In a recent survey, three out of four Americans said that they would prefer not living in a metropolitan area. After all, thousands of people take to the highway each weekend to escape the city, and over fifty percent say they would prefer a rural area or small town over living in the city.
So what does country living mean, exactly? What does it look like, sound like, feel like? Well it can mean different things to different people, depending on what you want out of life, and what your goals are.
Some people want to have a home in the country, but have all (or at least most) of the conveniences of urban living. Other folks are homesteaders or farmers, and they want to be self-reliant, raising most of their own food, generating their own power, making their own clothing, etc. Still others want to retire in rural America, or they just want a second home in the country where they can spend weekends and holidays outside the city.
Country life is special in many ways, a lifestyle of self-reliance and back-to-the-land values, of hard work, serenity, scenery, and food pulled from the rich soil. It’s life at a slower pace, more time with friends and family, a closeness to nature. It’s a lifestyle many aspire to, no matter where they live.
But it’s not for everyone. If you’re currently living in a metropolitan area, and you’re pondering a move to the country, the mountains, or along the coast, there are a number of things to consider. While rural life is desirable for a variety of reasons, also be aware that it has its unique challenges as well, and once you commit to this lifestyle, you should be prepared for everything that comes with it.
This is especially true if you’re looking to start a homestead in the country. This type of “back to the land” living is a lot of work, and you can expect to run into a number of challenges – and even hardships – especially in your first year. Being self-reliant and living off the land can sound easy when reading about it in a book, but is usually a lot tougher in real life.
Which is also a lot of the satisfaction for people drawn to this lifestyle. Eating food that you’ve grown yourself, food that tastes better and is healthier for you and your family, is a reward in itself. And there’s nothing like knowing that you’re reliant on nobody but yourself, and that you and your family are prepared for just about anything that life can throw your way.
Living in the country can be a fantastic and life-altering experience, and I highly recommend it. Just be aware of what you’re getting into before you call the moving van, and be as prepared as you can be for the new and exciting life that awaits you in rural America.
Some of the advantages of country living
- More privacy. There simply aren’t as many people living in the country compared to urban areas, so you’ll have more peace and privacy to do as you please. For many this is the main draw of country life, they simply want to be left alone.
- Less violent crime. Urban crime problems like street gangs, crack houses, drive-by shootings, child abductions and carjackings are rare or non-existent in most rural areas of the country. While there is crime outside the city, in most smaller communities it consists primarily of property crimes, traffic violations, teenage vandalism and the like.
- It’s a lot quieter, which goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. With fewer people in the country, there’s less noise from cars and trucks, motorcycles, emergency vehicles, airplanes, loud music blaring from windows, etc. Noise pollution is one of the leading causes of stress in modern life, and it’s no wonder folks are seeking some peace and quiet in rural America.
- Hometown values. Many people of a certain age think of country life and Mayberry from the Andy Griffith show comes to mind. Small towns, home cooking, close families and friendly neighbors who all know and care for one another. A place where speeding tickets are a major event, and many folks don’t bother to lock their doors at night.
- The ability to live off the land. There’s a real attraction for many people to have the ability to grow their own food, make their own clothes, and generate their own heat and electricity. To “live off the grid” so to speak, and only have to buy a few of your necessities in a store, is a liberating feeling if you’re lucky enough to have experienced it.
- You can own undomesticated animals in the country. Outside city zoning, you can own farm animals like horses, chickens, pigs, ducks, and even cattle if you so desire. Being around these types of animals makes us more human in my opinion, and brings us closer to nature.
- It’s healthier to live in the country. You’re breathing clean air, and drinking clean water, often out of your own well. You’re not choking on exhaust fumes from crowded urban streets, and you’re not drinking chemically-treated city water, and you’re less likely to get hurt or killed in a traffic accident. And you don’t have the stress of long commutes through bumper-to-bumper traffic. Studies have shown that living in the city actually decreases your average life expectancy by several years or more.
Some of the challenges of country living
- Emergency services my be spotty, or take a long time to arrive. Chances are medical and emergency facilities are going to be some distance away when you live in a rural area, and something you need to be aware of, especially if you’re older, have health issues, or kids. Also make sure your health insurance will provide coverage for you in your new country home, or that you have access to a hospital or clinic within a reasonable driving distance.
- Making a living can be a challenge. Many people give up on their dreams of living in the country because they can’t figure out how to make a living outside the city. While many traditional jobs – like corporate or manufacturing positions – can be hard to come by in many rural areas, there are a host of other options, especially with the advent of the Internet and parcel delivery available almost everywhere. There are a wide range of telecommuting and small businesses that can be run from the home these days, from consulting to online sales, website and graphic design, marketing, writing, and more.
- Shopping is more of a challenge. Unlike in the city, where you can hop in your car and be at the supermarket or mall in a few minutes, in the country you have to stock up and plan ahead. You may only travel into the city on shopping trips once or twice per month, so you have to make lists and make sure not to forget something important. Also remember that services like dentists, optical stores, hair salons, bike shops, dry cleaners, etc. may not be readily available in rural locations.
- Entertainment options are limited. If you’re someone who likes to drive to the local multi-screen movie theater every weekend to catch a movie, or go bar-hopping or restaurant sampling on a regular basis, or you like live entertainment, you might find country living a challenge. Satellite TV and Internet movie rentals can help, as can living within an hours drive of a city or larger town with entertainment options.
- The weather can take some getting used to. Especially if you live in the mountains, or along the coast. Rural areas of the country can have much different weather than in the cities, with more severe storms, flooding, heavy snowfall, and wind events. Blizzards and whiteout conditions are not uncommon during the winter months, along with heat and dust storms during the summer. Just be aware that you might be snowed in for days at a time, and prepare accordingly.
- Becoming part of the local community. Many rural communities are tight-knit by nature, and newly transplanted residents often have a hard time making friends and breaking into tight social circles. This usually dissipates over time, and as the “old timers” in the community get to know and trust you. One way to speed up the process is by volunteering to help out in the community, like at the school, church, social agencies, etc.
- The more self-reliant you are, the more challenges you’ll face. Living a life where you’re not dependent on the outside world for much is a lot of work, a fact that most urban dwellers take for granted. Imagine having to grow all your own food, raise your own animals, generate your own power, repair your own tools and equipment, make your own soap, tend to the medical needs of you and your family, etc. This path is rewarding, but also not for the faint of heart.
But don’t let the challenges discourage you if you’ve decided that this is the life for you. It’s been said that nothing worthwhile in life comes easy, and that the best things in life are free, and both statements are true of rural living. Just be aware of the pluses and minuses before you take the plunge, be as prepared as you can be, and you’re less likely to make a decision you’ll regret a few months down the road.