By the author of Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City and The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.
For those who believe an economic SHTF is in the cards – in the form of a deep recession or even depression – here are some proven ideas and strategies for transportation and mobility during austere times.
If I didn’t believe in the possibility of TEOTWAWKI, I wouldn’t be much of a prepper. But I don’t think the crap will hit the fan in full force, at least not in the more developed countries, states, and cities. I could be wrong, of course, but so far, history is on my side (thankfully, I must add).
However, crap happens even when it doesn’t hit the fan – and that’s exactly what Thirdwoldization is. No matter what occurs, life won’t return to how it was before 2020. The coming years will be difficult, and this will be an SHTF unto itself, particularly for populations used to high levels of comfort and convenience.
History always provides a lesson.
Whether the SHTF or not, the fact is the entire world is now experiencing a terrible economic downturn. People in the First World are starting to wake up to (and feel) that reality.
I’ve discussed the 1980s economic struggles in Brazil as well as the measures people took to maintain their standard of living. Jose from Venezuela also frequently offers practical guidance based on even worse situations that occurred in his country during the past ten years.
People frequently believe that the current situation is unprecedented, yet this is not the case. Of course, there are distinctions, but the background, particularly the energy crisis, is quite reminiscent of the periods I describe as reference. And energy, as a master commodity, is a powerful driver of change and turmoil.
Western nations experienced severe petroleum shortages and skyrocketing costs during the 1970s energy crisis.
The Yom Kippur War and the Iranian Revolution caused disruptions in Middle Eastern oil exports, resulting in the two biggest crises of this time period, the 1973 Oil Shock and the 1979 energy crisis.
The expense of driving rates is felt by American households. The cost of owning and maintaining a private car is one of the reasons why transportation is the second-highest average expense after housing. Driving poses a huge financial burden for many because median salaries have stagnated in inflation-adjusted terms, and many urban areas are facing even greater inclusion issues.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
These problems in the energy sector had an impact on people all over the world, in addition to the misery brought on by the weak economy. I recall the long waits in front of the gas stations as people waited for the gas truck to come.
Fuel was rationed, and you never knew if there would be enough to fill the tank once you reached the pump. Often we’d go back empty to try the next day again or sleep in the car to keep the place in line. To remain mobile, people had to adapt and devise new tactics.
When the SHTF, routine may be disrupted, but life carries on.
Also born out of necessity is adaptation. My experience has taught me that there isn’t much that can be done to prepare for such a situation, and I feel compelled to say as much. Certainly not in the manner that more conventional preparing promotes.
Traditional preparation works best for shocks, to soften the blow. Long-lasting crises call for a mental shift and ultimately result in lifestyle, routine, and habit modifications over time. This process is happening now, and that’s what I mean when I say the real crisis hasn’t yet sunk in. These things take time.
Be ready for the worst.
I will advise anyone who drives a gas guzzler to consider downsizing. Huge cars and powerful engines are luxuries that belong in prosperous, developed societies. For periods of less prosperity, smaller, more practical cars are preferable (and draw less attention as a bonus).
Many households own two, three, or even more vehicles. These accrue high, ongoing costs that include not only fuel but also taxes, insurance, maintenance, depreciation, and other costs. It’s a substantial burden that weighs heavily in the event of a drop in income, a job loss, or an emergency.
Moving closer to work, school, places of attendance, and other important locations is another excellent way to save money and time on commuting. Overall, it makes life simpler. I am aware that this is not always possible for everyone for a variety of reasons. In any case, make an effort to distinguish between psychological and actual, objective restrictions.
Timing is critical.
Normalcy bias is also prevalent when it comes to transportation and mobility. Most people have to be forced into adaptation, which emphasizes the value of being ahead of the curve.
The sooner we act, the better. That’s the idea and the point of preparing. It’s even possible to profit by taking proactive measures. Many people get stuck as the window of opportunity closes, and everything becomes more difficult. Now is the perfect moment to look into potential solutions and alternatives.
Only you are able to determine how important transportation is to your family’s lifestyle relative to other factors. Keep an open mind and consider the possibilities and circumstances. Although not everyone may be affected equally, crises often result in a change in priorities. Often, we are compelled to accomplish what we can rather than what we want.
It’s time to start thinking about carpooling.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2019, over 76% of Americans drive alone to work daily, while another 9% carpool with someone else on average These figures vary among states and cities, but even in the healthiest state (New York), carpoolers are a minority: 47.2%, still a lot better than the worse, Alabama, where only 14.8% carpool [SOURCE].
