With some many people considering making the move out of big cities, and considering building a country or rural lifestyle, I thought you might be interested in unexpected facts about country living. Here are 15 things that I wish I had know before moving from the city to the country.
Making a Good Living is Still Possible in the Country
Probably the first thing that most people consider when moving out of the city, is whether or not they can get a job. I had always assumed that there just wasn’t work out in the county, but I was surprised to find when I moved to the country that I was wrong.
Small Town Jobs
While there may not be a wide variety of professional jobs out of the cities, if you need work you can almost certainly find something in small towns. Overtime, the job market has gotten increasingly favorable, as young people moved away graying small towns are in need of youthful labor.
One business I worked for in small town Washington has been advertising a position for three years, without finding a reliable employee to fill it.
Small Business Opportunities
Truthfully, the employee positions you find out of the city are generally not as well paid — unless you are a skilled trades person. But, there is also a huge opportunity for entrepreneurial individuals willing to make their own way.
In many small towns, semi-skilled trades people are retiring and closing up shop, with no young people willing to do those jobs.
In my parent’s town, for instance, there is only one professional chimney cleaner and he will have to retire soon. In wood burning Oregon, regular chimney cleanings are essential for safe operation of a fireplace. And, garner a high hourly rates considering the cost of living.
More business ideas for people living a natural lifestyle:
Online Business and Remote Work
More than anytime in history, there is a huge opportunity for both work from home jobs, online freelance work, and full blown online businesses. With global high speed internet just months away, commuting to work is no longer necessary to have a high level income.
Now is the perfect time to get in on this huge shift in the work force. Since things are still in flux, competition is still relatively low. And, first movers have the chance to make it big in this new economy.
Read my full article how to make an online business work for you:
Expect A More Interesting Commute
If you do intend to commute to work, expect a lot more excitement when it comes to country roads. Even if you are a suburb commuter, used to driving long distances on interstates or city roads, you will have a lot to get used to.
Some things that I have encountered living in the country include —
- Deer running in the road
- Unplowed snow
- Fallen trees and branches blocking the road
- Slippery and slow going conditions
- Streams flowing through the road, where no stream used to be
- Mud and rock slides
- Other drivers sliding in to your line, or off the shoulder
While country driving isn’t quite an African safari, it does take a change in behavior. You may need to allocate more time for your commute, given that some days can take much longer than average.
You will also want to carry at least a minimal road safety kit, to help you deal with these situations. And, you should always have warm clothes, a blanket, and water in your car, in case of emergency.
City Cars are not County Vehicles
Continuing with the line of reasoning in the previous section, your cute little city car may just not cut it out in the country.
Country roads and driveways tend to be dirt, can be very steep and slippery, and tend to have deep ruts and pot holes. Also, getting a car towed in the country is extremely expensive, if you can do it at all, which means rural people place a huge premium on reliability.
Rural vehicles tend to be —
- 4WD or AWD allowing for safe driving on rainy, steep, muddy, snowy, or icy roads
- Be higher off the ground to traverse deep pot holes and ditches
- Have larger carrying capacity, to allow for bulk shopping trips (see buying habits below)
- Be very dirty, with less focus on aesthetics
- Have fewer technological frills, for more reliable operation
One of things that really got me about country life is just how much weather actually matters.
In the country, you end up speeding a lot more time outdoors, since that is the quickest and easiest way to get out of the house. In the country, quick trips to the store, afternoons at the movies, or going to a restaurant are much less frequent, given the time and expense required to drive in to town.
Likewise, rain, snow, and freezing weather can make a commute much more difficult, or in some cases impossible for a while.
Country people are also much more likely to have a big garden, and a wide variety of outdoor projects they are working on in the summer.
In the end, I found that country people really do care about the weather, in a way that most city folk won’t understand until they live the country lifestyle for a while
It Takes Time to Adjust to Isolation
Isolation is one of the best and the worst parts of living in the country. While you are unlikely to live so far apart that you won’t have any human iteration outside the family — or hear you neighbor chainsawing all day for the 5th time this week! — you do get much deeper sense of being alone than being in a city where you can see your neighbors come and go, and see people walking on the street.
For the first few weeks, isolation felt great. The quietness and restful nature of country live was appealing.
However, after that it got to be more and more grating for the next couple of months, to where I longed, almost like a detoxing addict, for some form of sound and stimulation. I would sing, or play music, or just make noise.
But, after the first year I realized I didn’t think about it at all anymore. In fact, when I did go to the city, the sheer volume of all the noise makes me uncomfortable.
Now I don’t think I could live in the city again without a major adjustment period.
You May Not Have Cell Service
Given the ubiquity of smart phones and 4G, city folk are often surprised that away from the cities and away from the interstates, many rural areas have only poor or non-existent cell phone coverage.
