January 7, 2020

Experiments In Vehiclelessness

The view of the ocean basin below at the half way mark is inspiring. At that point I needed it.

4 kilometres. 5250 steps. That is how far it is to pick up our mail. Now that we don't have a car any more, we are figuring out how to get things done. Like mail pick up.

The experiment today was to answer the question, "Can I walk to the mailbox and back?", and, "How long will it take?"

The walk is a total of 8 km or 10500 steps. I haven't done that kind of distance for a while, since my hikes into the forest are usually shorter than that.

It takes about 15 minutes to drive to get the mail. I can do the same trip on my bike in about 30 to 40 minutes. So, how long walking? I was so curious that I had to try it and find out. 

Distances seem much farther when walking. The mail box is where the road curves to the left
 in the far distance    w a y     d  o w  n     t   h   e   r   e.

First, of course, I did some research. How long does it take for a person of average health to walk 4 kilometres? About 40 minutes depending on grade, conditions, and fitness level. 

It seemed like a weird thing to look up.

People don't walk much any more. City people tend to be car dependent, and out here in rural Nova Scotia, folks have even fewer transportation choices. 

When one has a car, why would you walk 8 km? You wouldn't. That is exactly the kind of thing a car is made to avoid. If you have a car, you probably never think about walking anywhere instead of driving. I didn't, until we decommissioned our van.

The average person doesn't have enough time anyway, because they have to work. To pay for their car.

But there are good reasons to walk, if you can find the time.

Simplicity, is one, and freedom another. There is no mode of travel more simple and basic than walking. And what freedom! How often does a walker get pulled over by an overzealous cop? 

Nothing at all to worry about as you stroll along. 

No licence, registration, or insurance? No problem.

I certainly did not need to worry about speeding. 

Or running out of gas. 

Or getting into an accident.

Back up on top of the ridge, and almost home. I was wishing I had wheels on my boots at this point.

Here is what I found out in this experiment in vehiclelessness:

- it took me 40 minutes to walk (downhill) 4 km to the community mailbox.

- it took me 50 minutes to walk (uphill) back home.

- it turned out to be, then, an hour and a half adventure. Not so bad, and quicker than I thought.

- another question I should have asked is, "Can I walk the 8 km without injuring myself?" I pretty much knew I could get there and back, but how would I feel after? What about tomorrow? I am doing good so far...

- I actually prefer the pace of walking over biking, with biking being still too fast. When biking I feel myself passing through the environment, while walking feels like I am IN the environment, an integral part of my surroundings.

Most of all, I like the feeling of being totally free, self-sufficient and unsupported (except for my hiking poles that I don't leave on hikes or walks without). 

All in all it was a complete success, even though my mailbox was empty when I got there. I will do it again. 

I think maybe people don't actually "need" a car. I think what people really need is more time.

Stay tuned for more experiments in vehiclelessness when I ask (and answer) questions like, "How will we get large grocery orders without a car?"

Hint: it won't be walking.


  1. Anonymous1/08/2020

    I've been trying to walk more places as well. It takes about an hour to walk to the library round trip for me, and 25 minutes to get to the local trail. It's a liberating feeling not having to rely on driving or any vehicle to get me anywhere. It's also a great bonus to achieve that while spending no money and not polluting the environment at the same time. Granted, there are times I'd prefer to be able to use my bike to get places, but living somewhere where the winters get pretty harsh, I don't try to bike in snow. So in winter, it's more reliance on the feet and legs, along with less trips.

    1. Sometimes I ride up to the pumps at the gas station, pause, then ride on feeling grateful that I can rely on my legs rather than fossil fuels.

      For freedom you can't beat walking. For longer distances, a bike rules. I only ride in the winter when the roads are clear and dry.

  2. Anonymous1/08/2020

    You have hit the nail on the head when you say maybe people don't need a car, they need more time. My behaviour is completely different as a part-time wage earner than as a full-time wage earner. I loooove walking! There is a beautiful sense of freedom walking out of the house, just you and your feet. I now leave the mobile at home (no more young kids to worry about!) and that is an even greater freedom than going without the car.

    And the older I get the more grateful I feel to have legs and feet that work well, so I shouldn't waste them!


