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Are you torn between green pastures and skyscrapers? In the last year, an astounding number of people migrated from urban to rural areas. Of course, much of this seemingly mass exodus was fueled by the pandemic and a subsequent yearning for space and freedom. Still, urbanites continue to snatch up country homes with hopes that their newfound residences will provide them with rich, new experiences.
If you’re an uber urbanite who’s thinking of trading your urban kicks for the sticks, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve gone ahead and hashed out everything there is to know about this popular lifestyle trend.
- 1 What are the Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving to a Rural Area?
- 1.1 Advantages
- 1.2 Disadvantages
- 1.3 Potential for Poor Water Quality
- 2 Am I Even Suited to Live More Remotely?
- 3 What Regrets Do People Who Have Moved to the Country Have?
- 4 The Top 10 Reasons to Move to the Country
- 5 How Much Money Do I Need to Uproot and Move?
- 6 Adjusting to Life in the Country?
- 7 The Consensus
What are the Advantages/Disadvantages of Moving to a Rural Area?
HealthWhile there’s no easy way to formulate a picture of urban vs. rural health, here are a few obvious health benefits to living in the countryside:
While you might miss your favorite fast food and takeout joints, your body probably won’t miss the excess carbs, fats, and sugars. You’ll probably be trading junk food stops for roadside farm stands. That means more locally grown, organic produce, dairy products, eggs, and meats.
More access to wild land also presents a unique opportunity for foraging, fishing, and hunting. Your own property may even serve as a hub for fresh foods. Many people who move to the country like to indulge their inner gardener. With land at your disposal, you might also consider raising backyard hens, meat birds, goats, or pigs.
Before we sold our mountain property a couple of years ago, we had an extensive garden, and garlic was one of our specialties (all but one of the pictures in this post about growing garlic are from our actual garden and garlic crop).
Like many gardeners would find ourselves with an overflow of produce. Had we suddenly not made the decision to move, the next plan was to have a small garden stand. As it is, we had numerous baskets of produce at the bottom of the driveway labeled, "Free!" (Here's a pretty inexpensive guide to permaculture called "My Survival Farm," and it includes a section called "Veggie Profits" that teaches you about selling your excess produce.)
Anyway, you’d be surprised at how much food you can produce in a single growing season. Check out this backyard garden harvest video for a glimpse into sustainable permaculture.
That 24/7 hubbub that drew you to the city might be doing more damage than good. It turns out that a constant chorus of angry taxis, screeching trains, and sirens can lead to overstimulation and, subsequently, stress.
The pressure to keep moving or keep up with the Joneses can also be a heavy weight to carry. Rural living is simpler, slower, and less disorderly. For many ex-urbanites, the tempered expectations and snail’s pace are reason enough to drop out of the rat race.
I have to mention that even as I load this article, my window in my mountain rental unit is open, and while I can hear a distant highway a mile or so away, the sounds in the foreground are birds twittering in the field and trees. It beats the sound of I-95 that I can hear from my more urban-situated full-time home. See the picture accompanying this post? Yes, that's our summer view!
The plethora of outdoor space in rural settings presents a unique opportunity to exercise enthusiasts. There are plenty of trails, parks, and country roads for walking, running, and jogging. Even household chores, such as chopping wood, gardening, and yard maintenance, serve as opportunities to burn calories and build muscles.
Check out this brief video, "Fitness Trailer Rolls Around Rural America," uploaded by RFD-TV for a glimpse of the possibilities:
When the pandemic shuttered public parks, gyms, daycares, and other institutions, we witnessed the devastating effects of confined living. Even the most lavish city apartments probably felt like prison cells when the doors were forced shut and public spaces became inaccessible. For many city dwellers, this was the final straw. The thought of being confined to a single indoor space was too much to bear.
Rural areas present a completely different picture. Rural homes are often large and airy. Acreage is almost a given. There’s typically plenty of public spaces. Plus, towns tend to be less restrictive when there are fewer people to control.
