Chris and I both dreamed about a move to the country for years before making the leap last spring. We were more than ready for the outdoor activities and absence of traffic.
Luckily, we were also ready to learn about a new way of life, because country life is, in fact, different than city life. Some things were easier than expected. I could hardly believe how easy it was to function without stores and restaurants nearby, especially after buying our chest freezer.
There were other, less favorable discoveries, like realizing that the country, where we looked forward to serious bucolic quietude, is rarely quiet. Bored dogs, vehicles with failed mufflers, kids with dirtbikes and adults with gun ranges in their front yards (us included) abound. Oh, and just when everything else quiets down, the mice inside our walls toss in a scratch and squeak. A rare patch of real, insulated quiet is one reason we found our land so extraordinary and will be protecting its natural boundaries and sound barriers.
Anyway, without further ado, I’ll put the rest of this post into a do/don’t listicle:
1. Do check that the area you’re moving to has the amenities on your must-have list.
I broke this “do,” and it’s been a journey to fix it.
Combined, we had 3 must-haves for peace and sanity: a gym, internet (me), TV (Chris). While planning the move, I couldn’t seem to get any internet vendors on the phone or find a gym within a 45-minute radius, but I took a leap of faith. I was sooo sure every town in the world had ample internet and a choice of gyms.
No, they don’t.
Limited data out here costs almost 5 x what unlimited data cost in the city. Though my monthly bill would be much less if I’d taken the cable company up on their offer to string cable to our neighborhood for the bargain price of $30,000.
Did you know that a popular platform for rural politicians is to increase broadband access to their constituents? The silver lining is that I now appreciate with a crystal-clear lens the marvel that is the internet and my level of reliance on [addiction to?] it.
To find a gym to satisfy our sanity-saving weightlifting habit, I sat down the first weekend after the move with borrowed/neighbor internet and literal yellow pages and dialed every number associated with the word “fitness” in our county. After a string of disconnected and wrong numbers, a man finally picked up. He said something in a thick east Tennessee accent about staying open through lunchtime and we should “c’m own.”
We drove 20 minutes to a low-ceilinged, fluorescent-lit garage of well-worn equipment and a group of local residents we’re now lucky to call friends. It’s been 9 months, but every time we walk into that gym, it feels like victory: an oasis of fitness in our new world.
It’s a reminder to be grateful for things we used to take for granted, and the gratitude extends all the way out to simple things like finding organic ketchup at our grocery store (don’t judge).
2. Don’t let the slower pace get you down. Living in a sprawling, forested area with a few thousand people takes different energy than living in a city of millions.
We have slowed down, but our #1 frustration is still that people don’t hold their work to as high a standard out here, thereIsaidit. Cities make people competitive. In the country, people aren’t as hungry for success. In fact, they’re probably here to escape the rat race. There’s a noticeable distaste for rules and paperwork.
People moved out here to relax. You probably did, too. So go ahead and expect your car to sit at the shop longer and businesses to close for the day without warning. If the heat in your house breaks, buy some space heaters and go with the flow as your landlord takes a month or 3 to fix it.
3. Do expect to be told, “You’re in the country now,” but don’t take it the wrong way. This phrase will try your patience greatly. Here are 3 real-life examples. For context, they’re all from our landlords or his handyman:
- “Go ahead and kick your boots off.”
“Well, you’re in the country now, you know. You’re going to get mud on the floor.”
- “There are a lot of ants and we think a few mice in the walls. Do you want to have an exterminator out, or should we put out bait and traps?”
“Well, you’re in the country now. There will be ants and mice around.”
[YES, there are ants and mice in the city, too.]
- Our favorite: “The downstairs toilet isn’t flushing.”
“Well, you’re in the country now.”
Here’s the thing. All this rejoinder means is, “Chill out. You’re new here, and we’ll get to it eventually.”
4. Do research crime in your new town, and don’t leave the doors unlocked just because“you’re in the country now.”
The rural drug epidemic is real. REAL. Some places have crack or meth problems. Our area has a pill problem and a lot of larceny associated with it. Awareness = prevention.
• Check out online crime maps
• Google “crime in [your county]”
• Read Topix blogs for sordid local gossip.
Neighbors are good for gossip, too.
Speaking of neighbors…
5. Don’t ignore your neighbors, unless they’re super private. And probably don’t expect super privacy in your own life. You have an enormous amount in common with your neighbors: power grid, weather, roads, trees, community dogs, neighborhood friends.
In a rural setting, neighbors can be your lifeline and your security system. They’re also somehow all-seeing (so put your clothes on). If pressed, our neighbors over the field from our rental dome will tell us the hours different cars have been in our driveway and when our motion-sensor lights clicked on last night. This is a skill I haven’t mastered yet…although I just noticed a strange pickup over at Terry’s, so maybe a recessive country-neighbor gene is kicking in.
6. Do listen to your friends when they visit, because they’ll tell you how “beautiful and peaceful it is out here” and they’re right. Even though you have mud to wipe off the floor and a non-flushing toilet and mice in the walls, you start every day gazing at big sky and endless forest, spend weekends on mountaintops, and just bought a property with a creek running through it full of salamanders. It’s a special kind of beautiful and peaceful indeed.
Considering a move to the country? Check out this post about moving for the right reasons.