Are You Really Cut-Out for Country Living?
Are you dreaming of a country home? Peace and quiet, rest and relaxation? Are you feeling like you’re just not cut out for the rat race pace of city living anymore? Are cookie cutter Suburban neighborhoods, mini malls and heavy traffic threatening your sanity? I understand. I’m a country bumpkin myself, but country living isn’t necessarily as simple as it may seem. So before you load up and head for the hills, consider these questions to determine if you are truly cut out for country life.
How much do you enjoy eating out?
No seriously, food is important, whether you’re a gourmet food truck groupie or a produce pounding health nut. And eating out in very rural areas can be challenging. I remember watching visitors from the city with disappointed hungry faces roaming around small town Eastern Oregon, searching in vain for a morning latte with warm scones or a chicken pesto panini lunch. In towns with limited populations that aren’t on major tourist routes, it’s a real challenge to find good eats. The nearest decent restaurant heading east was 67 miles away. I’ve spent many a mile with low blood sugar and a bad attitude travelling and living in the rural west over the last couple of decades. I’ve also eaten my share of bad food with the resulting regret later. Bottom line: If you enjoy eating out often and prefer a variety of gourmet, healthy or ethnic food options, the city is the place to be. Even if you cook at home the availability of special ingredients and fresh foods can be frustratingly limited.
Are you a shop ‘til you drop mall rat?
I’m not a mall person so it didn’t bother me much that the closest major malls to our eastern Oregon home were 150 miles away. I did a lot of online shopping and made twice or thrice yearly trips to Bend or Boise for serious retail therapy sessions as needed. I also perfected my internet shopping skills out of sheer necessity. Now that I live closer to civilization I like to support local businesses, but if I need to find something that isn’t available locally or is out of my price range, I know where and how to score it online. And some country towns have malls of sorts, just generally not super malls and certainly no miles and miles of retail establishments to choose from. So if your weekend just isn’t complete without a trip to the local super mall for shopping, lunch and a manicure, stick to the city or the suburbs.
Do you or a family member have any special physical needs that require regular attention by medical specialists?
Medical services can be limited or non-existent in small towns. There is just not enough money to fund facilities with expensive equipment and qualified specialists round the clock. Most rural residents are prepared to travel long distances for medical care or wait for the monthly visit from a specialist, but what about emergency care? In eastern Oregon we carried medical air lift insurance so if we were in an accident or needed immediate medical care, the cost of an air lift was covered. In 2011, the premium was approximately $85 per year. Not all remote areas have this coverage. In recent years, some rural communities have seen hospital closures by private, for-profit facilities that have caused serious problems for residents depending on them, so this is an issue that can literally be a matter of life or death. It’s probably the most important consideration when deciding whether or not to move to a rural location. So how’s your health?
Do you regularly travel for your job or enjoyment?
Or are you a stay at home type? Proximity to national or international airports is a major issue if you travel a lot. Some small communities have air-shuttles to larger airports, but not the most remote communities. I had to drive three hours one way to airports whenever I travelled from our last home site, which added considerably to the time equation, and the jet lag, especially on long distance flights. So if you travel often, for business or pleasure, be prepared for even more inconveniences and take that into consideration.
How are your DIY skills?
Contractors in rural areas can be pretty iffy. Anyone can print up a business card proclaiming to be a handy-man, and a few can even hammer a nail fairly straight, but some are simply trying to make a living in a job scarce market and are completely un-qualified to be working on your precious home. And even the good ones can get pretty dodgy during hunting or fishing season, leaving you out in the cold, sometimes literally, with windowless holes in your house or un-insulated walls. So if you are moving out into the nether-lands, I hope you are a self-sufficient mechanically inclined DIY’er, or at least your partner is. Even then getting your hands on the proper tools and supplies can be a challenge, so be sure to factor in these considerations if you are dreaming of buying a fixer upper farm house or building a home from scratch.
What kind of vehicle will you drive?
