Want To Move To The Country? 15 Things To Consider
Moving to the sticks is all the rage right now. At least, that’s what I gather from the number of questions I’m getting about septic systems. Or, you all are just really interested in becoming rural waste management engineers. Assuming it’s the former, let’s talk about what it’s really like to live rurally.
I’m no expert, I’ve only been here for four years, and I’ve only lived in Vermont, but I’ve devoted a lot of ink to dissecting the experience of going from ultra-urban (NYC, Washington, DC, Cambridge, MA) to ultra-rural. Since it’s a pandemic and since we’re all working from home while managing our children and learning new skills (baking sourdough) and developing fascinating hobbies (again, baking) and gaining 25 lbs a day (just me?), let’s do this as a list. You’re welcome.
So You Want To Go Rural. Here are 15 Things To Know:
1) Decide if you want Rural or Remote:
These are not synonyms, people. I live rurally, but I’m not remote. I’m rural because my town has circa 400 people, I live on 66 acres of woods, there are no restaurants, movie theaters, stores, or coffee shops in my town, and I have a well and septic system.
In my opinion, I’m not remote because:
- There’s a world class hospital 45 minutes away.
- There’s a shopping “district” 40 minutes away (people, we have FOUR different grocery stores, a BJ’s, a Home Depot, a Walmart AND a Kmart, and more).
- There’s a university 35 minutes away, which brings arts and culture to our region. Professors, doctors, lawyers, artists, etc all live in my town, which is fairly unusual for such a small place. When our kids are older, we can take them to the symphony and the ballet.
- Our pediatrician is 25 minutes away and is wonderful (this is important when your kids are little because they go to the doctor approximately 6.5 times per month x number of children… ).
We have fabulous restaurants within 30 minutes of our house, which makes our monthly (pre-coronavirus) date nights possible.
- The elementary school is 10 minutes away (major rural score!!!!!) and the school district is excellent.
- One of the key differences between rural and remote is the availability of jobs. While more and more people are working from home (like my husband and me), a rural town that’s not within driving distance of employers will be more remote and likely less vibrant.
Rural isn’t better than Remote, it’s just different. Knowing what you’ll do for work, understanding the make-up of the town, and having a realistic grasp of how far you’ll need to drive to visit the dentist and buy groceries are crucial aspects of choosing a location. I strongly encourage folks to make the drive from a prospective rural property into the nearest town where you’ll do your town stuff.
2) Nature is right outside your front door:
Trees are quiet neighbors and I am thankful for the ability to walk outside and immerse myself in nature. Not needing to commute to nature was a major factor in our desire to move and it continues to astound me with its awesomeness. Especially with little kids, I wouldn’t get them (or me) outside and into the woods anywhere near as often if I had to strap everyone into carseats and drive somewhere.
The girls and I explore creeks, find newts, examine decaying tree stumps, and take daily nature walks. I’m teaching Kidwoods (age 4) to navigate her way back to the house through the deep woods and it’s incredible to witness the confidence both kids exhibit while scaling boulders and balancing on downed trees. After living surrounded by concrete for so many years, I adore our meadows, streams, pond, and forest. I wouldn’t want to raise my kids any other way.
I also love that if I have thirty minutes to myself, I can take a quick hike through our woods and feel worlds away from dishes, laundry and email. I can get lost (not literally) in the trees and experience a more holistic sense of calm than I was ever able to capture in the city. If you love being outside and if you love nature, you will love living rurally.
3) Recalibrate your idea of “nearby” and learn to love your car:
When we lived in the city, I considered anything I couldn’t walk to as too far away. People, I wouldn’t leave Brooklyn on a weekend if you paid me. Same goes for Cambridge–we never went to Boston. Why bother when we had a coffee shop at the end of our street and could see four restaurants from our bedroom window? I used to walk to the doctor, I pushed Kidwoods’ stroller to her pediatrician, we walked to church, we walked out to dinner, I walked to yoga, we walked to friends’ houses, my husband biked to work. We loved that lifestyle and it’s what I miss most about city living.
The trade-off is worth it to me and I wouldn’t go back to the city, but it was jarring at first to internalize the fact that I can’t walk anywhere. Going to a coffee shop is a 30 minute drive each way so I don’t go very often, but when I do, I enjoy it. Be aware of just how much time you’ll spend in your car if you go rural. There’s no such thing as public transportation and it takes me 10 minutes (each way) just to walk to the end of my driveway to check the mail.
I had a hard time with the car thing when we first moved here and was frustrated that it took an hour (round trip) of driving to go to the grocery store. I was mad that I had to drive an hour and a half every week for my prenatal appointments in late pregnancy with Littlewoods.
Now, I actually enjoy my time in the car. Driving a Prius is a game changer: miles per gallon matter a lot out here. Plus, I discovered the joy of podcasts and look forward to driving as my chance to listen and learn (my issue before was that radio reception isn’t great in the middle of nowhere and NPR was forever flicking in and out). It’s also true there’s no traffic, no stoplights, no congestion, no pollution, and beautiful views. I don’t mind driving an hour when I get to see picturesque barns, cows, and of course, trees. So many trees.
Coming to a place of peace with driving is more important than I realized before moving here… and we don’t even commute for our jobs!!!!! If you’re going to have a daily commute, be honest with yourself about how that’s going to impact your life. Plenty of my neighbors drive 40-50 minutes each way every Monday through Friday, and think nothing of it. The upside is that there’s zero traffic, so a 40 minute drive will almost always be a 40 minute drive (unlike in Boston where a 10 minutes drive EASILY takes 60 minutes, if you’re lucky).
Anything that’s less than an hour and a half roundtrip is considered “close” in the rural context. Be cognizant of that when you read real estate listings and speak with an agent: their idea of “close” is probably A LOT different than yours. Map it, drive it, and decide if you’re ok with that much time in the car.
4) The air quality is amazing:
I cannot believe how good the air smells. Unless you live near cows, the air is fresh, clean, and such a departure from what I was used to in the city. To be clear, cows are great, they’re just a tad stinky, but it’s a natural, organic sort of stink. We don’t even have light pollution here because there are no street lights, no traffic lights, no lights at nights. The stars spread above us like a quilt unfurled, every detail of stitching visible.
5) Are you OK forgoing city conveniences?:
This is one area where rural living and frugality come together in a beautiful way. Most “city conveniences” flat out don’t exist in the rural wilds. Here are some examples:
- There’s no such thing as take-out or delivery food or delivery grocery options. Exactly zero restaurants and zero grocery stores deliver to my home. Not a problem since we decided to stop getting take-out for money-saving reasons a few years before moving here, but I will say it’s sometimes annoying to not have that option. Like on really crappy days when you just WANT Chinese food, it’d be nice if delivery was a thing.
There’s no public transit, no Uber, no taxis, no nothing. You either have a car–or a kind neighbor with a car–or you’re going nowhere. This is why we own two cars: if one’s in the shop, we have to have a back-up. We also have two cars for safety reasons: if one of us is away on a business trip with one car and the other is at home with the kids and there’s an emergency, the at-home parent must have ready access to transportation. We always had just one car (or no car) in the city because if it was in the shop, we could walk/bike/take the subway/bus/call a taxi. Not the case here.
- Stores and services are far away so we’ve gotten used to shopping in advance. During the pandemic, we’ve been able to get away with going to the grocery store about once every six weeks. Prior to the pandemic, my husband went to the store once per week. If we forget to put something on the list? We have to wait until his next trip to town. There’s no running to the store for one item for a recipe. I will say that the neighborly proverb of borrowing a cup of sugar is alive and well and I did just text my friend to see if her husband could pick something up for us when he goes to the store tomorrow, but it’s different than being able to drive (or walk) five minutes to grab something.
- Same goes for everything else: prescriptions, household supplies, toilet paper, shampoo–if we forget to buy it, we just don’t have it. This was, again, an adjustment at first, but now I don’t even think about it. I’m so accustomed to building thorough shopping lists and have become adept at doing without/finding substitutions for stuff.
- We do get Amazon deliveries here, so that’s an option we use pretty often. I will say, though, if you’re used to two-day shipping, you’ll have to adjust to a longer wait time.
- Everything is slower. It’s a different pace of life–which I love–but it is not the fast-paced, hard-charging, efficient style of the city. Things happen when they happen. Sometimes a cow is on the road and you spend an hour trying to herd it home. Sometimes your internet goes out and you can’t do any more work that day. Sometimes it snows so hard you can’t leave your house (and then you get to bake cookies and eat them by the wood stove!!!!). Sometimes the power goes out (which means no water either) and it stays out for days (unless you buy a generator, which we most definitely did after a winter week without power or water… snow takes a long time to melt on top of a wood stove. Just saying.).
6) You will have time and space:
We’ve been able to slow our lives down and it is wonderful. Since we’re not commuting, and not shopping often, and not going elsewhere for entertainment or recreation or dining, we have the time–and the space–to do the stuff we’ve always wanted to do.
We garden extensively (perhaps too extensively… ), we’ve built hiking trails through our woods, we play in the creek, we harvest apples and make our own cider, we have a fire pit where we roast marshmallows every summer Saturday, we let our kids dig in the dirt, we make maple syrup from our maple trees, we can and preserve the vegetable we grow, we have a barn to house tools and equipment and projects. So many projects. Living rurally is a lifetime of learning and adapting.
Every season, we master new skills and solve new problems and make mistakes we didn’t even know a person could make. I love the unpredictability of rural life and the mandate to keep fresh as a lifelong learner.
7) More Land, More Problems (aka you have GOT to be handy):
If I had to cite the number one trait that’s helpful in rural life, I’d say it’s handiness. Plenty of folks live here without handy-person skills, but it’s more expensive and more frustrating. You can’t expect to call/hire someone for every job that’s needed. The more house you have, the more barn you have, the more property you have, the more fixin’ you’ll have. Even with a new(er) home and barn (like ours), something is always in need of help. Pursuant to #6, this is awesome if you embrace constant learning, not so awesome if it feels like a chore.
Here’s a great example: trees like to fall across our driveway. It’s their hobby or something. Thankfully, my husband has a chainsaw and knows how to use it. You can’t just drag an enormous tree off your driveway, you can’t drive over it, you can’t drive around it, and so, if you don’t have a chainsaw, you’re at the mercy of finding a neighbor who does and can come over to bail you out. This is one teensy, tiny example in a slew of examples we’ve encountered over the years. This is also why everything is slower and things happen when they happen. Sometimes, you have to chainsaw a tree off your driveway.
Yes, you can hire someone to mow your lawn and blow your snow and install your generator and chainsaw your trees, but it’s going to cost you and you’re going to feel like a full-time construction project manager. And the more land you have, the more difficult this will be. This is another reason why it’s important to understand the rural versus remote dynamic.
It is 100% possible to find a rural property that’s cited very close to a main road (eliminates most driveway issues), within easy access of a highway (shorter driving times), and with a small plot of land (less to maintain). Proximity to a main road, a smaller house, no outbuildings, and a small plot of land = far less stuff to maintain and fix. Of course the downside is that you’re close to a road, but the upside is that there’s not much traffic.