WealthWhile values vary greatly from one geographic location to another, many rural areas boast a lower cost of living. Much of the difference in cost of living can be hashed down to the price of housing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, rural people spend 20% less on housing. Not to mention, they are two times less likely to own their homes.
Naturally, the spending disparities don’t stop there. Rural households also spend less on food, education, apparel, public services, goods, and services. Rural households shell out slightly more than urban households when it comes to heating fuel, transportation, healthcare, and entertainment. But, at the end of the day, the smaller spending goes to country dwellers.
With all that said, urban residents still take the cake when it comes to larger salaries. However, if you’re planning on taking your job with you, you may still be able to rely on those big city paychecks.
Better Air and (Sometimes) Better WaterStudies show that there are major differences between the air and water in urban and rural areas. With fewer sources of pollution to muddle up the atmosphere, you can count on that country air to be fresher and healthier. The presence of trees and plants helps to cut down on levels of carbon dioxide, ozone, and particulate matter. Clean air offers significant health benefits, including reduced risks of stroke, heart disease, cancer, and respiratory disease.
With that said, it’s always a good idea to explore the potential impact of nearby mining and agricultural facilities. Toxins like sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and methane are often prevalent in the sticks.
Many urban transfers may also prefer the virgin qualities of their newfound country water. You see, domestic wells, which account for the vast majority of potable water in rural homes, are rarely treated with harsh chemicals. As a result, rural tap water lacks the chlorine aftertaste that is usually an afterthought in the city.
More Room to RoamIf there’s anything that the pandemic has shown us it is that people need more room to roam. According to the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, increased access to green and wild spaces leads to major mental health improvements. Studies show that people who spend more time in open spaces are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, and stress.
With more space between you and your neighbors, you're also guaranteed more privacy. With increased privacy comes a greater sense of autonomy. As such, you may feel less pressured to play along or participate in things because of peer pressure.
A Greater Sense of CommunityWhile rural areas may not be as densely populated as their urban counterparts, many still kindle a sense of community and citizen engagement. People in the country tend to congregate over shared interests. Local clubs and organizations are a great way to meet locals. Distance usually doesn’t stop rural neighbors from reaching out.
Slower PaceUrban transfers may also notice themselves shift to a simpler, slower pace of living. An unhurried, uninterrupted life is likely to lend itself to greater relaxation and reduced anxiety.
Less ChaosIn the country, you’re likely to cut out many of the chaotic elements that you became accustomed to in the city. Your commute (if you still have one) will probably consist of rural roads rather than jam-packed interstates or overcrowded public transportation. You won’t have to fight for parking spots or even wait in line to eat at your favorite restaurant.
Less Employment OpportunitiesOne of the biggest downsides of rural living is the overall lack of employment opportunities. According to American Progress, lack of job openings, especially in highly skilled areas, can be a major stumbling block for those that come to the country while still searching for gainful employment. Salaries are also likely to be lower than they would be for comparable jobs in the city.
Less Entertainment and Leisure ActivitiesCities are typically ripe with social and cultural opportunities. The sheer amount of people and venues per capita ensures that there is rarely a day when nothing is happening. Rural people, on the other hand, may struggle to find concerts, performances, or festivals within a close radius of their homes. Be prepared to make your own entertainment or be willing to travel when you get a hankering for a diversion. (Unless, of course, THIS is your idea of entertainment... this was taken on our recent canoe trip on the Saco River in Maine. :) )
Fewer ConveniencesRural shoppers do not have extensive access to goods and services. Oftentimes, the only available food and conveniences are a long drive away. As a result, many rural households will limit their out-of-town excursions to just once or twice per week.
Of course, not rural settings are considered remote. Many country dwellers live within driving distance of at least one major shopping area. So, while you might find yourself picking up more stuff each time you head to town, you'll probably also find that you shop less frequently.
Limited HealthcareOne of the biggest complaints of newbie rural transfers is the lack of nearby or expansive healthcare and emergency services. Rural dwellers may find themselves traveling long distances just to receive basic medical services. People are likely to travel even further for special medical services. Things can get really sticky in the event of an emergency, as it may take police, fire, and emergency services a long time just to reach your homestead.
