6 Lessons From Living Without a Car in Costa Rica

6 Lessons From Living Without a Car in Costa Rica

I’ve always had a car. I never considered NOT having a car.  My parents had multiple vehicles when I was growing up. I purchased my first car when I was 17 and sold it a couple days before I left for Costa Rica. Since then, I’ve been living without a car.

Car-less.

Not having a car in Las Vegas would have been a whole lot different than not having a car in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. This is a small beach town, and there is much to do within walking distance.

It’s still been inconvenient at times.

Like when it rains, and we’re a 15-minute walk away from home. Or when we needed to move from our temporary studio into our year-long apartment. Or when The Boyfriend’s paints got held up in Customs hours away. Or when I needed to go somewhere by myself……. Or when I’m too lazy to walk to buy myself ice cream.  The hard stuff, ya know.

These instances made me realize how often I took a car for granted. I’ve seen contradictory facts, but if I averaged it all out, we could say that about 8% of the world’s population owns a car.  That’s it. The fact that I’ve always had access to a car means I was incredibly privileged. Choosing to live in Costa Rica and choosing to go without a car also speak of my privilege.  I’m fully aware of that, and I bow in gratitude.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned without a vehicle.  They’re all 100% true, but before I try to sound too wise and observant, let me reiterate: I really really like not having a car here! It makes me feel super rugged and fierce like a true wanderer.  Or maybe a gypsy nomad.

6 Lessons From Living Without a Car In Costa Rica

1. I’m strong

Physically.  I can walk up and down hills, I can walk long distances.  I am physically capable of touching my feet to the earth and walking.

2. I’m independent

I can walk alone.  As a woman, this often scares me.  But I am capable of facing this world without a chaperone.  Even in a foreign country.  Wisely, of course.

3. I’m innovative

When I need to get someplace that’s too far to walk, I can figure out a way to get there.  This gypsy nomad is not stuck at home.  I can make things happen!

4. I’m aware

Slowing down from the mad freeway to a slow stroll on dirt roads opens up plenty of opportunities to notice all the things around you. You see people and nature; you have more time to be in wonder.

5. I’m human

Sometimes humans walk.  Sometimes we don’t use modern technology.  Sometimes we simply need to be grateful for mobility and not worry about anything else.  Feeling the sand on my toes is enough of a reminder that I’m blessed.

6. I’m humbled

We’re currently choosing to live without a car.  But for the first time in my life, I’ve had a glimpse into what it must be like to have no choice but to lack transportation.  I have a tiny view into what it’s like to go without.  And I’m struck with compassion.


My Minimalist heart is loving the opportunity to walk everywhere.  I don’t need to take care of a car or spend lots of money on gas.  It is in the plans to get one car soon, so we can do more country-wide exploration!  But as for now….  We walk!

ONWARD!

Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time – Steven Wright

Love,

Me (AKA Gypsy Nomad)

25 thoughts on “6 Lessons From Living Without a Car in Costa Rica

  • October 13, 2015 at 6:16 am
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    I love walking for daily tasks! My husband and I are in the suburbs now and recently went down to one car instead of one for each of us. We want to move to Chicago and hopefully be carless in the future. It will definitely have downsides, but there are so many pluses as well!

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    • October 13, 2015 at 10:20 am
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      Walking just feels great!

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  • October 13, 2015 at 6:50 am
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    I know it’s not the same at all, but we didn’t bring our car to NY either! It’s weird knowing we’ll have to rely on a really long train ride to get home (or fly if we have the money) and that we can’t just pull out of town and go our own way when we want. Not that we’re stuck here at all, but there’s something freeing about not having that extra responsibility!

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    • October 13, 2015 at 10:21 am
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      It’s totally along the same lines! I keep thinking that NYC will be our next adventure. So we won’t have a car there either!

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  • October 13, 2015 at 8:04 am
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    Such a wonderful article… my oldest daughter lived in Costa Rica for over a year – without a car, too! She met her now husband and they are back to the states. They walked and took buses everywhere – but she said between sweating from the heat…. and all that walking – she was in great shape!