When considering a move to rural, be aware of your skill level–and frankly your desire–to manage maintence and forest-related issues. It’s a hobby for my husband to brush hog our fields, fell trees, split firewood, repair our well pump, till our garden, build our woodshed, and and and… but if he didn’t enjoy these things, it’d be a time-consuming pain to manage a property this large and this rural. You’ve got to love the manual labor or you’re in for a world of frustration. And this, might I point out, is all WITHOUT owning any farm animals (yet, they’re penciled in for next summer… send help).
8) Rural technology is not a given and is not created equal:
In the city, it’s a given that there’s cell reception everywhere and that every house can pay for high-speed internet. Not so out here. One of our major house-hunting criterion was high-speed internet and we were surprised at how many properties did not have it. Dial-up and satellite are not historical concepts out here.
The question here is how reliant you’ll be on the internet. If you’re going to work from home (and especially if you’ll be expected to video conference), you’ll likely need to prioritize places with high-speed access. If not, you might be ok with something less modern. We have high-speed fiber at our house, courtesy of a local internet cooperative, and it’s been fabulous for our needs.
We don’t have cell reception on our property, but we’ve learned to work around this: we have a landline phone and we’re able to use web-based services for just about everything else (i.e. Skype and FaceTime for calls, iMessage for texts, etc). It was weird at first (and sometimes still is), but once we got used to it (and got our family and friends used to it), it’s no big deal.
This also means we rock it ’90s style when we’re out and about: no cell reception and no WiFi means we can’t always been in contact with each other.
On more than one occasion, we’ve called a neighbor/friend’s landline to ask if they’ve seen our spouse lately. And we get the same calls at our house.
I will say there’s a liberating aspect to this: people are not on their phones all the time (or at all). At potlucks and parties, it’s not unusual to never see a phone. It’s a nice way to live and I like it for our kids.
But it was–again–an adjustment to get acclimated to not always being in contact with my husband and to not always have access to google maps… we have a paper atlas and let me tell you what, we have gotten seriously lost on more than one occasion.
9) You need to love being at home:
Given how far away everything is and how much work goes into maintaining a rural property, it’s really helpful if you’re a homebody. My husband and I are both homebody introverts at this stage of our lives. I would’ve been miserable out here when I was 23, but at 36, this is my jam. I love our quiet, intentional, family-centered life and it doesn’t bother me that most days we never leave our property or see anyone other than our family.
We’ve been isolating since before it was cool/mandated. We have a vibrant social life (pandemic times excused) and see local friends often, but having an abiding love and contentment of being at home is crucial.
I’m fully aware that our girls will probably hate this (and by extension us) when they’re teenagers, but I’m going to tell them it’s character-building and that they’re welcome to move to New York City after college. I figure teenagers are going to hate their parents anyway, so the parents might as well be really happy with where they live.
10) You get to be at home so much!
YAY! I really, really, really like being home with my family. It suits me, it suits my husband, it suits our kids.
11) You can have a real impact in your community:
In our small town, one person can make a difference. One person can start a weekly food shelf to help their neighbors, one person can be the reason a free summer camp happens every year, one person can organize a monthly town potluck, one person can see a problem and come up with a solution. I love this. My husband and I both volunteer quite a bit and I don’t tell you this to toot our horns, but to illuminate how engaged we’ve been able to become in our community. In the city, it always felt like we weren’t really needed. We were the 50th or the 100th person to volunteer to do something whereas out here, we might be the first (and only). It can be overwhelming to realize how few people there are to step up, but it’s also empowering to realize the deep impact you can have in a small town.
12) Making friends comes naturally in community:
I always felt like I had to work so hard to make friends in the city: everyone was busy and had tons going on and it was tough to coordinate schedules. Out here, (pre-pandemic) our friendships blossom as we serve pizzas from the town pizza oven on July 4th, as we play on the town playground with our babies, as we hike in the woods together, as we volunteer to sort book donations for the library, as we help neighbors build a house, as we drop off our trash and recycling, as we participate in the annual snowshoe-a-thon.
It feels more like being in a large, extended family–we have friends in their 80s and friends in their teens. I love the multi-generational aspect of our lives and so appreciate this for our kids. I never understood what “community” meant before moving here. Now, it’s not some meaningless descriptor, it’s a true encapsulation of the interdependence of living off the beaten path and choosing to spend time helping each other out.
Our town has a community-oriented bent to it and there are ample town activities and committees and social clubs and events and play groups. This is not the case in every rural town. Thankfully, you can learn a lot about a town based on what community programs are–or are not–offered.
13) More about DIY stuff (food this time):
You need to be able to cook and mend and clean your own house. It wouldn’t be practical or reasonable not to. Self-reliance isn’t just an ethos out here, it’s a necessity. Also, every single social event is a potluck–church has a potluck after every service, weddings are potlucks, kid’s birthday parties are potlucks, the monthly town dinner is a potluck–because everyone cooks and no one orders food (again, nowhere to order from) and to me, this is bliss. Most of the time.
I will say that sometimes, you look at the calendar and think: I’ve got to prepare a dish for four different potlucks this week and despair just a teensy bit. Although now that we’re isolated in pandemic mode, I’d give my left arm to have four potlucks to go to in a week!!! So, it’s all about perspective.
What a lot of this comes down to is that if you can’t find someone to do something for you, you’ve got to be ok with figuring out how to do it yourself. This applies to everything from schooling kids to fixing a well pump to wasp nest removal (happens all the time out here). The city option of outsourcing isn’t always available or practical. I find this liberating and enjoyable–most of the time–but I will say that a lot of that is because my husband is so proficient in handy-things and because he truly loves working with his hands. We’d be up some kinda creek without him and we would not have a paddle. I’m thinking in particular of the time a colony of wasps decided to make our upstairs bathroom their winter home. Cool.
14) You gotta know your systems:
As I noted, there’s no town sewer or water or trash pick-up out here. We have our own septic system and well, both of which we are solely and personally responsible for. If you mess up your septic system by flushing inappropriate items (or using non-septic safe toilet paper), you and you alone bear the considerable cost and frustration of having it fixed.
It’s critical to have all your systems on a schedule: you need to have your septic pumped every four years or so, you need to have your well tested for stuff like lead, and you have to take your own trash and recycling to the dump once per week during the designated time, you need to have your chimney swept, your oil tank inspected, your well pump serviced… you get the picture.
You also have to figure out how to heat your home: if you heat with oil or propane, you have to personally contract with a company to come and deliver oil and propane to you. And remember, they can’t get their giant truck down your driveway in winter, so you better have planned ahead and had it all delivered in the fall.
If you heat with wood in a wood stove, you either have to harvest the wood yourself or find someone to deliver wood to you. If you have your wood delivered, be aware, they will just dump a pile of firewood in your yard. You must then stack it in your woodshed and then cart it into your house for burning. Even with stuff that you hire out, you still do a lot of the leg work.
Living rurally is essentially the opposite of having a home owner’s association: no one tells you what to do, no one particularly cares what you do, and you are solely responsible for it all. Works for us (we’d be kicked out of an HOA within a week), but it’s a hefty responsibility and I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days I dream of living in a 600 square foot Manhattan apartment without so much as a balcony. But those days are few and far between. And if there comes a point–due to age or changed circumstances–when my husband and I no longer want to live this lifestyle, we’ll just move. Flexibility and fluidity are always part of our longterm plans and just because this lifestyle is perfect for us now doesn’t mean it’ll be perfect for us in 40 years.
15) Test drive if you can!
If you can swing it financially and logistically, I highly recommend test driving rural life! Rent an AirBnB in your desired location for a month. Live there full-time, experience it fully, and you’ll be able to make a highly informed decision. Yes, it’ll be expensive, but it’ll be a lot cheaper than buying a property and realizing a year later that it’s not for you.
Other Frugalwoods Resources
Here’s some stuff I’ve written in the past that you might find useful:
- City vs. Country: Which Is Cheaper? The Ultimate Cost Of Living Showdown
- The Best And Worst Moments Of Our First Year On The Homestead
- A Day In The Life Of The Frugalwoods: Homestead Edition
- How We Decided Our Homestead Was The One
- The Finances Of Our City Rental And Country Homestead
- That Time We Bought A Homestead
I also have two series that might be helpful:
- The first is a detailed account of our years-long homestead hunt, which starts with this post, The Frugal Homestead Series Part 1: Why The Woods?
- The other series is my ongoing account of every month on the homestead: This Month On The Homestead. If you want to know what it’s like to live rurally year-round, that’s the series for you!
The Bottom Line: Love Where You Live, Wherever That Is
There is no perfect location and no perfect lifestyle, but for me, where we live now comes pretty darn close. I’m not out to convert you (well, maybe a little… ) but I do want to reassure any rural-curious folks that it is possible to take the plunge without much experience, without having lived rurally before, without owning so much as a shovel, and without knowing how to drive a tractor. I feel like life is too short to live somewhere you hate, so if the rural life is calling you–answer!
Where do you live? Are you rural-curious? Fellow rural-ites, what have I missed?
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We live in a town of 1700 people in northern Minnesota nd were debating when we moved here if we wanted to buy a house in the country with property or buy a house in town. We finally settled on a house in town that’s on an acre lot. One of the things I realized after living here for a year is that I am so glad we live in town. I love that they spray for mosquitoes in the summer and I love in the winter they have a plow truck down our road by 7:00 a.m..
I like your take. We are in the twin cities but are trying to decide how far north we want to go to get this lifestyle. I’d like to be within driving distance of Duluth for medical. My whole family is in northern MN, but not sure how close to them I want to be!
We live on an 80 acre farm in Arkansas. Our little community is the only place I’d want to live. Like you, we are blessed that in less than an hour, we can get to just about any store or restaurant needed, but we are far enough away that we don’t have to deal with the issues that come with city living. But I have to say – I feel you on the potlucks. Prior to Coronavirus life, I feel like there was always something we were needing to cook for – and if you forget that means an extra trip to the grocery store sometimes!
Don’t worry, Liz, as far as teens go, you reap what you sow. Our teens have been great companions during the pandemic and, now especially, we appreciate their teenage energy and humor and focus on the future. We’ve also been pleased (and curious) to see the ways they’ve decided to experiment and upskill with their extra time, without prompting from us. I reckon they’d enjoy rural endeavors. (I’d call us near-suburb, much like Cambridge.)
But to get on-topic…Husband and I have been very much occupied with deliberating What’s Next for us (downsizing, choosing where we will age-in-place). We are young enough- early 50s- to manage a rural lifestyle now, but in twenty years, it’s hard to know. I’ve known some octogenarians whose vigor puts me to shame. But, as you rightly point out, it’s not just about stamina, it’s about logistics. Is it wise to go rural with an empty nest (will the kids visit? bring the grandkids? how often?). I value our current walk-able environment, but it’s pricey. Part of the appeal of downsizing is lowering costs- we won’t need the commutable suburb anymore. Then again, maybe a bungalow with a big garden and no HOA (pretty tired of those) near the library will be homestead enough… for our visitors from the airport- because, like I said, you reap what you sow and, whoops, we’ve given them two passports. (Must remember what a privilege it is to have choices!)