    1. 100% on being grateful to have (and use) healthy legs and feet. Enjoy them while you have them, I say. Cars have robbed us of the pleasure of walking. There are benefits to moving at a slower pace, under your own steam. My favourites are: it's free, and, I feel free.

  3. I love to walk but doubt I would give up my car unless forced to.

    1. You are in good company. Very few people would because it can be hard to adjust to a lifestyle without one. In some cases it is not possible with the way things are currently set up.

      Having said that, things are changing rapidly in the transportation sector, and people are looking at exciting new ideas that will help people get out of their cars if they so choose.

  4. I could give up our car,I would just have to change the way I do my shopping...instead of every 3 weeks,maybe every 3 days,lol.But I do know that I could do it.But my Hubby is disabled with arthritis,so it would be harder for him although he rarely goes out.So we have spoke about it.My Hubby is a bit older than me and has a bus pass..I wont get mine for another 17 months.When I get mine we are going to try and live without using our car for 6 months..We will see how it goes!,xx

    1. We have totally change how we do our grocery shopping (which is pretty much the only shopping we do). I try to do as much as I can on my bike, but that becomes less of an option right now, depending on how the winter goes. We have been sharing a ride to the grocery store with neighbours recently, which has been really nice.

      So far, going without a vehicle has been great for us, but there is still work to be done to see how we will negotiate getting Linda out and about when needed, or when she feels like it, which is not often. Good luck on your trying a car-free period. It should be fun.

  5. Four km to get the mail seems a long way but maybe not for rural living. It would take me about 50 minutes round trip. I'm way behind. I didn't realize you are vehicle-less. I've missed everyone terribly. Speaking of time, I've needed to work more over the past months. Amazing how much mental energy and time it takes to earn money. It has taken a toll on my online friendships, keeping up on NBA and other things. I'm having a little time off right now, but will need to work again soon.

    Madeleine, I've been thinking of you a lot lately. The fires sound horrendous.

    1. Anonymous1/10/2020

      Hello Terri, good to hear from you! The danger in my area has passed for now, after 4 months of heavy smoke. We have even had some rain! However, the situation in most of the country is absolutely catastrophic and hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated. I'm not sure what they show you on tv over there, but the scale of these fires is mind-boggling and absolutely unprecedented.

      I now have a true idea of the power of the media as until about 1 month ago our friends in Sydney really had no idea that half the country was on fire - they thought we were fine! It wasn't until Sydney actually became blanketed by smoke that they realised there was a big problem and people started protesting and expressing anger towards the government.
      I feel hopeful that this is the wake up call we all needed and hopefully the rest of the world is realising, if it could happen in Australia it could happen anywhere. We now need people all over the world to plant trees to replace the millions and millions we have lost. Even if you can only plant one tree, please do it! If people cannot plant trees perhaps they can donate to an organisation that does this.

      As always, I have to reflect on how my own behaviour might have contributed to the problem - we cannot all just wait for 'the government' to fix this, although of course they have their part to play. The top three things we can all be more aware of are those promoted on this blog: stop buying stuff you don't need, leave the car at home and, if possible, grow as much of your own food as you can. If everyone did those three things the impact would be huge.


    2. Hi Madeleine. I'm glad you're safe. We've been getting pretty extensive coverage of the fires here in NZ and have sent a fair number of our own firefighters to help. It's just devastating seeing the destruction:(
      We're also getting a lot of the smoke here too....which is an indicator of how horrendous it must be in Australia. Last weekend the smoke was so bad, our clear blue skies were brown haze and the sun an eerie orange. Very disconcerting.

    3. Anonymous1/12/2020

      Thanks Karen. I'm so sorry you are getting our smoke! We are overwhelmed with the help that has arrived from overseas, and just so grateful, as our own firies are exhausted after so many months of fires.


    4. Hey Terri. So good to see you back here. Linda and I removed the registration and insurance from our vehicle 2 months ago, and we are not planning on replacing it. Work for money - can't live with it, can't live without it. They have us under their thumb. Or boot. But not for long.


      Canada has also had some recent historic fire seasons, and we are sure to have more. California, too, and now your country. It is a disturbing trend, and I feel bad for all the people and animals affected.