Longer Driving TimesRural living almost always involves long driving times. Whether you’re heading into the nearest shopping area, driving your children to school, or commuting to the office, you’re likely to see a bump in your odometer reading.
Poorer Internet/Cell Phone ServiceA lack of broadband or adequate cell service can be a major letdown for some rural newcomers. While the thought of permanently unplugging has its appeal, the reality is that most of us have come to rely on the internet or cell service for basic human connection, employment, education, and more.
For a thoughtful discussion about this topic, have a look at this YouTube video, "Why is Rural America's Internet So Bad?" posted on the Bloomberg Quicktake channel:
Potential for Poor Water Quality
While air quality in rural areas is most definitely superior to that in urban areas, this benefit doesn’t always carry over to water. Unfortunately, water treatment in rural places is largely inconsistent. With most people reliant on private wells, there’s no telling what type of contaminants might be present in your country home’s water supply.
According to the EPA, there’s always a chance that you’ll find pollutants and/or pathogens in a private well. Unlike public water systems, wells are not monitored or regulated. Anything from residential or nearby agricultural activity could diminish the quality of your only water source.
If you live in a thriving metropolitan area, you’ve probably become accustomed to receiving those complimentary annual water quality reports. In many cities, water resource companies take great strides to provide citizens with top-quality H20.
Should you move to a rural area, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300 to $500 for a proper well inspection. In the case that your well water tests reveal issues in water quality, it’s on you to resolve the issue.
In some cases, a whole-house water filter, such as the AquaOx Whole House Filter, (which is sold by a US Veteran-owned company, and which is made in the USA) should help you eliminate harmful pollutants and pathogens.
In other cases, you might need a fix bigger than filtration.
Greater Chance of IsolationWhile the grass may be greener and more expansive in rural areas, so is the distance between you and your prospective neighbors and friends. What you gain in space to roam may come at a cost of greater isolation. According to one study, two in every 10 rural Americans have reported feeling lonely or isolated. If you’ve spent the vast majority of your life enjoying the social rigors of urban life, there’s a chance that you might find your newfound isolation to come as a total shock and disappointment.
Am I Even Suited to Live More Remotely?Rural living can feel easy, but it does require adaptation. Here are a few adjustments that might take city and suburban transfers some getting used to:
Do You Value the Great Outdoors?
Can You Do Without Convenience?
Do You Mind Going the Distance?
Are You a Self Starter?
What Regrets Do People Who Have Moved to the Country Have?Here are two of the biggest things that newbie country bumpkins fail to consider before they make their move.
Forgetting to Assess the Available Technology
Failing to Understand Private Well and Septic Systems
You may also be dealing with private well and septic systems for the first time. These systems are complicated and require regular maintenance. Should something go wrong, you can expect pricey repair costs.
Make sure to have your septic and well inspected thoroughly before move-in. Understand the nuisances of each system, as their longevity and reliability are closely dependent on your commitment.
Furthermore, while people think it's wonderful to have your own well and septic, newcomers may not always think about potential contaminants (including radon) that may be in the water, and don't test the water.
In addition, if you have never lived in a home where you have a private septic system, you may not realize that this system MUST be serviced (i.e. "emptied" and inspected as part of ongoing home maintenance). Trust me on this one - you don't want to be flushing one day to suddenly note that, ummm...it's not going down.
By the time you get to that point, the septic maintenance is WAY past due, and it is likely to cost considerably more to have the "plug," or whatever is wrong, fixed.)
If you have a septic, make sure you know the location of the tank and cap, and have a way to access it.
In our case, we know where the location is, and "pre-dug" it out, and put a simple surface cap like this Tuf-Tite 12" Septic Tank Lid - or something similar.
The Top 10 Reasons to Move to the CountryNeed more reasons to move to the country? Here are a few.
1. Slower Pace of LifeRural residents typically have a slower pace of life than urbanites. While it might sound a bit cliche, country people are more likely to sit back and absorb their low-key surroundings.
2. Close Proximity to NatureStudies show that there are loads of advantages that come from living close to nature. Country dwellers gain access to fresher air and greener pastures. The natural world has an unfounded impact on the human psyche. You might feel happier, less stressed, and more creative.