….feeling way too reassured about the reap what you sow idea…..
Did you notice yourself doing the rural distance calculation thing?
We talk about something being thirty minutes, forty minutes, two hours away, rather than a number of miles. Lol
Haha yes!! We almost never refer to miles… 😉
Hmmm I wonder if this is regional? I always refer to distance in miles. In rural (and remote) Nebraska 45 miles is pretty much 45 minutes.
I thought it was a city vs country thing – in the city 10 miles can take an hour, so it makes more sense to refer to time. Out here, if something happens to delay you (snow, cows, flooding) it’s a big deal and is probably going to slow you down by much more than a few “minutes,” but those big delays are pretty rare.
That’s definitely a Canadian thing, too–we always talk about distance in time, not kilometres, even in the cities!
We are 40 minutes from everywhere in the Rocky Mountain foothills.
I loved this thorough post, especially the clarification of rural versus remote. I’d prefer rural over remote, since I don’t think I want to forfeit access to all the amenities I love, like great health care, world class museums, and an international airport. As a kid, I always wanted to leave my boring suburban town to live in the city. After many years in the city, I’m finding more and more reasons to leave. As much as I love the convenience of walking everywhere, knowing all the locals, etc., I miss the peace and quiet. I also miss grilling during summer. Having a small plot of land for my dog to run free would be great too. You raise great points regarding the differences between both urban and rural/remote locations. Both have pros and cons, neither is perfect. One may be perfect for a particular time in life, but not another, which is why you’re allowing flexibility regarding where you end up 40 years from now. That’s wise! Thanks for sharing!
I live in Mpls/St Paul and I can’t wait to go about 50 miles north. Two years……
Just had to comment; ditto! Although I may be more like 8 to 10. 🙂
Right now, we’re dreaming of a second rural property. Due to work (and family), we don’t see ourselves moving full time right now, but maybe someday. That, and our quarter acre is in a pretty special neighborhood and it would be hard to leave everyone there – we almost feel like a small town ourselves.
Ditto everything you said! I moved to Vermont 25 years ago from Dallas, having previously lived in East Lansing, Michigan and grew up just outside Manhattan in NJ. Life is SO different, and I think I’m spoiled forevermore. I recently moved out of a tiny rural town near Burlington to Williston. The tradeoff is less woodsy and a bit more surrounding noise, but my car stays cleaner now that I’m not on a dirt road, food delivery is available (but now I’m used to not having it and thus have not participated), I can bike to said grocery stores.
Did you mention the stars at night? Oh my gosh, nothing like seeing the stars when there are no street lights! How about feeling like you live in a bird sanctuary? And I have to mention the music scene in Vermont! So many town bands and community bands and choruses for all levels of musicianship. Love it here.
Thrift and free swap tables help my budget immensely but I live in a small city. How do get what you need used and at a lower cost? I know that financially that was one of your key mechanisms for savings vs. spending initially. Yard sales are only so good in small communities.
We actually have a pretty awesome yard sale game (and side of the road free piles!) here, thanks to our proximity to the “big city” :). During non-pandemic summers, a girlfriend and I yard sale together early most Saturday mornings and find all sorts of gems. I’m also part of a local mom’s group that does tons of lending, hand-me-downs, and swapping. So far, we’ve had no problem getting what we need used from these sources. And Craigslist has worked for most of our larger farm equipment needs.
We have a vibrant Buy Nothing Facebook page in my suburban community. I imagine some rural would also have it!
I really love this! I moved from a big city (Paris) to a small town (10,000 people) and it’s great, though TOTALLY DIFFERENT from what it would be in the States. But a lot of the same info is true–you get to be at home all the time (so you’d better love it) and you can have so much more of an impact on your community. Personally, even though I’m not ‘rural’ so much as kinda downsized, it feels more my speed than the big city. More trees! More vegetable garden! More pyjamas!
This is all so true! We moved from Denver to upstate New York, and we don’t have cell reception at our house, everything is at least 30 minutes away, we had to buy a second car, and we’re constantly working on the property. However, we also haven’t made any friends whatsoever – I’ve literally never seen a single one of my neighbors (we’ve been here over a year), and people aren’t as friendly as they are in the west, imo. I really wanted that small-town community, but we’re just sort of in a rural area outside of a city, not in a proper town so it feels very… lonely.
We have that problem too.. we’re ex-Denverites and we moved to a more remote area of Missouri with much the same results.. I know the people at the grocery store, and the feed store.. and that’s about it and we’ve been here three years. It’s a good thing we’re a busy farm family or life would really be lonely and depressing.. but I have noticed that it isn’t much different than in the city for us either.. we always had tons of people around us, but no one really communicated. There’s just less people here.
Could you join a church and seek out women’s groups? I’m in Arkansas and that’s my lifeline! My daughter attends a small private school that allows each family to volunteer at the school or church. Every hour I volunteer knocks off $20 of tuition up to $500. That’s 25 hours of paid social/volunteer time with some wonderful people I’ve grown to love like family over the years.
Join Meetup, if it ever comes back to having live events.
When I was in law school I lived rurally and hated it. I decided at some point that small city is the Goldilocks size place for me. I live in a small city on the north shore of Boston now and I love it.
I’m glad I had the experience of living rurally (and still visit because my parents live there full time now). I learned a lot about myself. I enjoy that quiet a little bit. But the small city is where it’s at for me at least.
These are all great points and I endorse them wholeheartedly. I especially think living this life for a short amount of time is a great idea before you pack up your life. I discovered quickly it wasn’t for me and moved back into a large town.
I wanted to echo the fact that small city life was the right choice for me as well!! I lived in a large city and felt the lack of community and nature that Mrs. Frugalwoods mentioned above. And don’t get me started on the traffic. On the flip side, I knew that rural life was a lot of work. My parents have 20 acres 15 minutes outside of our small city and I now realize how much work it is to keep their land maintained. I also like the convenience of being close to the store and work.
We lived on a quiet street in the same small city my parents live near now (Charlottesville, VA). We have become really good friends with our neighbors of all different ages. Many of them have lived on our street for many years. We are walking distance to two parks, trails, and the river that runs next to our city. We have a decent size yard for gardening, fruit trees, and maybe chickens someday, which are allowed in our city. I think I’m getting to the point where we can mostly live off our own produce throughout the year. We are also close to restaurants, wineries, breweries, grocery stores, two hospitals, and a university. Before COVID, I could walk to work and my husband can bike on a wooded trail.
We found that a smaller city had the perfect mix of being close to nature and conveniences, but having much more of a community feel and less business and traffic. I’m always amazed at how much there is to do here, both in nature and in the city, and how little time it takes for us to walk or drive there.
I miss Charlottesville so much! I went there for college, then moved to NYC for medical school which was a huge mistake, and moved straight back to C’ville for residency. I was drawn elsewhere by the vagaries of the academic job market, but would jump at the chance to go back home.
I’d say you’ve covered it quite thoroughly. A chainsaw, a generator and a good, fast Internet connection are definitely essentials for rural living. The tree across the driveway is a classic. That happened to us during the last ice storm.
We live in a town of 1,500 on the northeastern coast of Maine. I’m okay here because of the chainsaw, generator and internet. And because we’re really not that isolated. We have three acres and a barn but there’s a really nice grocery store five miles away and a really great food co-op a block from the grocery. And I’m a ten minute drive from my favorite gourmet grocery which has an espresso bar. So, thinking about all this, I’m wondering if I really can be considered rural? We do have to drive 45 minutes to see a movie but I’m fine with that.
Lol! No, you are in “town” by New England standards.
I did the reverse, growing up remote & rural (1 hour drive to Walmart and 2 hours to a mall) and now I’m in an urban setting. I made the interesting discovering that I like the rural and urban for different reasons but the suburbs were, to me, the worst of both worlds. I sometimes wonder if I could go back to rural. I think its good to grow up there, it made me very flexible and I think while there was some culture shock going to college, I think it was easier that if my friends that grew up in the suburbs tried to go remote. I think most of them would last max 2 weeks :).
I grew up rural adjacent. I lived in a big neighborhood, but right outside that were cornfields that stretched over the horizon. It took 20 minutes to get to the grocery store, so I grew up with once a week grocery runs. Having a car was essential. My parent’s house has a walk score of 3. A car to me is freedom. Freedom to escape and take a long drive down country roads with corn towering over you on either side. I miss the quiet nights and he low light pollution. I think I would do best in a small town or near a Main Street of some kind. I really enjoy being able to ride my bike a mile to get a gluten-free donut, but there are too many people around me and I don’t have enough personal green space. However, I do too much online to go back to slow internet speeds and fiber in the Midwest is sadly lacking compared to many other regions in the US.
I love your comment about rocking it ’90s style. I still miss my dear little flip phone!
I was talking with friends this week-end about finding property in the mountains (northern GA or western NC) without deed restrictions. The idea is to clear land enough to park an RV. Begin building infrastructure (well and septic system). This would act as shelter and comfort while we save to build on the property. Do you know of any resources that could help with this type of research?
Many online sources. Look for online RV living and RV homesteading.
The blogger behind MiniMotives is doing that right now, but in a different area of the States.
Alyssa e Jesse – Pure Living for Life. More. Than 1 year in RV and a small hut, sewage from scratch, solar panels, water captation, building a house …
So many wonderful reasons to be in the country! Thanks for spelling them out. I sometimes think about rural/small town life, but very concerned about lack of diversity.
I think it depends greatly on where you are. I grew up in a small town (~1,000) but we had a break down of about 40% white, 40% black, 15% hispanic, & 5% asian and with that lots of biracial or multiracial. We used to joke that the best way to avoid dating your cousin was to date someone outside your race. Now we did not have diversity in terms of education (not a lot) or socio-economic (basically everyone was between lower-middle class and poverty).
Agree. I live just north of Boston and while there are aspects to country life I’d enjoy (a starry night sky!), I would miss the diversity of people. I like walking down the street and hearing multiple languages I can’t understand. 🙂 I don’t travel as much as I’d like but I work at a university with a high international population so sometimes the world comes to me. It teaches me a LOT about both our differences and our similarities and in turn this helps me keep an open mind.
I’m so glad someone brought this up! Most folks don’t seem to care about the lack of cultural and ethnic diversity when you move to rural areas, how the lack of exposure to such differences affects families and children. It would have been a great point for the post to address.
I live in rural Oregon and it is definitely not as diverse as the suburbs where I grew up and went to college (in Maryland and Illinois, respectively), but while the majority of people are white there is a large Spanish-speaking community as well. Many families have come to the area to work on farms and landscaping, among other areas. They are an important part of the community and our family is blessed by their friendships.
