Chris and I both dreamed about a move to the country for many years before making the leap last spring. We were more than ready for the outdoor activities and absense 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 effortless 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 and actual, 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. Voilá:
1. Do check that the community where you want to move has the amenities on your must-have list.
I broke this “do” and went through quite a journey to fix it.
Combined, we had 3 must-haves for peace and sanity: a gym, internet (me), TV (Chris). Even though I couldn’t seem to get any net vendors on the phone or find a gym within a 45-minute radius, 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.
The best I’ve been able to do so far for limited data out here still ends up costing almost 5 x what unlimited data cost in the city. 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 closer gym to satisfy our sanity-saving weightlifting habit, I sat down the first weekend after the move and dialed every number I found associated with the word “fitness” in our county. After a string of disconnected and wrong numbers, a man picked up and 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 l0w-ceilinged, fluorescent-lit garage full of well-worn equipment and a group of local residents who are now part of our circle. 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 a finding organic ketchup at our grocery store (don’t judge).
2. Don’t let the slower pace get you down. Living in a large land space 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 palatable dislike of rules and paperwork.
Yes, people moved out here to relax. You probably did, too. So go ahead and expect your car to be 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 to fix it.
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, mainly because of where it’s used. Here are 3 real-life examples:
1. “Go ahead and kick your boots off to keep mud off the floor.”
“Well, you’re in the country now, you know. You’re going to get mud on the floor.”
2. “There are a lot of ants and we think a few mice in the walls. Do you want to have an exterminator come 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.]
3. Our favorite: “The downstairs toilet isn’t flushing.”
“Well, you’re in the country now.”
Here’s the thing. All this pastoral rejoinder means is, “Chill out. You’re new here.” While you’re thinking about the toilet and the mice, they’re reminding you that a) stuff will be fixed eventually and b) your attitude that everything needs to be perfect doesn’t fly here.
That’s true, and it’s fair enough.
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 areas have crack or meth problems. Our area has a pill problem and a lot of larceny associated with it. Awareness = prevention, and prevention of crime is the best-case scenario.
• Check out any available online crime maps available
• Google “crime in [your county]”
• Read Topix blogs for sordid local gossip. Neighbors are good for that, too.
Speaking of neighbors…
Don’t ignore your neighbors, unless they’re super private. While we’re at it, don’t expect any super privacy in your own life. You may not think you have much in common with the Pentecostal born-again Trump voter up the hill or the sweet couple across the way who believe Jesus is coming this May, but you do: a power grid, weather, roads, trees, community dogs and so on.
Neighbors can be your lifeline and security. They’re also somehow all-seeing, so put your clothes on.
If pressed, our neighbors could tell us the exact hours different cars have been in our driveway and when our motion-sensor lights clicked on at night. This is a skill I haven’t mastered yet, though I noticed there’s a strange teal Chevy pickup over at Terry’s right now, so maybe a recessive country-neighbor gene is kicking in.
Do listen to your friends when they visit, because they’ll tell you how “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 and plenty of life’s normal stresses, you start every day gazing at big sky and endless trees, spend weekends 10 minutes away in the Great Smoky Mountains and just bought a property with a creek running through it that’s full of salamanders. It’s a special kind of peaceful indeed.
Considering a move to the country? Check out this post about moving for the right reasons.