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    • October 13, 2015 at 10:21 am
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      Thanks Clare! What a great story!! And yes! I’m already in much better shape than I was before!

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  • October 13, 2015 at 8:57 am
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    7. “you might just get an extra shower when you get caught in a rainstorm?” I remember Costa Rica as being very wet but warm and walking in the rain was actually enjoyable. I live in Oregon where it’s cold and rainy often. Thanks for the read, I’m missing Costa Rica now! :)

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    • October 13, 2015 at 10:22 am
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      YES! While I don’t love walking through total STORMS, walking through gentle rain is actually warm and pleasant here!

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  • October 13, 2015 at 9:28 am
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    Great post. I live in a rural area where it is a necessity to have a car. But, I have often wondered what is would be like to live in a urban area where you don’t need one. (Especially, considering no car payment, maintenance, or insurance fees!)

    I think you are right- I would defiantly feel like a nomad without one!

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    • October 13, 2015 at 10:22 am
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      It’s definitely an interesting experience!! It’s great to not have all the little worries!

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  • October 13, 2015 at 11:14 am
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    Great insight. Love that last Steven Wright quote. I live in the depths of the burbs/wine country where a car is necessary, but often miss living someplace like Boston where we walked everywhere. Costa Rica is definitely on my travel list so I am glad to have found your blog!

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    • October 13, 2015 at 11:21 am
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      OOO I would love to live in wine country! I’d definitely recommending keeping Costa Rica on the travel list – it’s fantastic!

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  • October 13, 2015 at 6:11 pm
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    Love this!!!! I don’t have a car in China, and although I miss it, sometimes it’s nice to just not have it, you know?

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    • October 14, 2015 at 3:37 pm
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      I TOTALLY know!

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  • October 14, 2015 at 11:14 am
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    Not having a car can be a pain at times, but I truly love it. I love being able to walk and take in everything around me. I’ve been able to discover so many new things/places because of walking.

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    • October 14, 2015 at 3:38 pm
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      I feel the same way!

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  • October 14, 2015 at 4:03 pm
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    Love this post! Living in Vegas without a car is such a pain. Taking an hour or more to get to and from work on the bus but you described how I feel very well. I get to meet awesome new people on the bus everyday which allows me to share the gospel daily and multiple times too! It also allows me to see ACKNOWLEDGE nature and the change in seasons (which there isn’t much of in Vegas but I notice the small bits). Gives me time for reflection and things to be grateful for … Like working legs 😊💜

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    • October 15, 2015 at 8:10 am
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      Girl – I LOVE your perspective here! *big hug*

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  • October 15, 2015 at 5:10 am
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    We were car-less for the year we lived in China, and honestly I loved it. It was a very different situation though–a huge city with lots of buses and a metro, I loved figuring out how to get everywhere and deciphering the bus schedules in Mandarin. Now we have a car in Malaysia–but not having one for one year really helped because it allowed us to save up money to buy one without a loan–that’s a huge bonus!

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    • October 15, 2015 at 8:10 am
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      That’s awesome! I’d love to live in NYC for a time, and I’m sure it would be a similar experience to your China experience – other than the difficult language barrier, of course!

      Reply
  • October 15, 2015 at 11:16 am
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    I’m moving from a small town to a big city and am selling my car in a couple of weeks! Looking forward to it. Not having a car can be freeing in some ways!

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    • October 15, 2015 at 1:49 pm
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      It absolutely can be freeing!

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  • October 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm
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    When I moved to Chicago, it was the first time I had ever been car-less and reading this from you brought back so many memories :) I remember especially in the beginning, it seemed harder to do what should be “easy” tasks like grocery shopping – or shopping in general – because I now had to lug everything around, as well as plan my route for my shopping needs. After awhile though, I just adapted and it became the norm. I ended up not minding it because I felt like I was able to explore and breathe in so much more of the city, versus being stuck inside a car and taking the expressway, etc. Adventures are the best!

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    • October 15, 2015 at 1:48 pm
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      Yes! I’m having such a similar experience. They ARE the best xo

      Reply
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