This is something we’ve considered in looking to future homes too — I currently live in a small very non-diverse town (5,000 people and 1.5 stop lights) I do however live about 20 minutes in either direction from the largest city in our region and our main state university both of which bring diversity to the area. Boston, Albany and Hartford are also all in the 1-2 hour range for us…. and for small town folks that’s close enough for regular visits!
In future we want to be in a small-town area as access to local food/agriculture as well as nature are both important to us…. but we also want some exposure to diversity, cultural offerings etc. At the moment it is seeming like a college town or a small town adjacent to a college town are our best options.
I love rural where the directions are….
“Turn left where the old McDonald farm was and turn right at the field where Johnson kept cows”
I one gave directions my mom as “at the third white house, turn right and then turn left at the soybean field” and she found me. Who needs things like mileage and road signs?? 😂
And my all-time favorite, “turn left where that huge maple tree USED to be”
Or so-and-so used to live. My Dad does that to me A LOT! We’ve lived in the area a long time. I always say if there is a town with less than 1K people, I know where it is.
Don’t worry about your kids visiting – your house will be like a rural retreat/B-and-B. They’ll come visit.
I’d also add make sure you know the zoning laws. Three guesses whose neighbor didn’t do his research?
What a timely post! My husband and I have just been discussing selling our city house and moving into our rural vacation home (that we purchased from his grandparents). We live within walking distance to our offices, but now, with no re-opening in sight, and my job changed to 100% remote, what is the point of being in the city and carrying the expense? I especially liked your reflection on making friends – that’s a huge concern of mine, moving to a place Husband has connections but I have none. I’m glad to hear your experience has been that was easier to make friends in your new community versus the city! Hopefully mine will be the same.
How far away is gas station pizza?
Hahaha, gas station pizza is about 20 minutes round trip. But we haven’t gotten any in at least a year–I wonder if they’re open now, hmmmm
I’m so hungry that that was the first thing I thought of when I read this. Clearly I have your best interest at heart!
I do love me some gas station pizza… 😉
I live in Alaska and here we generally consider remote to be off the road system (meaning only fly, boat, or walk/snowmachine to a property) and rural to be on a road system and outside of city services (such as city water and sewer). I live in a rural area in a small community of 600 and (pre-pandemic) church and the community center were the social hotspots, with the closest town with grocery stores, library, restaurant, etc. about 15 miles away. Here, a 23 minute drive to town in the summer can easily double in the winter with snowy/icy roads if the borough snow plow/sand truck hasn’t gotten out this way yet. Self-sufficiency and preparedness are key to a happy and safe life.
I grew up in a home on acreage in the woods and was envious of the “town kids” who got to walk home from school. With that said, we were outside pretty much every waking minute, building forts in the woods and discovering new things daily. My dad would plow our 1/2 basketball court in the winter and create these perfect spots to build intricately-woven snow forts. It was a great way to grow up. Hubby and I were remote-ish for a few years. Not remote like you guys, but we had a home on acreage and land that we were working. Then we moved to CO and rented for 6 months while trying to figure out where we’d land: city or rural? I work remote and could be anywhere, but the husband needs to be in a lab and can’t make his current line of work remote. We looked all over and found some places we’d have loved to have had a remote property, but, in the end, we decided while we’re still working that the added time for commute and snowy roads in the winter wasn’t worth it. We’re planning to retire in 5 1/2 years (max!), and at that time we’ll reassess. So we’re in a neighborhood that is close to husband’s work that has 50+ miles of community hiking/biking trails (and they’re great trails, much better than I could have imagined with some easy and many technical). During this pandemic, it’s been an absolute dream to be where we’re at. We have green space behind our home and can see one of the paved walking paths from my desk. It’s been nice to see life and activity during the shutdown. Our extensive trail system on the foothill trails gets used, but not by all that many and it’s super, super easy to socially distance when you rarely come across others in the woods. I see pictures of the public mountain biking/hiking areas out here and it’s SO packed. We are beyond blessed to be able to walk out our door and into nature. It’s made it clear we chose a great place to call home for now. Now, we’d get the same experience if we’d chosen to be remote and then some, but at this time we weighed the options, our available free time, etc and we made the right decision. Hubby is extremely handy, so we have that going if we move later. He also has terrible knees, so physically being able to do some things later in life could be limited. I’m handy, but not like him! We LOVE Vermont, btw. We’ve kicked around having a summer home there once we retire and it’d be outside of some small town. Hubby is from way south Texas and has no interest in 6 months of winter, so that keeps it from being our full-time spot. But geez… every corner you come around presents a picture-perfect view of green fields, barns, an idyllic life there. CO is beautiful as well, but VT is my favorite state ever. 🙂 I could handle an hour commute driving along country roads, though I’d always be late as I’d have to keep taking pictures. 😀
We live rurally but as the town has grown I almost feel like we have to give up that designation. We are 15 minutes to town out on 40 acres of orchard backed up to national forest land.
I’d add if you are in the north, learn to deal with your own snow/ice removal, and pest control. Get a live trap – you’ll use it to get feral kittens to the vet, squirrels out of your roof etc. Expect wildlife to come eat your garden and plan accordingly. If you keep livestock, have a plan to deal with the wildlife that’s attracted to it… the coyotes and bobcats will be very interested in your chickens. :). Having grown up rurally, moved to the city and moved back to the rural life I feel like online ordering is a game changer. I can get my favorite Italian canned tomatoes, fancy Nutella and almost anything else I might want delivered. That just wouldn’t have been possible pre-internet.
In the pro-rural column: the librarian will know your kids’ names and set aside books your family might like, the post lady will give them candy, and friends will let you borrow almost anything.
Good description of rural life. We are slightly different, it was only eight minutes to work, when I worked, and it is only eight minutes to a Walmart superstore but it is a long way, two hours, to any big city or real airport. We have a pretty good hospital but specialists are again two hours away. But really all you need local are trauma docs, and we have those. So we are part rural and part remote. We have 800 acres of wooded wetlands on three sides of our house, and like you, being up close and personal with our flora and fauna. We do have to get used to deer walking through the yard and eating our flowers, right in front of us. And yes, you live in the car at times, but that’s OK because in exchange you get to live in nature. And it was a great place to raise kids, so great we have been in the same house for 41 years now. I’ve lived in DC hotels at times as a former lobbyist and while cities can be fun to visit I would go crazy if I had to live in one. Green Acres is the place for me. And we have 400Mbps internet, not the fastest but still pretty fast.
I would like to know about SPIDERS!! We live rurally and have a huge spider problem. Brown recluse mostly. yikes!! Do you have a problem with spiders?
How do you handle it?
There are no brown recluse spiders in VT.
This was super timely for me—our house is under contract and we’re about to move three hours south to a more rural county to follow the company my husband works for, and many of our family members and friends doubt that we’re really “cut out” for the country life. Reading this list was actually enormously reassuring—it makes me think that a more rural lifestyle will actually be a fantastic fit for us.
The pandemic has been hard in many ways, but in some ways, it has made our decision to move with my husband’s company that much easier–we have realized that we’re pretty content to just stay at home and putter around here and not go anywhere.
Hope you guys are holding up okay over there in Vermont!
This is a great post and one I can relate to – though my husband and I went the opposite direction! We lived somewhat rural on 5 acres for almost 10 years and loved it. Then, I got pregnant and knew we needed to be closer to family and work. So, we moved 30 minutes into town and now live in the heart of a mid-size city, in a very walkable neighborhood and 7-15 minutes from both of our parents and our jobs. It’s perfect for us now in this stage of our lives. As much as we loved living more out in the country, it would have been way too much for us to manage with a small person and our jobs. As you say, embrace the stage you’re in!
So perfect!!! I am SUCH a fan of embracing the stage of life you’re in because it changes!!! I was just talking to a friend about this today and about how we thought we’d live in the city forever and then realized we just HAD to go rural and in another 40 years, who knows where we’ll go!
When we first moved back from urban London to Cape Town back in 07, it was with our little toddler who was 6 months old, just starting family life. Accordingly we moved to a suburb that was affordable, but with good amenties, and crucially, an excellent school on the doorstep. We knew we’d have more than 1 child and we wanted close-by healthcare, striking distance of family… and we have been very happy. Thing is, the very instant that the last child leaves primary school, we will immediately and forthwith become righteously irritated with the school across the road and the various things that come with living by an active primary school. I know. Total hypocrisy, but the life stage will change in an instant, and we will move as soon as possible!
People get so wedded to their homes, and of course sometimes there are great memories and so on attached, or they’re just beautiful generally. My own childhood home is a shining example of this. I defy anyone to have had a nicer home, in a nicer area, in better circumstances. Then I grew up, my mum was on her own in this house she adored and it was suddenly huge, ageing, needing a LOT of maintenance and security updating… cut off a bit from health / amenities… so she moved. It broke her heart temporarily, but it’s bricks and mortar. It must suit your life, and if it doesn’t, then move as soon as is feasible!
Very well said, Caroline! Thank you–as always–for adding insight to the conversation 🙂
I live in a small town in rural New Mexico. The nearest city is 100 miles (1.5 hr drive). I always find it amusing how many people rave about places like Ikea, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, BJ’s, Costco, etc. I have never been in any of them ! Actually, lack of shopping choices is the biggest con where I live. It only gets worse as small towns are losing the brick and mortar shopping options (Kmart and Bealls have both closed). So, we order a lot of suff online. I make a monthly trip to Wal-Mart 20 miles away. I shop at our small regional grocery store in town where I complain about prices an quality of produce. Also medical access is limited. Any serious concerns are referred to Drs in larger population centers. BUT, I love everything else about small town rural living. Clean air, 5 minute drive to work, I know many of my kid’s teachers from church or because I went to school with them. We are on the interstate so we do have a fair amout of restaurant options for a small town. Beautiful mountains and fishing are only 20 minutes away. I am happy to visit a city a couple times a year for eating, shopping and entertainment. I would never live in a city though. I could probably be happy in the suburbs.
For your teenagers, maybe they won’t love Vermont but my good friend is from Norwich, VT. We loved going to visit her family in college and she had a ton of friends. Her parents graciously hosted us (sleeping on floors of their cabin, family room, tents) for a summer party weekend and it was so fun. I’m sure they liked the safety of having us all sleep over. She had TONS of local friends who would come visit too – it was a vibrant town!
Hahah, yes! Norwich is “the big city” compared to where we are 😉 and it is lovely to visit!
I’m in the country because I used to live in the city and suburbs. Both of those were more or less tolerable while I was there but after the Army and a couple of crazy apartment complexes there is no going back from rural for me. Which brings me to a problem: I’m getting older and my husband leads by 5 years. We spent April cutting up a tree that fell in the yard and moving the wood with a lawn tractor, not a real one. In 5 years are we going to be able to do that any more? I doubt it. So where do we go from here–back into civilization? Horrors! Guess I’d better start looking for a low-maintenance place that’s still Out.
