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From Car-heavy to Car-lite in Only 500 Miles

The following article is by Chris O-Byrne of Editing Your World and Tiny Simplicity.

Chris edited both of my ebooks, Simply Car-free and Minimalist Health. He is an exceptional editor and an amazing person. If you’re ever in need of an editor, Chris is your guy.


I was living in southern Arizona near the U.S.-Mexico border, too far from civilization to even consider living without a vehicle. But as violence from drug trafficking and the subsequent overrun of human rights as perpetrated by Homeland Security pushed me to move someplace safer, I also thought about moving someplace where I could live with little to no dependence on my car. (It’s a van, actually; a big gas-gorging cargo van I named Duke and outfitted to camp in.)

Living car-free or car-lite was a dream, but nothing I seriously considered until I became more involved in the minimalist movement. Blogs such as RowdyKittens and Zen Habits got me excited again about minimizing my impact and I thought about where I could move that would fit my lifestyle. I make my living as a freelance editor, so I can live anywhere in the world I want.

Places on my list included Portland, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Denver, Las Vegas, and Flagstaff. I thought about living location-free and simply living out of my backpack for a while, but current family obligations are keeping me grounded for a while. (My first grandchild is on her way!) I narrowed my list to Portland and Albuquerque and my love of the sun brought me to Albuquerque, 500 miles from where I lived in Arizona.

The next step was to choose a place in the city that made logistical sense for getting around primarily by walking, biking, or busing. I had almost given up and was ready to look at another city when I found a house for rent on Craigslist that was in a quiet neighborhood, was two blocks from the library and a large park, was near the bus line and the bike path, yet was close to necessary shopping. Perfect! I saw the house that afternoon and signed a lease the next morning.

I’ve been here a month, now, and know I made the right choice. I only drive the van about twice a week and even those trips are very short. As I get settled in and plan my necessary driving trips even better, that will go down to only once per week. (There’s a jam session I go to that is too far to bike with a big, clunky guitar and the bus doesn’t run that way on Sundays.) I love being car-lite and the sense of freedom I feel is exhilarating. Going from car-heavy to car-lite is the first step on my way to being completely car-free.

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  • Brett March 26, 2010, 6:31 am

    This makes me very happy to see as my wife and I are a strongly contemplating a move to Albuquerque next summer. One of my goals when the move happens is to become a one-car family and hopefully use the one car as little as possible even. It really is hard to beat the sunlight of Albuquerque!

  • Chris O'Byrne March 26, 2010, 6:50 am

    Brett, let me know if I can answer any questions and be sure to look me up when you come to visit!

  • Alejandro Reyes March 26, 2010, 7:30 am

    Congratulations Chris, it does seem like a great change. Hopefully every detail will be ironed out and you will have the life you want. Your story is inspiring to get our personal lives right where we want. Thanks for sharing it!

    Also, thanks Tammy for spreading the word and allowing for guest posts! I really love the community that is growing around the simple life. =)

    • Tammy March 26, 2010, 6:11 pm

      @Alejandro – I agree. Community is really important to me. I’m trying to schedule out interviews with fellow bloggers through the month of April. It’s fun to hear different voices and perspectives. 🙂 Have an awesome weekend!

  • Chris O'Byrne March 26, 2010, 8:46 am

    Thanks, Alejandro! Nothing in my life is ever ironed out, but that’s just the way I like it. 🙂

  • [email protected] March 26, 2010, 9:43 am

    I admire your forethought and seeing it through. Because of all the great posts, like yours, I have been really begun to consider a car-less life. It gives me great ideas on how to plan it and what benefits I want to retain from my new location. Thanks for the post.

  • Lisa March 26, 2010, 9:45 am

    Chris- Great post! I don’t drive now because my eyesight is bad, but my husband continues to cling to our vehicle. I would love to live car free or car light. You encourage me to keep working towards that goal. Thanks!

  • Chris O'Byrne March 26, 2010, 9:46 am

    That’s wonderful, Lisa, I’m so glad to hear that. (not about your eyesight)

  • Kristin Brown March 26, 2010, 5:56 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I’m so inspired that you moved to Albuquerque to become car-lite! I’m a native New Mexican and have been living in Albuquerque since 2002; it never occurred to me until I found Tammy’s blog to even consider going without my car. Since I started reading about it, a friend helped me fix up my bike, and kiddo and I have been walking and using the buses more and more.

    I wanted to make sure you (and anyone else moving to Albuquerque) know about the Guaranteed Ride Home program offered by the city. You can check it out and register here: http://www.cabq.gov/transit/services/guaranteed-ride-home


    • Tammy March 26, 2010, 6:10 pm

      @Kristin – Pure awesomeness! I’m so pumped that you’re riding your bike and having fun. 🙂

  • Chris O'Byrne March 26, 2010, 6:04 pm

    Kristin, that is very cool. I just checked that website out and had no clue about that program. Technically I wouldn’t qualify because I work from home, but it’s good to know about. Have you taken the Rail Runner up to Santa Fe? That’s next on my list of adventures.

    • Kristin Brown March 27, 2010, 6:25 am

      Yeah, same here. It is a cool program if you need it though.
      And no, I haven’t been on the Rail Runner yet. It’s on my list as well. Maybe catch you on there? 🙂

  • Gypsy March 26, 2010, 11:33 pm

    This is so great … the idea of being ‘car-lite’ is where I am at right now … public transport is utterly impractical for me for trips to work, but that aside my car sits unused and my double pushchair is my vehicle of choice. We can walk everywhere in our village, and there is a whole tribe of us walking ‘car lite’ mums trying to reduce our impact. I even have a friend who caught the bus to a business conference 4 hours away which I thought was incredible cool!

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