3 Things I Learned By Moving To The Country (From The City)
I’ve lived in a lot of different kinds of places.
When I was young, familial instability meant moving a handful of times around the suburbs just north of New York City. That meant everything from modest, multi-bedroom houses with a backyard, to far-more-modest apartments with no grass to speak of.
After college, I lived in two different NYC apartments before moving with my wife to upstate New York. You’re probably well-aware that upstate New York (and no, Westchester is NOT “upstate”) is both culturally and economically night-and-day compared to NYC.
After about five years, we moved back to quasi-urban apartment life in lower New York and Connecticut since we worked in NYC and were tethered to our jobs there.
Then we took the plunge and moved to a house in a VERY rural area of the Northeast (no, I won’t tell you exactly where).
How rural exactly? Well, we live on a dirt road OFF a dirt road. Our four-wheel-drive SUV got stuck in the mud a couple years ago. We’ve had bears and moose in our yard. Our phone company told us they can’t provide us with internet since we are too far out in the middle of nowhere.
My point is that where we live now is a complete departure to where we lived before. We’ve lived in the country for about three years now.
Why did we make such a drastic move in the first place?
Basically, the pandemic allowed us to work remotely and, thus, live wherever we wanted. We wanted more space than we could afford in the Tri-State area so we found a nice house in the country and made the drastic change. That change has taught me a lot!
If you are thinking about moving to the country, keep these three things in mind.
#1 – Embrace the interconnectedness.
I couldn’t think of a better term for this than “interconnectedness”.
One thing that some people love about the city is the anonymity. Paradoxically, the huge number of people in an urban area means that you can virtually fade away if you want. In the city, if you want to be completely anonymous and keep to yourself, you can.
You can’t do that when you live in the country. In the city, you only really need to know the phone number of your super or building management company. In the country, you need to know the contact info for your plow guy, your electrician, your plumber, your septic guy, your power company, the oil company and a whole host of other specialists. But how do you GET the contact info for all these people? Well, you need to start making connections as soon as you move to the country. Talk to the guy at the dump. Talk to your local butcher. Talk to the other parents at the school. This person knows that person who knows that person who can get you a good deal.
You can’t be anonymous when you live in the country. Everyone is dependent on everyone else.
That realization was a bit of a shock to my wife and me at first. We aren’t naturally social butterflies so having to essentially network was an aspect of rural life we were not expecting. At this point, we have built up a social net to where we know whom to go to for pretty much anything we need and have made some solid friendships in the process.
#2 – There are trade-offs.
This one is pretty obvious.
Are we able to walk to restaurants like when we lived in NYC? No, of course not. We can’t really walk anywhere other than farther into the woods. We don’t have DoorDash or Uber. Sometimes the FedEx guy just drops our packages in the snow at the bottom of the hill instead of braving our road.
We don’t have those conveniences. That is true.
But on frigid Sunday evenings, we sip cocktails in front of a roaring fire after a day of sledding in the yard with the boys. My arms are achy from swinging an axe all morning in the clean, mountain air. At night, the snow muffles what few sounds there are. There’s always the smell of woodsmoke.
These are the trade-offs we make. They might not be worth it to some. But they are worth it to us.
When we moved to the country, my oldest son didn’t want to walk in the mud because he wasn’t used to it. Now he loves to go “creature adventuring” and I have to badger him to wash up before eating dinner.
I’m more than happy to go without DoorDash if it means my sons know how to play in the mud.
#3 – You’ll feel more authentic in your style.
This one was totally unexpected.
When I moved to the country, I knew that my life would be more “hands-on”. I would need to learn how to do certain things around the house that were never required of me when I lived in an apartment (like fix the washing machine). I would also need to shovel snow, rake leaves, or sand the driveway now and then.
I was happy about that! When I lived in an apartment, I kind of felt like I was in a bubble. I felt like I was hermetically sealed and couldn’t really experience the “real” world. I never really experienced dirt, other than the typical city grime. My day-to-day felt… sterile.
When I moved to the country, I started getting my hands dirty, figuratively and literally. And then the craziest thing happened…
I felt more comfortable in my own style.
How did this happen? How did chopping wood and carting garbage to the dump in the bed of my truck make me feel more at-ease when I got dressed in the morning?
Well, all of a sudden, I had a real reason to wear a lot of the things that have trickled into the wardrobes of many men who will never actually need them. Things like my canvas barn coat. Or my Barbour jacket. Or my wide-brimmed Akubra hats. Or my clunky, leather boots. Or even my flannel shirts.
I owned all of these things before moving to the country, but I never really NEEDED them specifically. I just thought they looked cool and liked wearing them. AFTER moving to the country, I actually use those items for their intended purposes. I began wearing them authentically.
So, my casual style felt more authentic, but how does that relate to getting more “dressed up”? I would surely think that I would have LESS of an opportunity to authentically dress more formally while living in the country as opposed to the city.
Well, this is what I found so surprising. Since my casual wardrobe felt better, my more formal attire felt more authentic, too. The reason was because I was getting practice LIVING in my clothes more.
While living in the city, I would put on a jacket and tie, go to work, come home, and take it off. I didn’t really DO much outside of that. While living in the country, if I put on a jacket and tie, I still need to do things like take the garbage to the dump in my dirty pickup. That means I might get a little dusty or dirty. That’s fine with me.
Living in the country has made me much less concerned with the condition of my clothes. When I lived in the city I was much more fastidious. Living in the country has helped me relax and has forced me to wear my clothes in a much more varied set of circumstances.
If you’re considering moving to a more rural area, it might be helpful to keep these items in mind! But, now I am curious. Do any of you have similar experiences? Have you moved to or from the country/city and learned some lessons along the way? I would love to know!