Why I Prefer Living Rural

This past weekend, my family travelled to visit several members of our extended families. The are we travelled to was decidedly rural. Statistically, it’s a below-average income county in a below-average income state.

I know a lot of people near where we live who couldn’t imagine living in such an area. They complain about the educational level of the people there. They complain about the lack of services available. They complain about the lack of entertainment and “culture.”

Yet, every time I visit this area (or areas like it), a large part of me wishes I lived there. Such areas provide a lot of economic and social opportunity if you’re adequately prepared.

Here are some reasons why.

The cost of living is stunningly low. While we were visiting, we purchased two lovely decorated cakes from a local cake decorator. We assumed that prices would compare to those in our area, so we had our wallets out. The total bill? $15. We were so amazed that we left $5 extra as a tip. Take that, Ace of Cakes.

The prices at the grocery store were lower. The prices for buying food at local farmers’ markets was lower. The cost of buying land was lower. The cost of a 2,000 square foot house was much lower. The property taxes and insurance was much lower, too. Water bills were lower. Almost everything is less expensive than where we currently live – and we don’t live in an expensive part of the country. We live near Des Moines, where the cost of living is below average for major metropolitan areas.

The ability to focus is much higher. There are simply less distractions. It’s no owner that novelists and book writers often retreat to rural areas to write. There aren’t cars going by constantly. You don’t hear the constant beeps and noises of urban or suburban traffic. You don’t have the regular interruptions that come even with living on the edge between a town and the country. You can just buckle down and focus on what you need to accomplish.

The lack of distractions makes it easier to focus on the task at hand and focus on your goals as well.

Day-to-day life lacks urgency. So much of my day-to-day life feels urgent but, frankly, not really important. I have to get my children to a soccer practice. I have to run to the store to pick up two items. I have to answer the doorbell only to find it’s some door-to-door person looking for something unimportant.

It’s a wonderful ideal to toss those things aside, but so often, these “conveniences” of a urban or suburban busy life interfere. In a more rural area, you don’t have people ringing your doorbell or loitering in the apartment hallway. You don’t have a store a mile away, so you plan more carefully for your groceries and just use what you have. You don’t jump back and forth between activities constantly. Instead, you have the time to explore other things in your life.

What about culture? There are very few areas in the United States that aren’t a drive of a few hours away from a city of at least some magnitude. This gives access to things like museums and other cultural events on a very regular basis. I’d happily day trip from the rural part of a state to a large city once a month or so to go to museums, attend a concert, or participate in something along those lines.

We absorb ideas from things like exploring nature, reading books and articles, listening to music, and other such activities, each of which is perhaps better experienced in an environment with fewer interruptions and distractions.

What about the people? There are “good” people and “bad” people anywhere you go (defining “good” as being people you want to associate with and “bad” as people you’d rather not). I have never been in a place or explored a culture where the members of that culture or the residents of that place matched up universally (or even in significant number) to the stereotypes given to them.

What about education? Aren’t schools in such areas just terrible? Again, that’s not always true. You just have to do your research.

Most states offer online tools that allow you to evaluate school districts as compared to state averages. You’ll often find that suburban schools tend to do very well, but you’ll also find that if you’re looking at the top quarter or so of schools in a state, a lot of rural schools appear there.

Why? I think there’s one reason that really stands out. Quite often, rural school districts have a much better teacher-to-student ratio than suburban and urban school districts, which is one of the key identifiers of a successful schooling experience. Some schools in our area – good, reputable schools – jam 30 or more students into a single high school class, while comparable rural schools have 10 or 15. At the rural school I attended, for example, my high school Physics I class had six students. Physics II? 3 students.

Simply put, I yearn for a life with fewer distractions and more opportunities to dig deep into the things most important to me, and I also yearn for a life with a lower cost of living and a lower need to earn a mountain of money. A rural environment provides all of these things.

We may just be living in the country before too long.

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  1. Katie says:

    I think one important point is that the cost of living issue is most applicable to someone like Trent, who’s income will not vary depending on what location he lives in. For a lot of people, moving to a lower cost of living area will mean that their income drops commensurately, unless they’re willing to commute very long distances to a more urban area.

    That said, that just ends up as a neutral (unless you have significant fixed costs like student loans to pay); the lower cost of living won’t really disadvantage or advantage you in that case.

  2. Lesley says:

    I agree with Katie, and want to add that there often aren’t a many opportunities in rural areas–particularly employment opportunities. I’d love to live in a rural area and suspect it’s the only way I’ll ever be able to afford a house, but suspect it’s next to impossible unless I want a very long commute.

  3. Amy says:

    Katie’s point is a good one. In addition to the pay cut I would take if I moved out of my metropolitan area is the fact that the work I would do in the rural area would be significantly different. Telecommuting isn’t an option in my field and the work I do in the city is complex and interesting. A job with my title exists in most small towns, but the substance of the work would be a lot less rewarding. But I appreciate what Trent is describing–maybe in retirement!

  4. LeahGG says:

    I like living where my kids can walk to their friends’ houses, the movie theater, youth group activities.

    My kids can already walk to one friend’s house alone and they’re only 3.5 and 2 (the friend lives in our apartment building, on our floor.)

  5. Stephan F- says:

    As for education rural does seem to do better as there is less state oversight. My sister worked for the school district calling the outlying districts to see how they were doing. People only drove out a couple of times a year. I think that makes a difference too.

    As for culture, when was the last time you actually went to the zoo/museum/etc. Given the economy how likely that you have the extra cash to go in the next month or two?

