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    World Car Free Day: How Someone Smashed My Car & Changed My Life

    It’s World Car Free Day, but is it truly possible in Philadelphia?

    I remember the day I bought my first car. In May 2007, I proudly picked out a navy blue (in honor of my Alma Mater, Penn State) Nissan Sentra.

    Obligation to four wheels

    Although I’ve been writing Green Philly for seven years, I’ve always had full-time jobs in the suburbs. GPB began when I was working in Malvern and commuting to Northern Liberties. I was overjoyed when I simultaneously landed a higher-paying job that instantly cut my commute by 2+ hours/day.

    As I worked in the mortgage industry, I found myself unhappy. The salary raise didn’t feel significant and lack of buy-in couldn’t move ideas forward. After my original boss left the company, new management came in… and left me out of any marketing plans. Despite my suggestions and requests, I was ignored.

    This past February, I sat down with two of my managers. It was a world peace type about meeting expectations – which I was ironically thrilled about, because I could never get answers about strategy in the first place. The quote that left an impact from that day?

    “Quite frankly, your job is in danger.”

    But it started a conversation about my work environment, that I became miserable in. And how we could work together to change things for the better.

    Two days later, I walked to my car to pick up a friend. To my dismay, someone (shocker – no note) had smashed my car on both the side and front. It had a ton of damage. Chatting with neighbors, I discovered the crash was approximately at 1 AM – prime time for a drunk driver.

    smashed car
    My smashed car. That’s how I found it…

    The News

    After I called Geico and dropped off my car at the repair shop, I discovered stunning news: my car wasn’t only in need of repair; it was totaledAfter holding back tears due to this unforeseen scenario, I reflected on the situation. I had two choices:

    1. Replace the car – so I could drive everyday to the job I hated. OR:
    2. Take the insurance money and invest in myself – and my business.

    I chose my business. And more importantly, I chose my happiness.

    This wasn’t a totally irrational decision, mind you: I had prepared by taking a business essentials classes a few months earlier. I started to build my freelance clients on the side.

    My parents kinda freaked out. My friends questioned if I was making a quick decision. There were others who doubted me. I decided to hustle harder than I’d worked before. Over the next couple of months, I continued to get my ducks in a row. I started marketing myself. And at the ‘day job’, I moved the needle (slightly) forward to make an impact while I could.

    On April 23, 2015: I worked my last day in the corporate world. (One day after Earth Day!)

    I’ll admit it: Working for yourself isn’t all roses. There are new challenges and expectations. There’s days I question my sanity and if I’m going to make this work in the long run.

    But, I’m on the right path of where I want to be. I’ve worked with a variety of businesses in my short time out of the corporate world – most of whom have sustainable ties. Additionally, I recently took on a project working with a local nonprofit. Their mission helps improve our park system; the people are incredible, and I genuinely enjoy the work.

    5 lessons about Going CarFree

    So what lessons have I learned since I’ve been carfree for 6+ months?

    1. It’s doable. One of the side effects from my totaled car was becoming a full time cyclist, pedestrian & Uber-user. Although I’ve secretly wished for a pair of wheels just to make getting from Point A to Point B easierm modern options between biking, SEPTA, Uber and Zipcar have made it easy. Renting a car isn’t as bad as I anticipated.

    2.  No one type of transit user is perfect. For those who can’t stand bikers/pedestrians/crazy drivers: I’ve seen all sides of the carfree spectrum, and here’s the biggest truth: There are assholes biking, driving, walking and on public transit.

    3. I don’t care about gas prices. Seriously, what are they right now? I have no idea. And I just refilled a rental car on Saturday.

    4. Some skirts aren’t good for biking. I’ve officially torn a dress and realized one of my skirts was too short for biking. #whoops.

    5. Pay attention to others, regardless of your transit method. My dad taught me to be a defensive driver. But you need to be a defensive biker/walker/driver regardless and always anticipate someone’s unexpected move.

    I can vouch – going carfree in Philadelphia isn’t only doable, it’s a relief. No parking, no PPA tickets and no worrying about moving your car for the Pope.

    Readers, what have you found from going carfree? Tell us in the comments.


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    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

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