3. More Bang for Your BuckOne doesn’t even want to imagine what a few acres would cost in an up-and-coming borough. In the country, you may be able to secure yourself an unforeseen amount of square footage and acreage for the same price as your cramped walk-up.
4. More Room to RoamWith fewer people around, you can enjoy the world as it would be without so much human impact.
5. Experience Something New
People often embrace rural living by picking up new hobbies. Activities such as animal rearing, gardening, and cooking may feel like novelties to those who never sought to indulge in such simple tasks.
Thanks to my living around seasoned homesteaders, I have had the opportunity to participate in wreath making (see my accomplishment at the right!!), and also apple cider pressing. Yum!
For what it's worth, this American Harvester Cider Press & Grinder by Happy Valley, is the overall type of cider press our friends have. I'm not sure if it's the EXACT BRAND or model - they've had it for a long time - but this is more-or-less the type.
Considering they are cultivating a good-sized orchard, they need a heavy duty press and grinder. Getting together for "apple cider parties" is a lot of fun!
Even things like travel and entertainment can take on new forms. You might find yourself indulging in humbler forms of amusement. Consider high school theatre productions, youth sporting events, school fundraisers, town fairs, and agricultural open houses to be your new entertainment frontier.
When all else fails, consider traveling to nearby cities for entertainment.
6. More FreedomMany urban-to-rural transplants also comment on their newfound sense of freedom and autonomy. There are far fewer zoning restrictions and by-laws in country towns. In most cases, what you do on your property is pretty much your own business.
When acres lie between you and your closest neighbor, you don’t have to worry about prying eyes.
8. Eat BetterIt’s certainly hard to deny the mouth-watering line-up of five-star restaurants, diverse ethnic food, and all-night takeout that most cities have to offer. While you might not find many Michelin star restaurants in the boondocks, you may find that your new area has its own unique lineup of culinary assets for you to enjoy. This includes homemade dishes and uber-local vegetables.
One thing that has always been a treat for us is when we are gifted with fresh game from our hunter neighbors. In fact, after I finish editing this tonight, we're going to be enjoying venison steaks on the grill!
Update: Here's our meal! The ONLY thing that did NOT come out of the garden was the sweet potato (although we did attempt to grow some, but they don't fare well up north I guess).
9. Enjoy the Simple LifeWe can thank Thoreau for articulating the modern man’s yearning for the simple life. Supposedly, 1800s city life was already a bit too hectic for self-acclaimed naturalists. There is indeed a lot to gain from a life of fewer things and fewer interruptions.
10. SafetyA waning population density nearly guarantees rural areas have less crime than urban spaces. Check out the NCJRS’s graphs https://www.ncjrs.gov/ovc_archives/ncvrw/2017/images/en_artwork/Fact_Sheets/2017NCVRW_UrbanRural_508.pdf to get a better understanding of the disparities between urban and rural crime.
How Much Money Do I Need to Uproot and Move?
Budgeting for your new rural lifestyle might not be as cut and dry as you imagined. While census data points to the fact that rural people spend less than urban people, urban people also take home more pay than their rural subordinates. Adding to this jumble is the fact that rural housing is generally cheaper. Moreover, rural people are more likely to own their homes.
In addition, tax rates, goods, and services tend to cost less in rural places.
With all that said, don’t be fooled by the age-old concept of affordable rural development. The pandemic has had a mind-boggling influence on many of the country’s once-sleepy country real estate markets. In places like the mountain regions of Vermont and New Hampshire or even the rocky coast of Maine, housing costs have skyrocketed, leaving downtrodden locals and eager-to-flee city folks fighting over deeply limited real estate inventory.
Beyond that, you’ll also want to think about employment. Are you looking to trade your old city job for a local trade? Will you be taking your remote job with you? Are you planning on starting up a small business?
According to the USDA, rural areas have slightly lower employment-to-population rates than urban areas. Of course, rural areas are also likely to have limited job opportunities and lower income rates.
Adjusting to Life in the Country?