I know someone who rents a small house in the country for that reason. She wants the rural life with none of the upkeep and it works for her.
One thing that’s important to consider is this: if you’re not part of the majority in terms of ethnicity/religion/gender ID/orientation, etc, consider if there are people like you around. Are you comfortable being the only Jew, or the only two-dad family, or the only Black person in the town? How far away are you from your community? Most rural areas will give you options of churches, but where’s the nearest mosque? These issues can be huge to quality of life, and are important to consider. We all can and should build diverse communities, but there can be deep loneliness when you don’t have others like you around. Personally, that’s one of the big barriers for myself and my family to moving rurally.
I was about to add a similar comment myself! This lifestyle is, frankly, not available to everyone in a safe and accessible way. While I’m a country girl born and raised, I’ve spent my adult years in the city — after experiencing the layer of isolation that comes with being different in a rural area (LGBTQ in my case). And for people of color, this is highly magnified right now, depending on the region of the country you live (Vermont vs Alabama vs Utah).
My favorite: Turn where Joe’s old barn used to be.” Sigh
Love this post! We moved to a rural and remote area three years ago, after doing a two year trial (lived and worked on a remote nature preserve). I would like to emphasize #2 for anyone considering a move. Nature, ALL OF NATURE, is right outside your door (and perhaps inside if you leave your doors open). Not just the cute and fuzzy or beautiful and feathered, but, depending on where you’re moving, snakes, scorpions, spiders, centipedes, coyotes, lions, bears… Find out who your wild neighbors will be and how to safely coexist with them before moving. It’s not fair to your wild or human neighbors to go to war with nature (many of us are here for nature and wildlife), and it’s a losing game. Killing and relocating unwanted animals is a quick-fix; where there’s one, they’ll be more.
I run an organization that helps people learn to safely coexist with wildlife, specifically snakes (yes, it is even possible with venomous snakes!). I have linked to our online resources below and I know there are similar sites for how to safely live with other animals that are often unwelcome. Personally, I’m slloooowly learning to coexist with giant centipedes. They frighten me, but I recognize that my beloved rattlesnakes love to eat them and their presence is likely why we had a particular species of rattlesnake in our yard that our neighbors haven’t. So I’m being nice to centipedes.
Oh snakes! I had a pet snake as a child, which I think instilled a love for them in me. A garter snake and I recently went around and around a cherry bush that I was weeding–she on one side, me on the other, telling her to move when I was about to dig.
Would walkie-talkies be an option for communicating with your husband? I’ve been watching Stranger Things and love all the walkie-talkie use on that show. Forgot how popular they were in the 80s.
We’ve tried them and we just don’t get good enough reception… But it would be so cool!!!
Bummer. That’s a great suggestion. Husband and I use them when mountain biking since we often split onto different trails. We have a few miles of range, though while recently in the mountains I could hear him (he was high), but he could only hear static (I was low). That would have been a fun option for you!
I doubt if your kids will hate it when they’re teenagers. I was so surprised by how happy my teens were to stay at home and hang out with us, even on weekend nights! Granted we don’t live in the country but still, they loved family life and home. Now, of course, they had their cranky moments of “hating everything” but overall we had a lot of fun in the teen years.
I loved this post! Really loved it! It gave voice to many of the realities I have lived with for the past thirty years. I was raised in a Midwest city of about 35,0000 people and was also close to a fairly large regional metro area where we could get anything we would ever need. When I met my husband, married, and then moved to the remote/rural area where we now live (also in the Midwest), I had NO IDEA the way my life would change. Frankly, for me, it’s been a very, very difficult life in many ways. My husband was raised on a farm, so his frustrations are pretty much non-existent compared to mine. But after thirty plus years of living here, I am so, so sick of the endless amount of work that its takes to live here. While I do love the quiet of where we live, I have spent a huge portion of my life driving for EVERYTHING while we have raised five kids here. Our school system here is so-so; I have homeschooled all five of my children and have loved spending these years with them. But ANYTHING that we want to do (and we want to do a lot! ) is at least a thirty to forty minute drive each way for us, and I am sick to death of the amount of time and effort that takes. I would also note that, for people coming into an established, rural area, there is not always a friendly reception to outsiders. My husband is a native here and I am not, and even though I have honestly bent over backwards for many, many years, I have never really been accepted. And that’s just the truth. I don’t know how it is in other areas, but that’s been my experience here. (And it’s been the experience of others that I have seen move here, stay for a couple of years, and then eventually leave). I would also say that keeping up with the physical aspect of living in a rural/remote area, and the huge amount of work it takes to keep everything up and running, also gets much harder as you get older. I am so tired of having to live with internet outages, worrying about generators and firewood ( a true need if you really live out, away from everything), trips to get groceries on icy and bad roads during the winter, constant septic system maintenance (with five kids, we have to pump our system a minimum of every year, and we take very, very good care of it), etc…..all of it adds up to an expensive life and one often filled with endless work as well. I would truly counsel anyone considering this life to decide if you really want to give your life, time and money to this way of life. It really is not for everyone. To me, I think a person has the best of both worlds if they locate in an outlying small town where they have relatively close access to basics, and also have a basic infrastructure so that they don’t have to “reinvent the wheel” on their own property. Just my two cents, but I love reading about your experiences!
Points to Ponder, in no particular order…for living rurally and/ or remotely….. A truck, trailer and generator is necessary. No, you can’t get by without them. No, you can’t get by without them for even a short while.
No speeding on roads….there will be slow moving farm equipment, loose livestock, working dogs ,hunters, kids, farm trucks parked on the edge, etc. Always ask if help is needed, even if you are in a hurry. You will need help someday. Some places are very insular, clannish. If you and six generations of your family are not known locally, you may have a hard time. I recently moved “home” after 45 years and my husband is amazed at what invoking my extended family lineage accomplishes. (Thank you, Aunt Helen) . While there may not be a HOA, you will probably be expected to maintain community standards of well maintained house and property, no outdoor hoarding of old equipment and so on. Instead of water and sewage monthly bill, you will need to save for septic system, well pump and water softener expenses. You may need lightening rods. You may get a separate ditch bill from your property taxes. It may be hard to find general handyman / lawn care services. You may be thought of as very strange for even inquiring. You may be thought of as even more strange if you don’t feel you should ask your six generations of extended family you have rarely seen in 45 years for help. Then you will feel really stupid when said practically unknown family offers to help without being asked. Keep in mind farmers may have to farm all night. No complaining about the combine noise. Thank said farmer for producing food for all of us. Realize you will spend a lot on gravel for your property. You will also need a tractor with a grader. Just buy the tractor and attachments. No, you can’t get by without them . No, you can’t get by without them for even a short time. Do not offer your neighbors money. They will be offended. Trade in time, help, skills, garden or baked goods is the acceptable payment, to be given in a reasonable length of time, season.
I was going to comment on the clannish thing too. I’ve just moved to the city after living in a very tiny town in rural New Zealand. We were there for 2 years, and I found it very difficult socially, and I’m an outgoing person who generally has no problem making friends.
If your family hadn’t lived there for the last 100 years, people found it hard to connect. We made friends, but they were all people who’d come from elsewhere, like us. It wasn’t because the locals were awful people, just folks who’d never lived anywhere else, and so didn’t think “Oh there’s a new person, perhaps they’d like to know about this group/activity, or perhaps they might need a friend” etc.
We were there for my husband’s job. We’ve moved back (for his job) to a big city that’s home for us. We’ve only been here 6 months, and have already made a whole bunch of new friends (along with reconnecting with old friends), despite a pandemic lockdown too.
The only difference is people here are people who have moved from different areas/lived abroad/used to more strangers and diversity.
Definitely something to consider when moving rurally. Spend time somewhere before committing (we had no choice in moving) to get a feel for how the community is.
” It wasn’t because the locals were awful people, just folks who’d never lived anywhere else, and so didn’t think “Oh there’s a new person, perhaps they’d like to know about this group/activity, or perhaps they might need a friend” etc.”
I don’t think this is completely off base, but keep in mind that integrating a new person into a community takes work: it’s both an emotional and social investment. And if that person up and leaves after a couple of years (for a job, for family reasons, or because they found living rurally not as instagrammable as they’d hoped), that effort is wasted and also the fabric of the community is ruptured. If there’s only 100-1,000 people in a community, only a few people have to leave to make a huge difference. Some loss is inescapable, but it’s totally rational for small communities not to rush to enfold newcomers right away.
This is particularly relevant because it seems like rural areas might see a big (relatively) influx of people fleeing metro/suburban areas for fear of coronavirus. And locals are skeptical–suddenly our towns are good enough, when six months ago this was “flyover country” or “the sticks”? Will these newcomers do their part to adapt to our ways of doing things or will they want to be centered and privileged, demanding all the amenities and entitlement of the city/suburb? And when (hopefully) we get the virus under control will they just up and leave again, with potentially disastrous economic and social consequences?
This is not to say don’t move to a rural area. Do! It’s great! Many people have wanted to do this but only can now because their job has gone WFH, or due to some other material change. But rural areas are real places with real people living their real lives there–this isn’t a vacation or panic room or temporary hideout, it’s our home.
For anyone willing to think about this a little more, I’d recommend this article by Anne Helen Peterson as a place to start: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/annehelenpetersen/coronavirus-covid-cities-second-homes-rural-small-towns
One thing to note is that remote and/or rural living seems like it would be much harder if you’re not Christian. Between Mrs. Frugalwoods’ own stories of their church being a major social center and repeated comments supporting that, I’d be very careful of moving to a much more isolated area if you need or want access to a synagogue or mosque. Aside from possibly having to drive hours to get to one (which discourages going and forming the intimate community so lovingly described), by not being a part of the major social center, you run the risk of becoming a very visible outsider in the community quickly, which could lead to a lot of social isolation.
Laloffland- great post! One thing in conjunction with this is please be aware that people in small towns have their own way of doing things. You will often hear “That’s not how we do it here”. Please do not come into a rural area or small town and immediately start complaining that you do not have the same thing you had previously. That is a great way to be asked “Then why didn’t you stay there?” or “Why don’t you go back?” It will not make you any friends among the locals, and believe me, you want to be friends. Listen to them when they offer you advice and you get real kudos when you actually take their advice and praise them for it. Live there awhile and deal with people fairly and honestly because EVERYONE will know if you don’t. Just keep in mind that you are quite possibly going to be viewed as an outsider and will need to earn your place in the community.
What a great article! And it’s very timely for us as we are starting to think about semi-retirement and moving out of the big city. The big challenge for us is balancing my husband’s preference for space (house size and space between our house and the neighbor’s house) and the fact that I can’t see well enough to drive. So if we moved out of the big city, I’d prefer to live on a large lot in a small to medium-sized town, but my husband wants to live in the middle of nowhere.
