If you don’t know Tammy Strobel already, you should get to meet her. Tammy blogs about social change through simple living at her blog Rowdy Kittens. She is also aphotographer, and gives away all of her photos under an Uncopyright license.
Tammy and I first met months ago, when I was living in Portland and she in Sacramento. It was my first week publishing Far Beyond The Stars, and she emailed me and basically said: “your blog is awesome!”. I emailed her back and said “no! your blog is awesome!” Since then we’ve kept in touch almost every day over Twitter.
Truth be told, this blog wouldn’t be anywhere without Tammy; the inbound links from her blog drive almost as much traffic as a guest post on Zen Habits. Why? Because she only delivers remarkable ideas.
I’m happy to announce the release of Tammy’s first-ever e-book, Simply Car-free: How to Pedal Toward Financial Freedom and a Healthier Life.
Tammy sent me a preview copy last week, and I’ve read the entire book cover-to-cover. It’s one of the best resources on quitting the car-addiction and discovering the liberation of riding a bike.
There’s also a guest chapter by me! I wrote a little lifehack on how to rent a bike in any city for free, based on my experiences buying and selling a bike in Portland. Tammy included it in her book, and on her blog, which is just awesome!
I made the decision to ditch the idea of ever having a car and moved to New York City almost 7 years ago, so I had no idea that I was saving around $8,000 a year by not having one! It’s true though, cars are expensive. I never want to have one.
Well, anyway, enough of my fawning over Tammy’s awesomeness, and onto the interview:
TAMMY STROBEL ON HOW GOING CAR-FREE ALLOWED HER TO QUIT HER JOB, START HER BUSINESS, AND GAIN FINANCIAL FREEDOM:
Everett Bogue: Tammy, going car free was a big decision for you. What inspired you to make this choice?
Tammy Strobel: Dee Williams’ tiny house and the idea of a simpler life inspired us to try something new. Simple living challenged us to eliminate our unnecessary stuff and to prioritize our life goals.
Selling the cars was a big decision for us because we were afraid that our dependence on cars was actually an essential need. By going car-free we realized we didn’t need to depend on cars and we were able to save money, improve our health, and gain the freedom to pursue our life goals.
Everett: By going car-free, you saved a huge hunk of money. How much do you estimate you save by not having a car?
Tammy: By selling both of our cars we save, on average, about $15,000 a year. It’s amazing how much money and time cars suck up. You have to deal with car payments, insurance, fluctuating gas prices, maintenance issues, parking or speeding tickets and the list goes on and on.
We also saved a lot of emotional and financial strain. Owning two cars resulted in strain because we were always short on cash after we were paid. We couldn’t figure out where all our money was going and didn’t realize it was being poured into our cars. Owning a car was something we felt like we “needed.” It turned out we didn’t “need” a car and we wasted an incredible amount of money on non-essential assets that depreciated over time.
Thanks to selling our cars we were able to pay off all our debt, which added up to $30,000. If I still had 2 cars, I don’t think we would have paid off our debt or saved any money. The average American spends $8,000 a year on one car. Imagine what folks could be doing with that money instead of spending it on a car!
Everett: How has that enabled you to do other things with your life?
Tammy: I have the money and freedom to focus on my dreams. I don’t say this lightly. We exchange time and life-energy for money. Time and energy is non-renewable resource in our limited life-span. It’s something we never get back.
I’m using my extra time to volunteer and connect with friends and family members. Also, I was able to start my own small business, a dream that I thought would never come true. I believe going car-free is one way to find freedom from the burden of debt, poor health, and transition to a new career. I’m extremely grateful for the time I’ve spent doing non-profit work, but I knew I had to escape my cubicle. I wanted freedom. Freedom to focus on my writing and photography full time.
I have also improved my health. I used to spend a lot of time in the gym, but wanted to get outside more. Even with all the time spent in the gym, my waist line kept getting a little larger. Spending time sitting all day, then driving home from work and sitting more didn’t help. An hour or two a day at the gym wasn’t cutting it. By selling the car, I’ve literally pedaled toward good health and lost about 15 pounds too.
Everett: What was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome when you first decided to give up your car?
Tammy: Fear. We kept imagining: “What if a family member gets sick? What if we get sick? What if the cats get sick? How will we do basic errands, like picking up groceries?” I could go on and on with the list of fears.
All of the “what if” scenarios we worried about never came true. In fact, the opposite has occurred. We’re living our lives with intention and awareness.
Everett: Going car free is definitely a huge decision for most Americans. How can they test the waters before they give it all up?
Tammy: Change is scary and uncomfortable, but being uncomfortable leads to growth.
If you’re on the verge of going car-free or car-lite you can do a number of things:
- Write down a list of your fears. Ask yourself, why you’re scared of being without a car. And if you went car-free, what is the worst thing that can happen?
- Don’t drive your car for a week and see how it feels. Go grocery shopping by bike, meet your friend at a coffee shop, and start taking notes on your observations.
- Connect with your local biking community in your neighborhood and online. Even if you don’t think your community has a local biking group, I’m sure they do. More and more grassroots biking organizations are popping up in towns across the country. Seek out your community and they will help you make the car-free or car-lite transition.
- If you don’t have a bike, buy or borrow one that fits. If you aren’t sure what kind of bike is right for you, ask for help from your biking community and you can always send me an email too.
- Look into alternative transportation options, like walking, riding the bus, or taking a light rail train.
Everett: I’ve lived in Portland, you’re living in Portland. It’s one of the greatest cities on earth. How does living in Portland make your car-free life easier?
Tammy: I agree! Portland is amazing! We’ve been in Portland for about a month and it is an incredible city. Free city bike maps, ample bike parking, bike lanes and accessible public transportation makes being car-free very easy. Additionally, Portland is very walkable. I’ve been walking, biking and riding public transit to all my destinations with no problems.
It’s my hope other U.S. cities will follow Portland’s lead regarding sustainability policies. If cities don’t make it easy for people to get around without cars, they will continue to drive.
Everett: If you could wish for one fundamental change to occur because of your e-book, what would that be?
Tammy: My wish is to address the fear of change on everyone’s mind. It’s so easy to be hindered by fear. I think it’s important to remember that anything is possible. When we sold our cars we didn’t get much support from friends and family members. We were told that our decision was crazy and austere.
After seeing the great outcome of our decision many of these same people have complemented us on our courage. Questioning the status-quo and what it means to live the good life is challenging. However, the end result is worth it. You’ll have extra money in your wallet and your heart will thank you. Reducing your dependence on cars yields tremendous results. With this e-book I want to share our wonderful experience with car-free living and give people a tool to help them start pursuing their life goals.
Everett: Thank you so much for talking with me Tammy, I’m so excited for people to read this e-book!
You can preview the first three chapters of Simply Car-free: How to Pedal Toward Financial Freedom and a Healthier Life here.
Don’t forget to check out Tammy Strobel’s blog, Rowdy Kittens.