For many people, the new American Dream is to leave the city behind and move to the country for a pastoral and peaceful life. The dream might be to become self sufficient in growing your food or finding a respite to pursue your muse. As someone who has done this, I will say that it is possible and wonderful but it is neither as simple nor as easy as the Dream suggests. Here are some of my suggestions to prepare you to make this great adventure.
- · Finances: The more money you have in the bank or coming in regularly, the better off you are. You can find a job in a nearby town, but a job in a diner, convenience store, or gas station is often considered a good job. Develop portable, sellable skills that you can build upon before you make the move but developing these businesses take time.
- · Prepare: Whatever you dream is, prepare for it before you come. If growing your own food is part of it, learn about serious gardening before you get there. I have heard that you can grow enough food on a quarter of an acre to feed a family of four. A quarter of an acre is over 10,000 square feet. Most city or suburban gardens are around 100 square feet. The scale of developing a large garden is huge and requires a lot of effort, knowledge and skill to make it productive.
- · Build Your Inventory of Tools: You will need tools, good tools to become self sufficient. Start collecting what you might need before you make the move. Look at garage and estate sales for good quality used tools and build your inventory. Carpentry, plumbing, basic electrical work will all be required plus the gardening and tree work that will crop up. The first year on our place featured severe drought and we had over 30 trees die. I am still cutting them up and trying to figure out what to do with the wood when we don’t even have a fireplace.
- · Learn to Plan: Once in the country, access to most services becomes quite time consuming. From my house, the nearest gas station, convenience store, or diner is ten miles. The nearest grocery store, hardware store, or bank is 15-20 miles. That means it takes almost an hour to just take care of any basic service. Taking care of two or three things on each trip is the only way to live; otherwise you are just burning rubber on the highway (if you are lucky enough to have a paved road to drive on).
- · Reduce your expectations: Routine services in the city or suburbs often aren’t readily available “out there.” You might have access to city water and sewage but you might also have a well and septic tank. Don’t count on DSL service or strong cell phone service in remote areas. I have satellite television and internet. My cell phone uses wi-fi from my internet router. Without that, I am mostly without telephone service.
- · Expect the Unexpected: The city is about noise, pollution, and unruly people. The country is about quiet, peace and tranquility. Right! Expect that one day you will have a dead tree lying across your driveway. Take the first step outside in the morning and find a rattlesnake waiting to greet you. Plan on harvesting your vegetables or fruit only to discover that the local deer population had a smorgasbord in your garden during the night. Expect the unexpected.
Is the move to the country worth it? Absolutely, yes! But realistic expectations and preparations before the move are essential to make the transition effective. Read, learn, try things out before you arrive. It is a worthwhile investment in your future.