We moved from Philadelphia to rural Eastern Shore MD. Technically we are 10 miles from Baltimore (across the bay) but it’s really 2 hours! by land. LOL…We are 3 miles outside a small town (2300 people), so within 5 minutes we can get to a grocery store, drug store, but the closest “shopping is 1 hour away. (rural distance thinking).
At the end of #7 you wrote, “And this, might I point out, is all WITHOUT owning any farm animals (yet, they’re penciled in for next summer… send help).” So, what sort of farm critters are you considering? What are the pros/cons of your prime candidates? I assume there is a post coming!
Chickens are high on the list for next summer… we’ll see :). Kidwoods is an animal lover and would adore a flock to care for. Plus, we eat a lot of eggs. We’ve been animal-free so far because of the workload, but now that our kids aren’t infants and we have a better understanding of how to manage our land and gardens, we just might do it next summer, but I’m not promising anything ;)!!!
We have chickens and they are super easy and low maintenance. Once they have a (very very) secure coop, you should be good to go. If you choose to let them free range outside of their coop and yard you may lose a few, but as long as you lock them in nightly they will be super low maintenance and inexpensive during the seasons they can free range/forage, and you can recoup any money you spend on their cold season food by selling their eggs (you can also probably grow a lot of their forage food inside during the winter with your grow set up if you choose to). We have had predators fly into our coop when the yard didn’t have a roof then walk inside (falcon), burrow under the coop until we dug around the whole yard of the coop and buried metal paneling over a foot deep to prevent predators (family of skunks) from digging in, and hawks, coyotes, foxes, and god knows what else (probably more raptors, raccoons, and possums) have grabbed the odd chicken while they were out free ranging during the day.
They are sweet and fun to have around, and they eat bugs so huge win. It’s not so fun when they get ahold of a frog or snake and you have to watch them tear it apart. There’s a reason Jurassic Park kept talking about dinosaurs being birds. Chickens take no prisoners. Ducks are also so sweet and fun to have around for the giant and delicious eggs, but they are not able to escape predators as easily as chickens, so be wary if you decide to go in that direction. I am anti-rooster because of how aggressive many of them are (we always buy sexed chickens but have ended up with a rooster a time or two and they don’t make it long here), but they are good guards if you let the chickens free range. Always watching for predators and protecting their flock.
I haven’t read all the comments yet, but I want to say that your age when adopting the rural life style is a consideration. If you are older and planning to move to a place like rural Vermont, you should understand that you will be dealing with rural medical care. Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s world-class medical care is 55 minutes (mostly highway driving) from our farm. We do have a primary care physician in our town, but in five years, we have had three primary care physicians! One closed her office and another, to the best of our knowledge, left the practice of medicine. Our current primary care doctor is very capable but practices only part-time. One reason we chose this town was because it has a hospital. Springfield Hospital has gone bankrupt, however, like so many rural hospitals, although it is still limping along. Another age-related consideration is that many amenities of a rural (not remote) area can still entail driving substantial distances after dark. We have passed up various cultural and social activities because we didn’t want to drive home in the dark on mountainous poorly lit roads. (For example, we must drive over a mountain in Andover to get to the wonderful summer theater in Weston.) The concerns I’ve mentioned probably would be immaterial to younger folks, but I thought they should be aired.
I’ve loved my 35 minute commute in VT so much better than the same length in Dallas! NPR and four season breathtaking scenery is the perfect way to prepare and unwind going to and from work. Okay, there are about six horrible driving days mid-winter when we all question the superintendent’s call to stay open…white-knuckling for what feels like hours. Then I’m envious of my sister’s walk to her high school in “Norman Rockwell, Currier and Ives” lovely Middlebury.
I really enjoyed this post. I suggest people that are considering moving to a remote or rural location should do a trial 90 days where they currently live – no take out, restaurants, last minute grocery trips, theater, etc for 90 days and see if they enjoy the changes. Now that I think about it, the pandemic has been a good trial for many people. I am happy with my semi-rural location, which gives me the best of both worlds.
I moved my lovely bride to western Connecticut during the middle of all of this. Adjustment cannot describe this. I moved from the DC area, literally my place was 200 yards from the beltway and she was in a subdivision outside of St Louis. We both grew up in semi-rural-ness and lived in suburbia all our married lives. I was unhappy to hear that mom and dad were dismantling the wood-shed at the house and sold the wood burning stove/furnace. As much as I hated dragging wood in all winter in high school when I was tired from school-work and sport practice, I’m kind of ticked off. Now I have a tiny, tiny little plot of land with a nearly 100 yr old house and fire place but no place to cut and store wood to use it. I’d be in much better shape if I could split firewood again. I can work from home one day a week without going crazy, so I am tied to remote as opposed to rural. We have not gone out but once for dinner an have ordered pizza, 3 times in 4 months. I wouldn’t say we are rural, but we live in town and it is that country feeling I think we have been missing for 30+ years. Frankly, I don’t miss the convenience factor, we’ve been living a much simpler life and much more stress free too.
Love it Liz! Every day my wife sends me at least 3 new rural properties to check out. Her family has a cabin about 5 hours away that we spend as much time out at each summer. Can’t get enough of the trees and peace and quiet.
Currently this is our fav location
to build one of these cabins on
Very comprehensive article and spot on. My husband and I live on a rural island (population 1,100) but we’re definitely not remote. We are closer to a Costco than we were when we lived in a city! We also happen to live next to our island’s little town centre so can quickly walk to the general store, book store (yes, amazing we can support one!), volunteer-run library, Activity Centre and coffee shop! Feels like the best of both worlds. Our island has more than 100 committees that keep everything running smoothly, from the recycling centre and Free Store to the trails to the green cemetery! Be prepared to volunteer for something if you want your rural or remote community to be vibrant!
I am rural compared to everyone I work with. 🙂 I live in a town of 10,000 people, which to my husband is HUGE and to me it’s small. I work at a university and everyone I work with lives closer and thinks I am crazy that I drive 30 minutes to get to work. I have no idea how many miles it is – what does it matter? This pandemic is teaching me that I can work from home more which I love! I have never been more grateful for our land and our property as I am during this pandemic. My kids have played outside the entire time, and we don’t have to worry about social distancing because we are out in the country! I feel so much for kids who live in apartments where going outside is a big decision for the parents! We aren’t at all as rural as you are, but we definitely have to be handy and love our new generator. Our well pump went out right as the pandemic hit, and this was one time my VERY handy husband could not replace it, and that was quite the show for my 6 and 1 year old. 🙂 I completely agree that being handy makes a huge difference. My husband built my garden, he has repaired our furnace, etc which is so important when you live in Wisconsin! I never thought I would live in a rural setting but we love it. We’re considering buying even more land, but it’s pretty expensive around here so for now we’re just loving where we live. Thanks for posting this great article! loved it!!
I also wanted to say that you daughters might love where they live as teens! My husband grew up in a small farming town in WI (less than 1000 people). His parents owned a farm, and he loved his childhood. He played tons of sports, and he always says that he probably wouldn’t have been able to do all the different things he did at a larger high school. His school was K-12 same building, and he loved the interactions with the little kids. I went to a high school of 3000 students (larger than his town!), and loved it but I completely see the value in a small, very closely connected community!
What a thorough post! My husband and I just sold our condo in the heart of Montreal, in a beautiful and very lively neighbourhood. There are hundreds of restaurants (literally) within walking distance and we are a five minute walk from gorceries, bakeries and booze. We are moving to Nun’s Island which is a mostly residential area of the city. We have decided to rent a beautiful apartment with breathtaking views of the St-Laurence River. The island is surrounded by walking and biking trails and the air smells clean and fresh and the appartment complex has great amneties like an indoor salt water pool, a sauna and gym. I am working from home at the moment, but will be a 35 minute bus ride to downtown. In two years the island will be serviced by a new train system which will be event better. After living in our current home for the past five years, and close to downtown in particular for 12 years we have realized that we are real homebodies that don’t really take advantage of everything our lively neighbourhood has to offer. I am allergic to gluten, so we can’t enjoy all the restaurants that are minutes away. I can only eat at better restaurants, which is wonderful, but incredibly expensive. What we love to do is walk in nature and enjoy all the beautiful parks in our neighbourhoud and the city. We enjoy the symphony, but go two or three times per year. We were also the administrators of our HOA and for the past five years, it’s felt like we were the sole owners of our eight appartment complex. The other owners have been very collaborative in the sense that they have always agreed to pay to maintain the building, but no one has ever been interested or available to help with any of the work involved in doing so. Every single time we have done renovations or improvements, problems and delays have arisen and it has been very time consuming and stressful for us. Last year, my husband and I had a big fight over a renovation project two days after coming home from a three week European vacation. We were fighting on the sidewalk from returning books to the library, and I thought to myself, this is not worth it. My husband and I still work full time (he is 59 and I am 55), we are parents and grandparents and those aspects of our life keep us very busy. The HOA was a burden we are happy be freed from. It was an anguising decision to sell and become renters once again. Our goal is to work on our savings so that our investments produce enough profit to cover our rent in retirement. I am looking forward to this new pre-retirement life, where others will be maintaing the building and amneties and we are getting an indoor parking for the first time in our lives!
You have got to be handy. I repeat, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE HANDY. If my husband dies or leaves me, I will either have to do a huge evolution into a handy person or I will have to move. There is no way I could pay retail price for the work he does on our 1874 farm house or the farm land around it. Taking care of our property is practically a full time job. Without him, my options will be to work eleventy billion hours to pay for someone to do the work, to learn to do it myself and not be able to work enough hours to afford normal expenses, or to move.
Really great post. My sister lives in a tiny town in Vermont where she has to drive everywhere, etc. and I think “that’s not for me!” However, there are so many upsides, as you mention … nice community, QUIET, and taking the dogs for a trail walk in the woods is enough for me to say “I want to move here” when I visit her.
My husband and I will be relocating from Medford, Mass. (small city) within the next couple of years as he pursues a settled ministry and would like to move to a more rural area or much smaller city with easy access to Nature. I’m a dog trainer, and also need a place with enough of a client base.
Since we’re in our late 50s (and might also move my elderly parents in with us), one of the questions will definitely be access to excellent healthcare and other similar services. We’re also just not able to take on the physicality of a rural kind of life. Anyway, great and timely article, lots of food for thought for us.
I have a question for you about assessing a community’s “level of community” before committing. It sounds like you have a place that place is a high value on schools and personal relationships and efforts around which people rally. But I have lived in places where you were rural but there was no “there” there… Meaning there was no center around which people gathered and it was very difficult to make friends. How did you get a read on your community’s character before you jumped in? How did you know you wouldn’t just be living alone in the woods without play groups or potlucks or things that make it feel like a real community.
This is a terrific question and I’d also love to hear Liz’s thoughts on it!!
