“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” (Proverbs 11:2)
As millennials, we were conditioned to believe everything exciting, everything worth doing, and everything that would bring us success happened in the city.
It didn’t matter which city; any city would do, depending on your interests and climate preferences.
For those who didn’t mind the biting cold, there was Chicago for the politicians and New York City for the reporters who covered them, Wall Street stock traders, and professional salespeople.
For artists and actors, techies and developers who wanted to live in sandals and shorts, Los Angeles and San Francisco would do just fine.
Shows that shaped our perception of the world and how it worked like Friends and Seinfeld normalized people in their late 20s and early 30s living in cramped downtown apartments that they didn’t own, toughing it out in dead-end jobs they didn’t enjoy.
We left our small rural towns and decided that sacrificing space, family, and peace would pay off after a few years. We would have enlightening experiences thanks to our fulfilling career, eventually meet “the one,” and settle into a modest, yet affordable two-story home on the outskirts of the city we were told was abundant in a resource called opportunity.
Some piled on massive amounts of debt and captured this modern-day American dream. Others are left wondering what they’ve spent their entire adult lives sacrificing happiness for.
Even with the problems dragging us down and the solutions staring us in the face (i.e. hitting the road Jack and never coming back to the city, no mo’, no mo’), we stay put because we are unwilling to accept that the narrative we were told was never our dream in the first place.
The Lies We Tell Ourselves:
What I’ve learned from my transition from city life to country life is that there’s more to gain when we humble ourselves and begin searching for our truth instead of the one that was dictated to us.
6 Hurdles to Leaving the City
1. “My commute will be longer.”
Doesn’t your drive to the office make you want to get in a time machine and lay a bludgeon square into Henry Ford’s temple?
Before his “grand” invention, a majority of the nation barely left their house and tended to their farms, children, and animals to pass their time away.
Commute time is one of the biggest killers of country living.
And for good reason. The average American spends nine days every year driving to work.
At that rate, at the end of a 45 year career, you would have spent more than a year (405 days) hands positioned 10 and 2 just so you could make a buck.
The way I see it, however, you have three options if you truly want to leave the city:
1. Embrace the commute time and use it to educate yourself through podcasts, YouTube videos, and online learning resources.
2. Find a job closer to the area you would prefer to live or an online gig you can do from the comfort of your home.
3. Convince your current employer that you can accomplish all necessary tasks from wherever you are located.
If you go with the third option, here’s a simple email or script you can use to approach the subject with your boss:
“First, I want to thank you for hiring me and giving me the support I need to excel in my role. As the workplace changes and as my priorities shift, I have given a lot of thought to the idea of remote work and would like to ask for your blessing and support in transitioning my position from in-office to virtual. I believe I have demonstrated in the past that I am able to manage my responsibilities, connect with my co-workers, and carry out the tasks associated with this job no matter the circumstances. [insert two to three examples of your work ethic and creativity here] I desire to show up for this company as my best self each and every day, and this leap away from the city is what I need in this stage of my life. I appreciate your consideration of my proposal, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have about my plans.”
Your commute doesn’t have to hold you back from a country way of life. With some problem-solving, you can make your commute work in your favor or even eliminate it altogether.
2. “All of the networking opportunities are in the city.”
I wish someone would have told me this applied to more than cheap candies before I went to a large state college and moved to Nashville, Tennessee, but… quantity does not guarantee quality.
I can’t tell you how many loud restaurants and bars I sat in during half-price cocktail hours chatting it up with moderately successful marketing assistants who memorized their LinkedIn resume and repeated it like a Shakespearean monologue to anyone with two ears and a heartbeat.
Most interactions at these piss poor excuses for networking events were interesting at best and entrapment at worst. When you’re mostly meeting people who look at you as a stepping stone or an application they need to outshine, your chances of running into an adversary over a cheerleader are multiplied by ten.
Add to the mix an introvert’s natural inclination to plant themselves firmly into a corner wall, and you start a cycle that begins and ends with you hitting your head against a wall.
In the country, networking isn’t in the form of forced socialization and sanitized conversation; it’s cultivated far more intentionally and with more directly impactful results.
When I first moved to the small town I live in just under an hour outside of Nashville, I didn’t know anybody, but I did know what my interests were and I had an idea of the value I could provide to the community.