At home, I don’t mind it all. If you have internet service, then you can do everything through that including taking calls. However, at first, or if you don’t get internet access at all, you may have to acclimate yourself to a new, less technological way, of living.
Nature Is Still Wild
While nature is a nice place to visit, living their can be a bit more complicated.
Where I am, rabbits breed like crazy and will eat your whole garden if you let them. Deer will show up anywhere, and can jump 12ft fences. Coyotes howl deafeningly loud at night near my house several times a week. Raccoons will tear apart you garbage. Hawks and eagles will carry away small pets and domestic animals. And, you may even be visited by a bear from time to time.
Handling all this takes a bit of knowledge of how to set up your food, domestic animals, and garbage so that they don’t get invaded by your friendly neighborhood wild critters.
Food and Gas Is More Expensive
Rural areas are considered to have a low “cost of living.” While this is usually true in terms of cost of land, and potentially home size, this does not translate to food, gas, and other services.
You should expect a huge markup on gas that is bought at country gas stations. In my area it can be $1–2 more per gallon than in the nearest city. Also, country stores tend to sell pre-made food and produce at convenience store prices, giving big city groceries a run for their money.
Additionally, you should expect to spend more for any service where a professional comes to you house, where the product needs to be delivered. While a load of wood chips, for instance, might be free in the nearest town, you should expect to a pay a delivery fee or a per mile surcharge.
You Will Learn to Shop Completely Differently
Because driving to town for shopping and errands takes so much longer, country people tend to batch this up. So, you might only go shopping once a week, or even once a month.
In order to accomplish this, you end up buying in bulk. Families with children might even need more than one shopping cart to get everything they need at the grocery store. Shopping lists are absolutely essential.
What you buy also changes. Perishables are usually left in favor of shelf stable or frozen foods (although you should have fresh produce growing in the garden). Not having a key ingredient is also a problem, so people tend to buy and stock up on a wide variety of different products they might want, so they will already have it if they need it.
You also end up going all over town, so you hit all the places you need to go in one trip. This makes days in town long and potentially arduous. Over time you will gather tricks here and there to reduce the number of things you have to get done, and adjust your life to not need to go to town if at all possible.
Neighbors are Very Important
While I left the city partially to get away from neighbors, it turns out the neighbors are still an issue in the country.
Firstly, in the country there are far fewer regulations — which is a good thing — but that opens up the opportunity for neighbors to engage in loud, smelly, or potentially dangerous behavior with no legal reproductions. So, choosing home with good neighbors is a must.
On the other hand, I find that you are actually more likely to get to know your country neighbors than in the city.
In the country, emergency help tends to be very far away. So you are reliant on your family, and your neighbors, to come through in an emergency. In some cases, neighbors may be your only chance to get help.
Probably for this reason, I’ve found that country people tend to be very friendly with their neighbors. There is also a certain politeness that you don’t really find in cities. Country people are very protective of their privacy, and are likely to be respectful of your privacy as well.
Power and Internet Outages Are More Common
Power and internet outages can be much more than an occasional occurrence, depending on how far out you live.
Expect that you could go for more than a day without power in some conditions, and prepare by either having analog equivalents — candles and hand mixers etc — or putting in a generator or off grid energy system.
Land based internet can fail in the same way as power. Although, satellite internet is also susceptible to loss. Especially on cloudy or stormy days, where you may experience extremely slow speeds or no service at all.
Feeling Connected with Nature is Addictive
One thing that I didn’t expect is just how addictive it is to be immersed in nature.
Sitting by a fireplace or wood stove, watching the snow outside. Listening to the rain on metal roof. Listening to the trees dance during a windy night.
There Are Always More Projects To Be Done
Having a piece of country property is like having a ticket to endless possibility.
There is always something to improve in the garden. An extra outbuilding to add for your new hobby. Potholes to fill. Bushes to cut back. And new paths to make.
For me, the creative aspect of making a piece of land your own personal garden of Eden is the funnest part of living in the country.
Not Everyone in the Country is a Redneck
Contrary to what you see on TV and movies, not everyone that lives outside of the cities or suburbs is a redneck. In fact, some of the most interesting and intelligent people I know live deep in the country.
When you meet someone new out there, they are just as likely to be a physicist, an expert mediator, or an accomplished musician, as they are to be a good-old-boy interested in dogs and hunting. Or, they could be both.
If you take the time to get to know country folk, you might just be surprised what you find.
You Won’t Be The Same Person
Lastly, what surprised me the most is just how much the country changes you when you live there.
The demands of country living change the car you drive, the way you dress, what you find appealing, what your interest / hobbies are, and eventually the way you think about the world.
In my mind, this is the greatest benefit of all.
Nature has a truth about it that transcends man’s hubris. By letting mother nature shape you, rather than the artificial confines of big city, I feel you have the unique opportunity to connect to something greater than yourself.