It is such a good question!!!! So, to a large extent, you’re just not going to know until you move there. I am convinced that we got really, really lucky and that luck is the biggest factor for us. But, here’s what we did do in advance, in case it’s useful to you:
-Selected a state (Vermont) known for valuing, voting for, and funding a lot of the stuff that matters to us
-Selected a town close to a “big city” and a university/hospital system to accrue the cultural/healthcare/education benefits
-Researched school districts extensively and selected a highly-rated, larger district (important not just for our own kids, but for everyone else’s children and for property values)
-Researched community organizations/committees/events (online)
-Researched churches and their programs/ethos/direction (online)
-I made a ton of phone calls: to the school district, the town office, basically anyone with a phone number got a call from me. We also had long conversations with the owner one previous to our seller–if you have any way of finding that person, they are a goldmine because they have no vested interest in you buying the property, but know all the details. He later became a friend and came to visit the house and told us all the stories.
-Took a leap of faith
What an interesting and thoughtful post. My wife and I are thinking about where we want to live once our kids are launched. Should we stick around in the neighborhood we really like or give homesteading a try? One issue that I’m trying to figure out is the environmental impact of each choice. While it seems like a country life where you are able to produce your own food might be ideal, I guess there is a lot more driving.
Have you ever calculated the carbon footprint of your city vs. country lives? Would be curious to know.
A word to the wise – battle test your body before you commit to a rural lifestyle. I had done all kinds of trade work and manual labor in my 20’s and have stayed in shape with regular cardio and weight lifting so I felt like my girlfriend and I could handle building our own house in rural Colorado in late our 40’s early 50’s. WRONG.
Our bodies broke down while pounding foundation stakes (5% into the project). Both my girlfriend and I had to wear wrist and back braces plus learning to hammer with both hands to just get the foundation done – and 90% of the project was still in front of us. Our hands were so swollen we kept dropping small objects – like a pencil or toothbrush. We would take several days off to heal up but the aches and pains just came back with a vengeance and 800 mg of Ibuprofen would barely touch it.
We couldn’t sleep because the pain would wake us up so we gave up and hired out 70% of the project (which overran the budget by $100,000) and can only be described as being gang raped for a year.
We love our home now, and I’m working through my subcontractor rage, but we would never do it again. While building a house is typically much more intense than the day to day rural lifestyle, it is shocking how much your body can degrade over just a few decades. If you are thinking about making the move, do yourself a favor and try it out first – https://farmstayus.com/ can get you started – and ask to do the real work. Yeah, an hour of Crossfit is tough, but splitting firewood FOR EIGHT HOURS is much harder, trust me.
I was all happy reading your comment until I got to that ill-considered comparison between building a house and brutal sexual assault. Would you please edit that out, and consider in future whether using such a comparison is at all appropriat
Please get rid of the comment comparing manual labor to violent sexual assault.
This one was a little eye-opening… thanks for sharing.
We live in the city right now and have generally brushed off any idea of rural life (though I’d still put it above suburban life!). We’re in our thirties, no kids, but I’ve enjoyed the thought of having more control over our daily life. At the same time, having that responsibility forced upon us feels a little intimidating. You make good points of this in both #7 and #13/14.
It can be a lot of work. At the same time, the work does sound kind of fun (as Mr. Frugalwoods apparently finds it).
I most love the idea of being more connected, with greater access to, nature. We live with close access to forest, parks, and water, but it’s not quite the same when the urban world is audibly close.
I think your point about giving it a go with a rental, #15, might ring true for us down the line. Then we’ll at least know what we’re missing (or not!).
Jenni and I ended up loving this rundown so much we wrote our own comparison from an urban point of view! As you said, they’re just different – not that one is necessarily better than the other. Still, it was really fun to review your points and think about the other side that we’ve experienced.
Thanks for the inspiration and time to self-reflect a bit. One day, maybe we’ll make the jump back to the other side!
A+ for your description of the difference between Remote and Rural.
I also grew up Rural but not remote, which I think is the best of all worlds , and I often find the misconception from urban dwellers is to conflate rural=remote.
I think maybe you missed a Rural category – Urban Rural. 🙂 We live in a small town of 2,000 in a county of only 9,000. Similar to you, we have no movie theater or Walmart or culture / arts / entertainment. But, I live in “town” and can walk to the mom & pop grocery store, the hardware store, the post office, the school, playground, and work. Walking is super convenient when I don’t want to shovel snow! (We get 200 inches a year). We are surrounded by beautiful nature – lakes, woods, trails, camping, etc. We drive 45 minutes for healthcare and big shopping. I feel lucky to have a walkable rural experience!
I love being in a town of 10,000 people. I grew up in a small community where it was difficult to get to stores to make purchases, and now I’m 7 minutes from a grocery store! And 5 minutes from a shoe store! I also find the bugs are much worse at my friends’ houses in the woods.
I love the way you pointed out that remote and rural are not the same.
I understand and believe the comments about rural areas being clannish – they sure can be – but I have to say that’s not been my experience. I grew up in a very small farming community, and we were so excited to get new people of any stripe, we jumped on them. Any new boy was immediately the object of the girls’ attention, and vise versa for any new girl. The new adults had to be careful or they would find themselves the new PTA president by popular vote. My husband moved a lot as a kid because of his dad’s job ( he attended 35 schools during grades K-12!) and the best welcome he got was in the smallest town, a farming community, where the kids welcomed him in on his first day and stayed friends even after he moved again. He definitely moved to some places where the welcome mat was not out, but it isn’t always so, as he can attest. Take an extended visit, if you can, in a place you are looking at. If you know anyone who knows that area, ask them about it.
You are right — rural life WILL require driving. It will require a tractor or at least a lawn tractor is you only have an acre or so. A generator, a well, a septic system, lightning rods, as someone mentioned, an antenna perhaps, a good relationship with a vet who treats livestock, and a willingness to work hard and learn things. It can be too much for an older person to live on a big acreage, but a small plot in the countryside is more doable for someone who is not physically able to chop wood and stretch fences or catch a runaway hog. There are some small communities where a bigger town with amenities can be not that far away, but be careful!. It would be no fun to buy a sweet couple of acres and put down roots, only to wake up and find that housing developments and Starbucks are moving in all around you. It’s not fun to have HOA’s around you complaining that your chickens, that you have been raising for a decade, well before the development moved in, make too much noise, or that your pig you are raising for your own pork is too smelly. I’ve seen that happen too often. So check your target area carefully and get a look at permits being issued. It may tell you something interesting!
Loved your post. I am way too lazy and tired to have all the maintenance, not handy at all and am not a big lover of the outdoors. I am a city girl all the way. I love convenience, eating out, shopping and having family close by. I have saved my family so much time not being in a car for hours and able to be at home more. My home is my safe and quiet place. Almost paid off at age 50. I will say I want to buy a Casita in the next 5 years and start traveling.
I live in remote New Mexico. It’s 60 miles to a small grocery store; 90 miles to a “regular” grocery store, hardware, feedstore;I think like 150 miles to the nearest Target. However, we do have an excellent–tiny–school, which is pretty much the reason we’re here. And that school is the axis around which this ranching community revolves. We’ve lived rurally and a bit less remotely in upstate New York, and the community there wasn’t nearly as welcoming and self-sufficient. That makes a difference.
I particularly concur with the DIY warning. All our neighbors in New York were constantly trying to hire people to fix their water problems/electrical problems/furnaces/whatever, and it seemed like a nightmare. And then they’d sometimes just ask my husband to help them. 🙂
Also, not only can you have an impact in your community, you really should be prepared to HAVE TO get involved. There just aren’t enough people to do all that needs to be done. This is why I now work at the school, despite never having a desire to ever work at a school. There just wasn’t anyone else. I don’t begrudge this, though, because that is how a real functioning community works. I figure if I wanted to remain anonymous and uninvolved, I should’ve stayed in Phoenix.
So true! We also live in an area where most of the things you mention (shops, healthcare, etc.) are 30-40 minutes’ drive (one way) away. It often feels ‘far’ — but then I remind myself that I used to commute about 25 minutes each way to my job when I lived in the city. That drive was just over 5 miles, with stoplights and traffic the whole way. Now, the 30-minute drive involves ZERO traffic lights until I hit the college town, and I can also go for twenty minutes and often see only one or two cars. So the driving is very different.
That said, the remoteness also means I need to be cognizant of critters on the road, and if my car were to break down, I may or may not have cell service to get help. I very rarely drive anywhere at night for that reason. Not everyone would be good with this, and I didn’t think about it beforehand. Just a warning to people that like an evening social life or dinner out…
I guess I have the best of both worlds. I live on 3 acres on a dead end road surrounded on three sides by woods. It is 20 minutes to restaurants, shopping, doctors, etc. Too far out to get delivery. Have a little gas station and store down the road with just a very small amount of groceries. They also have a home cooking restaurant.
Loved this article! Regarding your septic system and trips to the store for TP, have you considered installing bidets? They have some that attach to a regular toilet (we have a Tushy). It may be worth looking into for less TP use!
“deal with people fairly and honestly because EVERYONE will know if you don’t. ” DO NOT bounce a check or be slow in paying your debts/ bill. Do not run afoul of the law. Live an exlempanary life. If you get a bad reputation ….. it “ain’t gonna be pretty ” in a small rural community….
Ooo thank you for this. It confirms how much I need a balance between urban and rural. I need *some* public transit and waking distance for some things. My husband cannot drive, so I would be extremely anxious living remotely and needing to be the sole driver. What if something happened to me?
We are actively looking to buy our own home, and this is helping out my wants and needs in perspective! A medium size college town sounds perfect for me 😁
In the process of thinking about where we would like to be in retirement ten years from now. Don’t see us in a condo in FL. I’d love a cabin somewhere but worry about being able to age in place. So much to think about. Thanks for your thoughts on this.
This was great and very timely for my husband and I. I read him this post as we werw driving up to Maine to look for houses for our upcoming move (from suburban Oklahoma). We’ve just signed a contract to close on a beautiful wooded property that is rural, but not remote!
That is so exciting!! Congrats!!!!!
Great Article! I am from NYC, and my wife is from rural PA. Different worlds for sure. We now live in a Baltimore/DC suburb. I don’t long for much, and my wife loves the fact that she does not feel isolated anymore. Where we live, everything is 5 – 10 mins. away. Our walkability is almost a 10. My wife and I have ten years left to retire. We have no children and very little family. For me especially, I need connection with people. And since we don’t have anyone who might be there for us, living rurally is just our of the question. I am 57 now, and I can tell you in the last 10 years, I can now understand why people live in 55 and over communities. I will be doing so when we retire. Having people around your own age speaks volumes. Not having to shovel snow, cut the grass, or driving miles and miles is not something one wants to do later on in life. I love the fact that my gym is down the street, my job is 12 mins. away and have world class healthcare and shopping right in my back yard. If I want to get away for a weekend or a week, no problem. I just drive an hour from here. Its not that important for me to have that right outside my door day after day.
We’re in the process of buying our own little spot in the country about 4.5 acres with a cabin! We are super excited since that is how we grew up an we are out of patience with our neighbors lol. Currently we live in a town of about 800 so not much will change as far as amenities (we will still get city water and trash pickup at the new house). But we can have chickens and goats!
