Cycling Life in Spain Resources & Energy

The reality of life without a car

Written by Louise

Back in summer, 2012, when my (now) ex and I sold our car, I had no idea I would end up cycling 4km uphill – OK, mostly uphill, with a little flat – with 30kg of cat food in my panniers. But that’s exactly what I did today.

I’ll begin at the beginning.

Nine months before we sold the car, we decided to move out of our beautiful 4-bedroom villa, with the lovely garden, pool, 3 bathrooms, 3 terraces, secure entry system … and so on, because paying 700€ in electric bills (monthly) just to keep the aircon running was a bit much, even for us. Plus, a 280 square metre house, including the under build garage that housed the car, pool pump and filters, as well as an awful lot of junk, was more than 2 people and 2 cats really needed.

The trouble was, we couldn’t really agree on where we wanted to live next.

I wanted to move further into the countryside, and rent a smaller, more basic house, with some land that I could grow vegetables on.

My partner wanted to move into town, for the convenience of being close to everything, and my partner won.

We moved into a brand new, modern apartment right in the middle of town. It was still big (for an apartment), but there was no outside space aside from a few balconies. I still can’t imagine what I was thinking when I agreed to it. I suppose I thought it was practical, because it would be a lot cheaper to rent and run. (Well, the rent was a lot less. The electric bills, once we adjusted the aircon to keep it warm in the winter and cool in the summer, weren’t much lower than at the big villa.)

The car hadn’t been getting much use before we moved. It mostly came out of the garage once a week to drive to town, collect groceries, and return home. We’d already had to ask a neighbour to help by jump starting it twice, and tried to schedule a few longer trips to keep the battery charged.

We moved into the apartment at the beginning of December, and I took the car for its last trip a month later. In July, when it had sat in the garage below the apartment block for 6 months, and not moved, I finally convinced my partner we should sell it.

A year later, my partner left to return to the UK, and I was suddenly on my own. Given a choice between staying in the apartment I hated, and moving to the countryside without a car, I knew which I would choose. It was difficult for a while, until I got used to the routine of cycling to the shops for my groceries, and occasionally getting a taxi if I had something bulky, but I soon got used to it.

For a few years, I had been ordering pet food online from Zooplus, and it was delivered by courier to the house. I soon discovered that, in Spain, while every courier will deliver to your apartment in town, some couriers will deliver to your house in the countryside, and others won’t. The ones that won’t take it to their depot and send you an email so you can arrange collection. The depots are often in Malaga, about 45 minutes drive away – if you have car! I very quickly learned that the standard shipping with Zooplus works fine, and my order turns up at my house a few days later. If I pay for a shipping upgrade, I’ll probably never get it at all!

And that’s how I ended up cycling back from town with 30kg of cat food on the back of my bike.

bike-unloaded

Living car free can be challenging at times.

 

I placed a big order on Sunday evening, and was pleased to see, on Monday morning, that 3 out of 4 parcels had already been shipped. Then I saw the note for the fourth parcel. They were waiting for one item to arrive in the warehouse, so they were giving me a free shipping upgrade to minimise the delay.

Several frantic phone calls followed!

I think they call it Sod’s Law. Practically everything in that parcel was food I needed urgently. I explained to Zooplus that, if they couldn’t stop it, I had no way of collecting it, and it would be returned to them. The customer service rep did a good impression of trying to be helpful, but said it was too late, and there was nothing she could do.

I placed another order for the missing items, and immediately sent a ticket to support telling them not to upgrade the shipping. They promptly removed the item I needed most urgently from the order, and shipped the rest!

I phoned the newsagent in town, where I have a mail box, and asked if they could take the parcel for me. Then I phoned the courier and tried to convince them to deliver my parcel to a different address. (They said no, but that doesn’t mean much. This is Spain, and the drivers tend to do whatever they feel like on the day.) On Thursday lunch time, just as the rest of my 2 orders arrived, I received a call from the newsagent. My parcel had been delivered.

It was a bank holiday yesterday, so I had to wait until this morning to collect it. For a while, I considered getting a taxi. I knew what was in the parcel, and I knew how heavy it would be. But I also resent paying 10€ for a taxi because of someone else’s mess up. So, I rode down on my bike, and figured I’d manage it somehow.

I did manage, but I had 3 problems:

  1. All the weight was over the rear wheel of the bike, which made it very unstable. If you’re going to carry a heavy load, it’s best distributed about 2/3 on the rear wheel and 1/3 on the front wheel, but I don’t have a front rack, so it all had to go on the back. I’m not usually stupid enough to put that much weight on it!
  2. The rack is only rated to 25kg, and I had 30kg of cat food, plus a few groceries on it. I had to take it very carefully over the bumps because saving 10€ on a taxi, only to have to spend 40€ on a new bike rack would be something of a false economy.
  3. I finally understand why exercise was so hard when I was losing weight. The total weight on the bike today was about 80kg, which is about 10kg less than I weighed at my heaviest, and I felt like I was going to die getting it up the hill. (If you’re trying to lose weight and feel like exercise is going to kill you, I promise, it does get easier!)

Summer has just arrived, of course, which doesn’t make it any easier. Riding uphill, on a loaded bike, in the full sun, isn’t easy.

Oddly enough, it reminded me how great it is living without a car. If I’d been able to drive to town and collect the parcel, it wouldn’t have given me nearly the sense of achievement I felt today.

(Photo: What it looked like when it was all packed in the panniers. I’m still not quite sure how I fitted it in!)

About the author

Louise

Animal lover, asexual, blogger, cyclist, daughter, dreamer, entrepreneur, expat, optimist, procrastinator, reader, realist, rescuer, runner, sister, writer ... Hate labels? Me too. Just read my blog.

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