One year ago I moved from Boston out to a rural property in Appalachia. Do I regret my decision? What have I learned? Would I recommend it to a likeminded person?
I had lived in cities my whole life. When I was a teenager I was able to get my first job easily and would take the bus to work. From a young age I was able to take the bus or train anywhere I wanted to go and didn’t need to rely on a parent or older sibling to drive me around. As I got older I also had my pick of colleges nearby. I was easily able to get an internship and then land a job in my field. Living in the city definitely had its advantages and I truly appreciate everything I was able to achieve as a result of it.
However, there were also serious disadvantages to city life that began to grate on me as I got older. The near-constant road rage and general incivility of the city takes a toll mentally and emotionally. I’ve also been mugged several times, been shot at in a drive-by shooting, and had a home invasion where I had to defend myself with a pair of kitchen scissors. And by the way, all of those events took place in the middle of the day in the “safe” areas of Boston. I can’t imagine what would have happened to me if I was in a “bad area” at night!
So yes, after a while you find yourself day dreaming of living in the country! I had always loved the Virginia country side. My husband had never been, so we took a road trip vacation down there to check things out and he was convinced. We then spent several months getting our Boston home ready to sell and took the plunge!
There was a NY Times article recently about all of the city people who moved to the country and were now regretting it. I honestly feel for anyone that regrets their decision, but fortunately I am not one of them. Before making the move, I researched everything I could about making this kind of change. We are so happy with our decision to move out here! But I do have some advice for anyone thinking about doing the same thing:
Living on the outskirts of a small town is 100% the way to go! I define a small town as a population of 10,000 people or less. Where we live is closer to the upper limit of that number. Our town has a university, hospital, and movie theater. There is a main street with mom-and-pop small stores and businesses. There are no “chain stores” except for a Walmart and Lowes outside of town. In my opinion this is perfect.
I think a lot of the “cons” you read about living in the country happen when you live in an area with a population of 1,000 or less. In my opinion, that’s no longer “rural living”. You’ve now crossed the line into something I would define as “remote”. Before this move I thought I wanted to live somewhere remote. I really romanticized the idea. But now I understand that would have been a huge mistake. I believe you truly can’t go wrong living 10 minutes outside of a small town. It’s the best of both worlds.
Don’t believe real-estate listings: Once we had decided to move, we would spend hours pouring over the listings in zillow. These listings made it look like you could buy a 10 acre farm for practically nothing. I was even seeing listings for 20-30 acres! I wanted to homestead and all of the advice I was reading said to buy as much land as you could and I really liked the idea of doing that.
So one thing I learned was that none of these properties are as good in person. If those 10 acres were actually useable, it would be a million dollar property. Whenever there was a listing that included a sizeable acreage, in reality only half an acre of that land was useable and the rest of it was going down the side of a cliff or something. Also, if you see a listing for a beautiful cabin in the woods, forget having any kind of internet. You wont even have a cell signal.
It’s okay to look and to dream, just keep in mind there’s a lot of smoke & mirrors in real estate listings.
Choose a town, not a property. So instead of looking at listings and falling in love with a property, fall in love with an area instead. It really is “location, location, location”! There are plenty of rural properties coming onto and off of the market all of the time. It’s really better to find an area you love and then wait for something to come on the market in that area.
When we did our initial road trip, we decided on 5 towns that we would love to live in. Then when we were ready to put our Boston house on the market, we drove down here for two weeks and looked at houses in those 5 towns. Again, at the time I was really feeling like I would have been happy living in the middle of nowhere, but now I know that wouldn’t have been the case. I love my house, but I love my town even more. Anything I don’t like about the house I can change, but you can’t do anything about the location. Choose wisely.
2 to 4 acres is enough. Before moving out to the country, I really didn’t have much of a concept for how big an acre was. I knew I wanted to homestead and loved the idea of having a huge property. However in the end I bought a little house on 2.5 acres. It is nestled between two farms and is perfect! 2.5 acres is PLENTY! I have to admit, 4 acres would have been fantastic because then I could have an orchard. But don’t think for a second you need more than 4 acres unless you are truly planning on running a commercial farm.
I haven’t had problems with nosy people. A lot of people talk about having problems with gossip and nosy people out in these small towns. I haven’t had problems with that, but I also don’t tell people things I wouldn’t want to get out. I’ll say this, if you’re someone who is highly opinionated and you love to pontificate, you probably wont do well out in the country.
Something I’ve noticed out in the country is that culturally-speaking, being opinionated, lecturing, and complaining about stuff is not welcome here. I don’t know if this is a rural thing or a Southern thing, but it’s definitely a thing. Know-it-all-ism, projecting your voice when you talk so passersby can here you, will not go over well here. General city-uptightness and “air of superiority” needs to be shed immediately upon leaving the city.
It’s not so easy to hire a handyman. This has really been the only draw-back I’ve experienced. If you need to have work done on your home, no one will return your phone call, and if you do find someone, it’ll be months before they can get started.
For whatever reason, hiring a plumber isn’t even possible. My sister also moved out to the country and has had the same experience with not being able to hire a plumber in her region as well.
If you think you’ll need work done to your house, start calling people early. If you’re looking at a property that will need extensive plumbing work done to it, don’t even bother unless you are married to a plumber.
Just enjoy it! There’s a reason why in movies you always seeing the country couple sitting on their porch in the rocking chair. Sitting on the porch and looking out onto the rolling hillside is the best thing about living in the country. So buy some patio furniture and just enjoy it! People are friendly, crime is low, and there’s no noise except for animals.
It can take a while to let your guard down after living in cities your whole life. The decrease in stress and blood pressure has honestly been the best thing about moving out here.