Will need to figure out snow removal though, it’s a very long driveway.
I live in what’s considered a “small town” in China, meaning less than a million people, but to foreigners, it is rural because China’s fantastic metro system doesn’t exist, you can’t get any Western good you want delivered in an hour or two (like in Shanghai or Beijing), and we forego a lot of Western amenities… yet I relate to what you shared on a somewhat different topic since it requires its own adjustments.
I was going to start working online fulltime from Thailand pre-pandemic, but now that it happened, I decided to stay in my little town. Its out-of-the-way location kept us out of the infection path when people fled to Hangzhou and Shanghai from Wuhan, I can afford the healthcare, people take the virus seriously and I have no doubts about going part time and still being able to pay my bills.
TL; DR: it’s a different situation, but I relate to the cost-benefit analysis you shared in my own way thanks to life in a smaller Chinese town :).
This read was really timely for me. We’ve always lived in a major metro area, but have downsized recently as we approach financial independence. We’ll live in our current place for two more years, but then have to decide where we’ll settle. I love the description of the difference between rural and remote – it makes perfect sense to me. I think our ideal location would be rural, with “nearby” access to all the things you listed. Unfortunately, that still comes with metro prices in our area. So, we should probably start figuring out another region that will suit us. It’s inspiring that you’ve gone from ultra urban to rural.
I’d love to move to a rural property. For us the biggest blocker is internet. Rural internet in Canada is very pricey ($80 per month for up to 5mbps). Maybe one day!
Wow, great post and love the pics …esp during COVID-19 – I wish we had better access to nature! I’m a total city person (we are in Houston right now), but we want to travel / move to a place(s) where we can enjoy nature more – easy and quick access from a city or town.
-Tara of Four Take Flight
I’m curious how race fits into this? I know that plenty of rural communities are full of immigrants, so rural doesn’t necessarily mean just white, but I want to make sure my mixed race child will feel safe and not out of place (in the Minnesotan suburb I grew up in, people would be polite but weirdly chilly and constantly asking where I was “from” even at being told I was from there!). And on the more extreme end of things, are rural towns now likely to be sunset towns, or is that not really a factor anymore, and it’s more about a subtle feeling of not fitting in or being welcome? I know it’s a complex issue but wanted to open that discussion up…
Especially during the pandemic, I’ve been really glad to live where I do – in the burbs towards the countryside 🙂 I can literally walk a couple minutes and see horses anytime (toddler loves it) at the nearby farm/club, and sometimes riders are out on the road or the cycleway. I have a big yard, my own non-shared driveway, and am close enough to public transport.
The commute is a bit long, but that’s been a tradeoff and it’s a moot point lately. I don’t think I could move any further out to proper rural property. I do not like driving at all (much less on country roads) and I do definitely value proximity to food options 🙂
Politics is one I don’t see mentioned here. Not all, but many rural communities skew conservative. Would you be comfortable in a community that supports and elects someone like Donald Trump? Of course there’s the argument that if people with diverse political opinions don’t spread themselves out it exacerbates the problems of the very divisive political landscape we find ourselves in, but that would be a cross to bear by yourself.
Hi Mrs Frugalwoods,
Excellent summary. I write about FIRE and other stuff on my whyninetofive blog. We managed to retire In Australia from full time jobs at the age 43/45 with toddler twins which I consider one of my life’s successes.
We have moved from very old house in Sydney on 550sqm to 2.5 acres on Sunshine Coast in sunny Queensland. We have purchased this property after 10 days holidays in the area to look around. Location was picked the way “what is the best place in the world for us to live?” Sunshine coast got top marks. Beaches, infrastructure, warm but not too hot weather, not too busy, many hospitals, shopping centres and only 1.5h to capital Brisbane.
Why we loved the house?
Obviously it was sitting comfortably within our budget.
10 min to closest small town, 1.5h to Brisbane, 20 min to hospital, 30min to the beach. I envy your 66 acres, but 2.5 acres is still 20 times bigger than what we had in Sydney. It has awesome, park like front garden with mature trees which we overlook from the house. Small pond, 1km from main road (quiet), each neighbour is on similar or bigger lot. House is 30 years old with good bones but lot of work to make it liveable for our family. We have done floors, paint, 2 bathrooms and couple of walls plus heaps of work in the garden which was very overgrown.
Bingo was 3 bedroom cottage about 30m away from the main house screened by bushes and trees allowing us great privacy. Second residence was part of our plan how to support ourselves while enjoying FIRE.
Both of us drive so getting around is not an issue. We have 2 reasonably economical vehicles. Newish (2017 and no, as pursuer of FIRE at the age of 46 I have never bought a new car, which I am actually proud of) Subaru Outback all wheel drive which is great for the country roads and Mazda 3.
Obviously it is not as convenient around here as it was in Sydney. BUT. Personally I dislike shopping, hate traffic, do not need eat in restaurants and I am not a party person. Also we are not working. So there is not much to miss from the big city. On the other hand I love nature, privacy, space and enjoy driving on country roads.
I love it here and cannot recommend enough for anyone considering move out of big smoke to have a go at it. The worst think which can happen is you might not like it and move back. THat’s much better than 40years later in the nursing home to be sorry you have not try it.
Thanks for great writing
I’m thinking about moving out of the city temporarily since my job will be remote for the next year due to the pandemic. Does anyone have suggestions on an area in the northeast that is similar to the town Liz describes? Ideally, near a university and not too remote, but where we could be surrounded by nature? I’m looking at the Berkshires, Hudson valley in NY and parts of VT but barely know where to begin. Thanks for any suggestions!
Most of us in the sticks, including myself, live in-town somewhere, not 30 minutes out on a homestead in the woods. I recently moved to a rural New England town of 14,000. Like you, my pace of life is so much slower, not many restaurants, no Trader Joe’s / Costco / etc, almost no transit, nature just down the street, college is 10 minutes away, etc. I have decent internet and cellphone. And life revolves around being at home. But unlike you, much of what I need is within a 10-minute drive or 15-minute bike ride — or else I just get it mail order. I live in a condo (yes, condo) here in the sticks. I don’t need to know my SYSTEMS, I don’t need to be handy or DIY. And my monthly cost of living is INSANELY FRUGAL. I miss my friends in Boston, whom I can visit regularly as soon as the pandemic is over. But will never miss NYC.
We, too, have had the experience of wasps taking up residence in the upstairs bathroom. Not optimal!
We live in the city, are not that kind of handy, and outsourced. I do hope to level up over time.
Have you considered walkie-talkies? Many of the kids in our neighborhood have them – parents aren’t quite ready to give the 1st graders cell phones, but are ready to let them roam to other houses with the pack of other elementary kids. The high end ones would let you talk to your spouse at the mailbox from your house. No voicemail, no texting, no way for him to hear it over the chainsaw, but a little easier to say in touch.
I’ll second this. I’d suggest looking beyond the basic Family Radio Service models to something with greater power but still legal without a license. We bought a set of six pretty cheap off Amazon and they had a range of a solid five miles or so. Don’t recall the exact price but it was about $100-$200 for all six including rechargeable batteries. Worth every penny.
I am curious where what state do you live in?
Thank you for this informative article. I’ve romanticized about rural and rustic living. This really helped to put some very practical things into perspective.
What an enlightening article. As much as I admire rural life, I don’t think I’m cut out for it. I would prefer vacations in the rural areas and maybe retire to the rural area.
Awesome stuff FW. We are trying to find a homestead near the sea 10-15 miles. But ( and I am reluctant to state this ) every where we go we see TRUMP flags and well, we just don’t want those kind of neighbors, nor have to drive past that everyday. Anybody got any ideas? Of course some states are more , ahem, than others. We just want a peaceful place with no aggression or assaults on our vibes. I guess VT is the only answer….
(apologies for being a turd in a punchbowl but it is a realistic concern and in our top criteria, next to the closeness to the ocean , blue state & mason fireplace.)
Thanks for this super informative post! Just wanted to say that I’m a fan of your blog and I’m currently reading your book (a little late to the party, I know…). I also moved from the Boston area to VT recently and I’m struggling with whether or not to move back to the city or go even more rural. It’s definitely different when you’re a single lady with no kids. Going rural = feeling isolated and lonely, but going back to the city = breaking the bank. ::shrug:: Anyway, thanks for all the good advice over the years!
I bought a big 3500 sq ft house that came with 30 acres in 2013. Learned how to operate a woodstove, chainsaw, log splitter, so.many.fallen trees….and yes they seem to fall on the driveway! I fenced off most of the property for pasture…sometimes I have my own livestock “mowing the lawn” or I rent it out to other farmers. I also started Airbnbing two extra bedrooms when I bought it…now I have 4 I rent out since finishing off my basement for 2 more bedrooms/bathroom/livingroom and kitchen in the basement. Even with the pandemic I’ve always had a full house. As a single woman doing all this people thought I was batshit crazy while I rent out my 1st house…housing market was bad in 2013…was going to play landlord to my 1st house till the market came back…Summer 2020 I sold that first house, paid off my “homestead airbnb” with money leftover for other things on my to do list. I still work full time as an RN+ rent out 4 rooms in my house all while being debt free at age of 43. I am never bored living where I am now…so many things to do. If I could do anything differently…my first house would have been a house out in the country with lots of land with it. If you’re ever in southern MN…come visit my hobbyfarm airbnb! Pine Island, MN
Thanks for posting! You hit all the questions I was asking. I really appreciate the advice to live in a rural place for like a month. I was thinking like a week or two, but I think you’re right — a month is probably better. Now how can I take off work that long?
My wife and I also lived in Cambridge, MA for 6 years in gradschool. No car – we walked everywhere too (school, groceries, church, repeat). We’re suburban now and I vowed to never have an HOA! I want animals and geothermal, but the County doesn’t allow it on my 0.3 acre, but I can do bees here.
I think I’m cut out for rural life: I don’t mind being by myself, I’m a very handy mr-fix-it, but I do wonder what it’d be like without close neighbors. And I am worried about the costs of heavy machinery – Gosh like $20k-$60k for an average used tractor?! My kids would miss their friends for sure. And baseball.
I also want a place I can retire in, so I do worry about the heavy physical aspects when I’m 75 (in 2055). For the same reason, I’m targeting 15-20min from a hospital, plus my parents might be coming to live with us in a few years. I definitely want decent internet access. My wife wants to be close enough to a sizable community because she teaches music. So I guess we’re not ready for Remote, but Rural sounds like it might be doable.
I’m thinking of moving to your area. I am looking for a studio or one bedroom. I also dnt drive. Do you know of anyone renting a room or even a carriage house? Trying to get out of Florida.
This was a very good read as we are considering a move. Thank you for sharing!
My husband and I are building on family property in SC. On one hand, it’s super isolating and on the other hand, you have shot guns going off, motor boats wizzing by and relocated New Yorkers driving tooo fast. Having a church home out here is my saving grace. It’s like you’re nowhere but there are others somewhere.