All wheel drive vehicles are the way to go for rural living. Roads can go unplowed for days, and some of the most beautiful home sites are located at the end of steep gravel roads. And of course, any kind of mountain driving in inclement weather absolutely requires the right kind of vehicle. You don’t want to run off the road on that lonely desolate stretch of highway without On-Sat and 24 hour roadside assistance either. Even then, it could be a while before anyone gets to you, so travelling with emergency blankets, food and water is like money in the bank under such circumstances. Oh, and a truck comes in real handy here too. Of course, the good news is, traffic jams are non-existent, unless you count roadside cattle drives, which can slow things way down in a hurry. Those animals are road hogs!
How will you make a living?
Are you prepared to commute to work or can you telecommute? Ever expanding possibilities in tele-commuting have freed many people from the chains of city living. However, if you plan to commute by car, I recommend not moving more than sixty to ninety minutes from your employment base, and that’s during rush hour. If you can work out flex time hours, you might be able to avoid the crush, but don’t forget, you’re moving to the country to reduce your stress level, not to add to. Forcing yourself to waste frustrating hours in heavy traffic to and from your work site doesn’t generally put anyone into their happy place. If you can find country property that is serviced by rail lines or other mass transit into your destination city, within walking distance of your job, that can be a convenient and comfortable way to travel. Of course, that still eats into your free time. And by all means, never ever quit your city job and move to the country expecting to find family wage jobs without first confirming a position with a reputable firm and signing a contract to that end. Promises of work are never enough to base a long distance move on and should not be considered valid job offers without written confirmation. I know this from experience.
How dependent on, or close to, your extended family are you?
This is personal for me. When I was twenty one I moved with my new husband to the Pacific Northwest from our home in Connecticut. I was part of a large close-knit family, he wasn’t. I left a lot behind. I have loved my life on the west coast and don’t regret the move, but it was not and still is not easy when it comes to my family. We did not have children, so the grandparent thing was never an issue, but I have missed my sister and my brothers and my parents all my life. Luckily I have a great relationship with my husband, but if I had to do it again, I might choose to not move quite so far away. If you have close family ties and have or are planning to have children, and want them to grow up near your extended family with all the love and support that includes, choose wisely. Move nearer rather than farther.
What kind of entertainment do you prefer?
If you love to catch a live music or stage performance, need regular infusions of sushi, and enjoy the many entertainment options available to you in the city, you may have to totally rethink your leisure hours to live in the country. Things are different here. First run movies, live shows and fine dining are generally just not available, and certainly not at the level that they are in a city environment. But if you’re cool with entertaining yourself with hobbies, outdoor activities, gardening, maybe raising livestock or visiting local you-pick farms, you might thrive in a rural town. Do your research and you might find some quaint towns such as Ashland, Oregon that are quiet enough but offer plenty of arts and entertainment options, or small towns close enough to drive into cities like Nashville, with the added benefit of beautiful natural surroundings. Beware that real estate can be more expensive in such places than other rural locations though. After all, everyone wants to live in Paradise.
So How did you do?
The above considerations may be things you never really asked yourself before, but probably should if you’re dreaming about a move to the country. If you are a stay at home type who is healthy, independent, resourceful, easily entertained and have a plan for your finances in place, you just might want to go for it. Country living suits me just fine, although I live closer to civilization now than I used to. It’s been a huge relief just to have a Home Depot fifteen miles away. The larger shopping areas, large being a relative term, are 30 or so minutes away, and I can live with that. And Portland, OR is about 75 miles, so we can get into the “city”, a great one too, without too much hassle.
Then again, if you’re worried that you might get bored, be lonesome, get frustrated or hungry for more than country living has to offer, you probably will. Consider staying in the city or close by, and try to gain a new appreciation for the plentiful experiences city living affords you. The real key is to focus on the things that you enjoy, the activities that make you happy and the connections that you have which are the most meaningful to you, where ever and however you choose to live.