Once again, solo commuting in a large (or even small) vehicle is a luxury of contemporary life, at least in industrialized and wealthy nations. When the economy collapses, the standard of living follows even if oil prices don’t soar. Every dollar counts when there aren’t as many jobs and resources available. If it doesn’t now, it definitely will later on, I promise.
Is rotation a possibility?
When I was a child, parents would alternate driving their children and friends to activities like parties, games, and school. This saved time and petrol because a different parent would be driving on each day or vacation. I’m sure it was annoying for them to have so many young devils running around in the car today, but we had a great time anyhow.
Anyhow, carpooling and driver rotation are fantastic ways to cut costs while maintaining the pleasure and convenience of commuting or touring in a car and carrying the entire family (or gang). It necessitates coordination with friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. These are merely annoyances, though, in hard times.
Walking is always an option.
My grandpa didn’t even have a driver’s license while he resided in a then-midsized town. He never owned a car and did everything on foot or by public transportation. He lived to his 100s. I’m not sure how much those things relate, but at least he was a happy and healthy trekker.
Such a lifestyle would be a hindrance to a lot of people in this day and age, if not outright impossible. However, in many cases, the most common barrier is mental (inertia, laziness, etc.). The ones I know who started walking for work, school, and lunch, by their own initiative or the doctors’ order, enjoyed it so much they became addicted.
Even those who live far from their regular destinations can blend modes for convenience, economy, and fitness. Like walking the remaining distance or part(s) of a journey to your destination after taking a train, bus, or even a car.
- In addition to being an excellent workout, walking helps clear the mind and combat anxiety.
- It also helps develop situational awareness and observation. Those are the reasons I encourage and promote walking in In my street survival training book.
- Walking is slow for modern living standards, even when done at a brisk pace. But that depends on each one’s lifestyle, of course.
- All ages can use it, although it demands mobility and is not a possibility in areas with harsh winters or summers.
- Although it has a limited impact, it nonetheless has the potential to cause injury. To reduce risk, be sure to always wear appropriate footwear and socks, and gradually increase distance and load.
Don’t forget about bicycles.
Here I am, talking about bicycles once more. But the truth is that during a recession, bikes are an even better option for affordable transportation. The biggest obstacles to exercising, such as biking or walking, are psychological. As soon as people break from inertia, a miracle occurs.
There are several advantages.
- It’s a cheap exercise that has a modest impact (entry and maintenance).
- High-grin factor, excellent for conditioning and fitness.
- Fast and nimble in the city or the wilderness, adaptable, and simple to park (or carry along).
- They may be transported by buses, trains, subways, etc.
- E-bikes allow for some workout while moving more quickly and dryly.
- Not really made for rugged terrain.
- Comparatively simpler to steal than autos.
- Greater possibility of injury from accidents.
- Limited load capacity, although this can be overcome by employing a trailer.
- Restricted use during severe weather (rain, cold, and heat).
Public transportation may be available.
Where they are good and plentiful, like in most cities in Europe and North America, subways, trains, and buses are excellent and relatively inexpensive modes of transportation.
I am aware that the local residents are dissatisfied with the standard of public transportation services. Undoubtedly, supply is always behind demand, even in wealthy countries. But trust me, once you try public transportation in underdeveloped nations, you’ll appreciate how fortunate you are.
In any case, public transportation suffers during emergencies. Fewer trains, metros, and buses continue to run. And these begin to experience depredation, overcrowding, overwork, and other problems. While safety may or may not be affected, comfort is unquestionably impacted.
However, for many people, public transit is the only option, and the user base swells significantly when the economy is struggling. People either sell their cars or drive them far less frequently. When formulating your transportation plan, weigh the costs of keeping a car at home vs. utilizing it more frequently to spread the costs.
- Cost-effective compared to purchasing and operating a vehicle.
- Limited options
- Less comfort
- Low time and itinerary flexibility.\
(Need to know how to evacuate in a hurry? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide.)
Scooters and motorcycles are a great alternative.
In less developed nations, millions of people use motorbikes, scooters, and mopeds as their primary mode of mobility. It’s not just a quick way to go around in traffic that never moves, but it’s also highly affordable and adaptable.