As a journalist, I could offer to write for the weekly newspaper and effectively double its staff through my contributions. Now, I’m a familiar face to vital community leaders including the city and county mayors, police chief, and several influential business owners.
In the country, networking is based on your merit and not on your ability to schmooze, exaggerate, and conflate your accomplishments for the benefit of others.
3. “I can’t achieve ‘the dream’ in the country.”
Whether it’s the stereotype that rural Americans live life at a slow pace or that they’re closed-minded and unappreciative of art, culture, and tasteful forms of entertainment, somewhere along the line, the media, government, or academia persuaded us to believe we couldn’t make anything of ourselves unless we flocked to the cities.
Some of the country’s greatest country musicians weren’t discovered on Broadway. Even Johnny Cash toured in Tupelo, Missouri because he realized some of his most loyal fans could be found there.
If a bout of FOMO (fear of missing out) hits you every time you think about leaving the city, let me reassure you: you can still achieve your dreams if you live in the country, especially now.
For the past several years, population growth in cities has waned, while suburbs and rural areas have seen interest wax. Lower cost of living and a massive amount of investment from states in improving the quality of place in these areas have contributed to their popularity, particularly among millennials who have realized they can get the city experience without the premium.
With the pandemic lessening corporate reliance on large headquarters, big businesses are setting up smaller satellite offices in more affordable places across the country. From software start-ups to entertainment companies and fast-food chains and consumer product sellers, nearly every industry is trending towards decentralization of its operations.
There’s never been a better time to prefer a life in the country.
4. “I’ll have to give up access to amenities.”
Currently, the youngest members of the millennial generation are 24 and the oldest members are 39.
Those on the younger end of the spectrum pledge allegiance to the city for their access to nightlife, convenience stores, and various jobs to try on for size before committing to a particular career path.
Those on the older end believe cities and suburbs have better schools and safer neighborhoods.
But we’ve seen how fast the shimmer of the city can dull; how quickly the sheen of safety can be wiped away. Many cities, including those in the Bay Area, saw a sharp increase in homelessness during the onset of the pandemic.
Most riots occurred in big cities, and supply chain issues were more prominent there than in rural stores.
In uncertain times, the city is verifiably more dangerous.
Schools are transitioning to online formats, putting all students on a near level playing field as they experience all of the disadvantages of virtual learning.
The amenities provided by the city aren’t as valuable when you can get exactly the same thing or a very similar knock off of it in the country.
It’s true that instead of thirty coffee shops, you might have one or two in a small town. Your choices are certainly limited, but if the world continues its current trajectory, those businesses you love in the city won’t be around anyway.
Like anything in life, trading city life for country life involves a little give and take.
5. “My friends and family will think I’m crazy.”
There will be people in your life who won’t understand why you want to leave the city.
Your parents may think you’re giving up a glamorous and successful life. Your friends will snicker behind your back when you choose to spend a sunny Saturday setting up another planter bed over water skiing on the lake.
My co-workers have managed to make the phrase “living out in the woods” sound like a slur.
If you decide to leave the city, you must develop mental fortitude because you will be hit from all angles with darts of doubt and your confidence in your decision will be the only armor that can deflect them.
Here a few affirmations I repeat to myself whenever a comment from someone I care about gets to me:
6. “I’m not capable of working the land.”
It’s intimidating to think about growing your own food if you weren’t raised in a family that farmed or gardened.
When I started researching gardening, I poured over Mother Earth News articles and became overwhelmed. These articles were written by master gardeners; people who have been doing this for decades. These articles were also written by people from different parts of the country with different growing seasons and different soil types.
I had to learn to take all gardening and farming advice with a grain of salt in order to take those first steps to growing food. Instead, I look at this part of country life as an experiment and an opportunity to add to the robust repository of knowledge on manipulating nitrogen, carbon, and other chemicals to produce large and nutritious yields of fruits and vegetables.
If you know the characteristics of healthy soil, you know all you need to know to start a garden. This video is a good place to jump start your journey.
Moral of the Story: Just Do It
These hurdles aren’t obstacles; they’re excuses. Making the leap away from the city is scary, and it’s not a conventional lifestyle choice in modern times.
But, it is the prudent choice. It’s the only choice if you desire a life of freedom, health, and connection.
Contact us if you feel like you don’t belong in the city and you’re looking for a new path in rural America.