Are you looking to make your move to the country as smooth as possible? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you shed your city-slicking mindset.
Learn to Love Your HomeWhether you plan to work remotely or not, you’ll probably be spending more time at home once you move to the country. Be creative and open-minded when looking for ways to entertain your family. Purchase or borrow cookbooks so that you can turn your home kitchen into a culinary institution. Grow your living space by investing in new toys and furnishings.
Be Better Prepared
Understand the risk factors that come with rural living and stay prepared for worst-case scenarios. While most city folks have experienced the consumer frenzy that precedes severe weather events, few know what it’s like to prepare for the likes in rural settings.
For those that live miles outside town, the effects of a snowstorm or hurricane can be lasting. Rural people also have fewer backup options when it comes to shopping. Those that wait to the last minute to grab essentials may be met with empty shelves and sparse alternatives.
Experienced country folks will tell you that it’s always best to stock up. A pantry full of nonperishable foods and other staples is guaranteed to help you fair the storm. You might also consider investing in a generator or alternative heat sources, such as a wood or pellet stove. In remote areas, it can take days or even weeks before storm crews clear your road and restore your electricity.
In 1998, we had an ice storm that rendered our road impassable and without power for about 10 days. And just a few short years ago, our house was one of the last 2 in town to get power back after a serious storm knocked power lines out for nearly a week.
Fortunately, thanks to this generator (Honda EB2200iTAG), we were able to keep our perishables cold and our phones charged.
Heat wasn't a problem because we had a wood stove. Water wasn't a problem because we had plenty on hand, and the generator could also run the pump if we needed it.
Be A Good SamaritanLiving in a rural area has many rewards, one of which being neighbors helping one another and even sharing resources. In many rural areas, it is common for farmers and landowners to permit locals to use their land for recreation purposes.
Many urbanites are shocked to be on the receiving end of their new rural neighbors’ generosity. Your new friends might be eager to unload their garden excess or even plow your driveway for free. You might also show your neighborly worth by offering up your own set of skills or volunteering for a local community organization.
While most people like to see the country living through rose-colored glasses, not everything in the sticks is peaches and cream. In fact, many state agricultural development organizations provide farmers with textbook guidance on avoiding conflicts with other farmers, neighbors, and towns. It turns out that not everyone in the country lives by the adage of live and let live.
If you’re moving to an agricultural- or resource-centered area, you might find yourself overwhelmed by new smells, noises, and sensations. Do your best to understand what’s happening around you. Whether your neighbors are spraying crops, harvesting manure, or felling trees, it’s most likely their right to do so. The seemingly clueless complaints of shallow newcomers are not likely to be well received. In short, be ready to accept both the good and bad of your new surroundings.
When kindness greets you at your door, find ways to reciprocate or show appreciation. You’ll likely gain a quick sense of community and maybe even form some lasting friendships.
Open Yourself Up to New ExperiencesSome rural transfers might feel like their move feels a bit like downsizing. Sure, there are fewer gyms, clubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues, but a lack of institutions does necessarily translate to a lack of opportunities.
It Takes Time to Get EstablishedDon’t get discouraged if your homestead isn’t as productive as you imagined or you’re not developing as many friendships as you feel you had in the city. It takes time to get established and find your shoo-in in any society. Rural living is no exception.
Don’t Believe the Tall TalesDon’t allow the social and economic stereotypes regarding rural Americans polarize your view of the country. Rural America is more diverse, affluent, and progressive than most believe. We strongly recommend that anyone who’s thinking of moving to the country engage in a trial visit or two. If anything, your stay may help some of your misconceptions.
Here is a report by CBS News (from 2016) called "How well do you know rural America?" that you may find interesting:
Rural living isn’t for everyone, but those that are willing to trade in the benefits of city living are sure to experience the plus side of country living. Keep in mind that not all rural areas are designed the same. Be sure to thoroughly research your areas of interest before taking any deep dives. Just as each city neighborhood has its own vibe, so do country townships. They range from affluent to impoverished and eclectic to mundane. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if you have what it takes to try a new lifestyle.