      Imagine the impact of everyone doing any small thing toward healing the planet and our relationships with each other. There is nothing we could not do together. Collectively we have the smarts and the money.

    5. Thanks Gregg, it is wonderful to be back.

      Madeleine, thanks so much for an update. I'm glad you are safe and out of immediate harms way and that the smoke has cleared and some rain has fallen upon your area. I can't imagine the psychological impact the fires much be having on people.

      As for media here, when we are not hearing about the U.S. president (which is most of the time), they report news on the AU fires. Media seems fixated on the people stranded on the beach or beaches and the wildlife death toll that's being reported at over one billion animals have perished. I haven't heard much about the massive amount of people that have been evacuated rather I've heard more about the group of people stranded on a beach. Hearing you say it is tens of thousands is the first time I've heard there are that many evacuees. That's horrific.

      I listened to a fire scientist from the USA being interviewed about the AU fires. There was a lot of discussion about the drought conditions and extremely high temperatures resulting from climate change is a main cause of such devastating fires. She said the rural farmers and Aborigines farms were being wiped out or damaged so badly that they will never be able to make as farmers again. She strongly warned that Canada and the U.S. can expect fires to become much worse and widespread in the near future and not just in California, but all through the mid-west (in the U.S.) and other places. Yes, Gregg, I remember hearing about horrific fires in Canada. The fire scientist also stated that the focus in AU is on fossil fuels and not on climate change.

      The fire scientist emphasized that the catastrophic devastating fires in Australia was a kind of tipping point climate change indicator for the planet because of location of your country and the unique ecosystem.

      To your point of some people in Sydney not knowing the extent of the fires, it was reported here that AU's prime minister went on holiday in Hawaii while the country was on fire. It was reported in a way that made the PM look unconcerned or not understanding the seriousness of the fires. It doesn't seem that we are hearing from the PM at all. The media here has reported on the PM's lack of interest in protective climate policies; that the PM is more focused on the coal and gas industries so important to Australia's economy they say. The media stayed fixated on his Hawaii trip for a couple of days. We are also hearing about the protests, in Victoria I think??

      Thanks Madeleine. Take care.

  6. I LOVE walking. We take our dog for long walks all over the place. And you are right about feeling like you are an integral part of the environment. I get that. Fortunately we live close enough to shopping that if I absolutely had to walk, I could. Your post has made me very grateful for home mail delivery. lol

    1. Dogs are an excellent motivator for getting outside. Good for dogs, good for humans. We would like home delivery now that we do not drive, but it is not an option.

  7. Anonymous1/09/2020

    Like the other folks here, I too love to walk. Walking more often to my library (about 5 kilometers round trip) and stop at the store on the way home if needed. I do have a wheeled cart to use for groceries, and will do that much more this year. Not that I am a fan of new year's resolutions, but I have resolved to walk more often for these types of trips (the library, the store, local parks). I too enjoy walking more than biking - the slower pace, the feeling of freedom. Great post, thanks for sharing. And good for you wearing that reflective vest! I have one too and believe it is crucial for many of my walks. -- Mary

    1. My vest is because I do not trust inattentive drivers, although I wear it biking and hiking in the woods, too. I like to be visible, and in the case of a rescue situation, could make the difference between a quick rescue and spending a night outside.

      A wheeled cart is very nice to have. Power to you and your resolution to walk more. That is a good one.

  8. A while back I read a book by a guy who walked to Columbus, OH from his home in rural OH to hand in his drivers license. He was pursuing a more simple way of life and had moved near an Amish community to get lessons from them on how to go about living without modern conveniences. It intrigued me that he insisted on walking the distance to hand over his driving privileges. I'm just thrilled to be able to still walk at all, even if it's just a few steps. I do miss being in and part of the environment that walking any distance affords.

    1. I love that! A while back I did a post about workers plying cargo boats down the Mississippi, delivering their cargo at New Orleans, selling or dismantling the boat, then WALKING back home to the headwaters. Through the wilderness, which at the time was actually wilderness.

      We are happy to hear that you are able to walk a few steps. It is Linda's goal to be able to do that again some day. We have to figure out a way to get her out now that we don't have a vehicle.


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