I’ve been using motorbikes and scooters regularly for years, whether for work, errands, or just general transportation. These, along with bicycles, are what I refer to as “time machines” instead of vehicles – because they drastically reduce the amount of time, stress, and money we spend on our daily activities. You have to give it a try to see.
A scooter can change your life—in a good way—in a big, dense city like mine (13 million souls). The worse the traffic conditions, the greater the benefits. I’m aware that not everyone gets along well with two-wheeled vehicles. They carry considerable dangers. But the benefits vastly exceed this. If affordability and maneuverability are priorities, as they are during recessions, it might be the best means of transportation.
- Fast and inexpensive.
- Extremely quick in traffic.
- It is simple and quite inexpensive to ride, maintain, park, and insure.
- Sells more quickly and easily than vehicles.
- They are capable of moving merchandise and a second passenger on open roads and highways.
- In snowy and icy weather, riding is impractical and hazardous.
- Similar to bicycles, riders are subject to the elements and more dangerous mishaps.
“Electric Urban Vehicles”
I’m referring to the plethora of electricity-powered one, two, and three-wheeled urban vehicles. These take a lot less energy and can accomplish considerably more for solo urban mobility than electric cars. Monocycles, tricycles, e-scooters, e-bikes, and electric motorbikes are a few examples.
- Cheaper and less complicated than e-cars.
- Slower than a combustion engine but faster than walking equals safety and versatility.
- Most types may be charged using commonly available outlets thanks to their lower capacity.
- Require no licenses.
- Some can be readily parked or transported inside buildings, trains, and buses.
- May move along roadways, bike lanes, and sidewalks (depending on local regulations and laws).
- Some need practice to operate safely in actual traffic.
- Fast obsolescence results from rapid technological advancements.
- Once the battery dies, most models are considered disposable.
What about electric cars?
That is a valid question with nuanced angles and answers. We are being sold the green dream, but these adaptations aren’t even that. They are expensive, take mountains (literally) of rare materials to build (some very polluting), and require special care when they die.
Call me biased or old-fashioned, but the only benefits I can see for electric automobiles are their coolness and status. As opposed to combustion-engine cars, they are neither cheap to purchase nor cost-effective to operate and maintain. This benefits car manufacturers’ marketing and finances more than the environment.
Most electric vehicles have poor range and require lengthy recharges. Some even need special stations and plugs. Maybe a hybrid model would be acceptable, but even those need specialized (and therefore pricey) parts and upkeep. Better stick with a “regular” car if you want or need a vehicle to transport your family with some comfort and safety.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much technology can advance as e-cars scale up. The same happened to combustion-powered vehicles. However, a breakthrough in battery production would be required to get past the materials needed to make them, which is still a ways off. They aren’t dealing with any of the world’s issues at the moment.
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Concluding thoughts on SHTF transportation during an economic crisis…
I am speaking from my own experience. Others might be different. In either case, any pricey or fuel-intensive vehicle will become a burden when circumstances are hard. Whether it is diesel, gasoline, or electricity makes no difference.
But there’s also the matter of mobility, so there’s that. The goal is to keep things simple since that’s what people do in times of economic crisis or in regions where crises never end. Simplifying is the best approach.
Your ability to own and operate a vehicle depends on how common, straightforward, and inexpensive it is, as well as how simple and inexpensive it is to maintain. Drawing less attention is another benefit, which will become more important as crime increases.
I’m not claiming one is better than the other; I’m just listing the options and emphasizing how crucial it is to calculate your options. Now imagine that you and your family still need to move about the city or local area frequently, but your income took a knock or disappeared totally. What would you do? That will give a suggestion as to the most effective tactics.
What are some other options? Which of these would work best for you? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
Fabian Ommar is a 50-year-old middle-class worker living in São Paulo, Brazil. Far from being the super-tactical or highly trained military survivor type, he is the average joe who since his youth has been involved with self-reliance and outdoor activities and the practical side of balancing life between a big city and rural/wilderness settings. Since the 2008 world economic crisis, he has been training and helping others in his area to become better prepared for the “constant, slow-burning SHTF” of living in a 3rd world country.
Fabian’s ebook, Street Survivalism: A Practical Training Guide To Life In The City , is a practical training method for common city dwellers based on the lifestyle of the homeless (real-life survivors) to be more psychologically, mentally, and physically prepared to deal with the harsh reality of the streets during normal or difficult times. He’s also the author of The Ultimate Survival Gear Handbook.
You can follow Fabian on Instagram @stoicsurvivor