete with DVD system that we installed in 2005 after the VCR one broke, until the end of July last year. It served us well, taking us from Texas to Georgia to Arkansas to North Carolina to Florida and every spot in between. We brought home newborns in that van, had children get sick in that van. It was great…and hard to part with.
So when we began our adventure, one of the first things I really missed was the freedom that comes with having a car. Landing in Atenas, Costa Rica made it a bit more challenging because it is not a big town and finding some things we wanted or needed involved either lots of walking, taxis or a bus trip into San Jose.
But after I got over the initial frustrations of being car-less, we actually figured out we can do just fine without a vehicle of our own. I remember taking the bus for the first time, by myself, with all 5 children and wondering if my sanity would hold out. In spite of almost getting sick on the bus due to motion sickness, we made it and I didn't lose anyone.
Walking and an occasional taxi became a way of life in Costa Rica and continues for us here in Mexico. Thanks to all the exercise I am getting, I have lost a good 15-20 pounds of extra weight I'd been carrying. What a nice perk to moving overseas, huh? Here is a before and after set of pics to show. I hate to even display the one from August, but it's reality! Even my rings fit looser.
Before (taken Aug 2011):
After (taken Mar 2012):
The savings of not having a vehicle were amazing. We did own our minivan, so we didn't have any monthly payments to make. We only had to cover insurance and gasoline. But for our family to take a bus trip to San Jose was 800 colones per person each way, or about $1.60 per person, $11.20 one way.
Occasionally I would take a taxi home from grocery shopping because the bags were too numerous and too heavy and that usually cost 600 colones or around $1.20. When we were staying in San Jose, the grocery stores were a bit further away and those taxi rides averaged around $4 for a 5-10 min ride.
In Mexico, I can take the bus or walk to Walmart. The bus is around $1 or 12 pesos, depending on how many children tag along…and the 12 pesos covers 2 of us. And then I take a taxi back home and that's around 45 pesos with tip, or around $3.40. If I go to the local market, I take the bus and, again, it's around 18 pesos. I load up my little shopping bag on wheels and then walk to a taxi stop and take one home for 65 pesos (including tip) and that's around $4.50.
There have been SO many times when my husband and I have looked at each other, with 5 kids on crowded buses, and said to each other, "We're CRAZY!" And we thought we got funny looks when we went out as a family in the US! HA! There's not many gringos with this many kids that take the bus with the locals.
We have never felt like we were in danger while taking buses…sick, yes, but danger, no! Taxis are different because the driving in San Jose is CRAZINESS and they're so aggressive. We had a few close calls, but always arrived safely. Now, we did have an incident just last week when my daughter got off the bus and an idiot driver decided to pass the stopped bus on the right hand side…the side passengers get off! She was a bit shaken up, but was unscathed, thankfully. And now we know to exercise extreme caution when getting off buses.
We can't help but think there are MAJOR lessons being learned by our children through all of this. They are gaining confidence, aren't afraid to sit by a total stranger on a bus, know how to look both ways VERY carefully when crossing the street and run like the wind when it's time to cross!
Sometimes we feel like we're on the hit reality show, "The Amazing Race" when we're the only gringos on the bus. I think we'd totally kill it on that show because we have learned how to get to where we need to go on public transportation and, frankly, aren't intimidated by it like we once were.
I can't imagine moving back in Florida (or anywhere in the US) without having to buy a car. It's just not feasible. I know there are places in the US where we could live without one, but since we're NOT big city folks and have gotten to REALLY dislike cold weather, those places aren't appealing to us. Going back to FL for a short time before coming to Mexico was a bit of a challenge without a car, but my parents were very gracious and we were able to use their car for anything we needed during our visit.
Will we ever have our own vehicle again? Who knows, but it certainly hasn't hindered us much when it comes to living outside the US. No, we can't go on little day trips or excursions as easily as we could if we DID have one, but the additional expenses don't justify owning one at this time. It's funny, but I think some folks thought we were nuts when we sold my husband's truck (when we lived in NC) and had only 1 car for us to use. I mean, how could a family with 2 parents survive on only ONE vehicle??? It took some adjusting and careful planning of schedules, but it worked out just fine. And that's how it's been moving to Costa Rica and Mexico. It's taken some adjustments, but we do just fine without a car…or two.
Have you ever lived without a vehicle or are you considering going without one now? How different has life been if you don't have a car, but used to?