  6. Jonathan says:

    Amy brought up telecommuting, which is something I wanted to mention. Telecommuting allowed me to move to a rural area, without sacrificing employment opportunities.

  7. guinness416 says:

    Plus when they’re 17 you can buy them a subway pass instead of a car, Leah ;)

  8. Katie says:

    As for culture, when was the last time you actually went to the zoo/museum/etc. Given the economy how likely that you have the extra cash to go in the next month or two?

    They’re free here in D.C.! Sometimes I take a book the National Gallery and sit in the courtyard and read – there’s no better place in the city for it, and you can just pop in whenever you want.

  9. Monica says:

    Agree with #1 Katie. Goodness, where we live, my husband and I can’t even move out to the northern suburbs without both of us incurring an hour plus commute. Gotta love big city traffic…

  10. Becky says:

    I have a different explanation for the quality of rural schools, and it’s related to Katie (#1)’s point. In an area where there are few well-paying employment opportunities, teaching is one of the best jobs you can find; so schools can attract and then *keep* some great teachers. Unlike in many urban areas, teachers don’t have to accept a relatively lower salary than their peers in order to stay in education.

    I live in a rural area now, and telecommute. If we had to support ourselves in the local economy, our cost of living as expressed in hours dedicated to earning a living (as opposed to dollars), including commute time or a second/third job, would *very* high, though our house payment looks low.

    Gas in rural areas (at least remote ones) tends to be quite expensive, and rural people typically drive a lot. Where I live, food is expensive too, because it’s a remote area far from the main trucking lanes. Farmer’s markets are all very well, but they don’t usually sell flour or rice or cooking oil.

    One thing that *is* different here is that since pretty much everybody is struggling to earn a living, socializing tends to be very inexpensive – potluck suppers, informal musical jam sessions, hiking. Going to the movies means a matinee or bargain night.

    I was tickled by Trent’s response earlier to the twentysomething New Yorker that he should “just hang out with his friends,” as though there’s any place to do that in New York City that doesn’t cost big bucks. If his apartment is 400 square feet (basically a bed, toilet, and sink, right?), and a cafe is at least one $5 cup of coffee admission, where exactly is he going to do this? I’ve lived that life, so I know how much of a blessing cheap friends are!

  11. marta says:

    “It’s no owner that novelists and book writers(…)”

    Don’t you mean “no wonder”?

    Topic: you forget to mention some negatives of living in a rural setting, such as the isolation (I know it’s a good thing for you, but it can be bad, too) –your kids would be even more dependent on you driving them to places, at least until they are 16. It gets old fast.

    I understand the appeal; after all I spend a lot of weekends and vacations in remote places (countryside and mountains). But when I think of actually living in such an area, especially as a freelancer, the negatives outweigh the positives. I’d need a car (I currently manage without), I’d be more isolated, it’d be harder to access some services in a hurry. I like being able to walk to the cinema, the supermarket, the park, even the local clinic…

  12. marta says:

    “It’s no owner that novelists and book writers(…)”

    Don’t you mean “no wonder”?

    Topic: you forget to mention some negatives of living in a rural setting, such as the isolation (I know it’s a good thing for you, but it can be bad, too) –your kids would be even more dependent on you driving them to places, at least until they are 16. It gets old fast.

    I understand the appeal; after all I spend a lot of weekends and vacations in remote places (countryside and mountains). But when I think of actually living in such an area, especially as a freelancer, the negatives outweigh the positives. I’d need a car (I currently manage without), I’d be waaay more isolated, it’d be harder to access some services in a hurry. I like being able to walk to the cinema, the supermarket, the park, even the local clinic…

  13. marta says:

    Sorry for the hiccup. Feel free to delete the 2nd comment.

  14. Des says:

    How about distance from family? I could be wrong, but it seems like that is the #1 biggest factor in how people choose what locale to live in. If you move several hours from family, that is a drastic lifestyle change. Maybe it would be for the better, depending on how much you like your relatives, idk…

  15. Justin says:

    I always love getting out of the city too. Although for the most part I’m a city guy, you just can’t beat the quiet that comes from being out in the country for a little relaxation.

  16. AndreaS says:

    I have lived large chunks of my adult life in urban, suburban and rural areas, and have lived rurally for about 20 years. I do not miss the “culture” I experienced in urban areas, and I think the Internet has a great deal to due with me feeling no sense of isolation of lack of culture.
    I agree with prior comments about the lower pay scale offsetting lower cost of real estate. Another cost that is lower is child care… here about $140 per week for a toddler, but an hour closer to a city it costs well over $200.
    It is true we can achieve the same standard of living here for way fewer dollars. An upside often not considered is that federal income tax doesn’t take into consideration the cost of living in an area. As a result, one can live fairly well, while paying little or no federal income tax. When/if Obamacare gets implemented families earning under about $80,000 will get a subsidy to help pay for health insurance. One can live quite well here for that income level. So urban high-income people will pay a far greater percentage of taxes without enjoying a greater standard of living.

  17. valleycat1 says:

    We have a friend who lives in a nearby very small town, who has an acquaintance there who has started a very nasty public feud with her over something trivial. There’s no way for them to avoid each other as there’s one small church, one restaurant where everyone goes one night a week for socializing, local resident governmental board they are both members of, etc.

    Totally different concerns I have with rural living, in addition to some just mentioned, are gasoline prices these days & the environmentally unfriendly aspect of having to drive miles to do anything, along with lack of decent medical/dental/vision care locally. I’ve changed my dream to living in a decent sized small city with local public transportation or walkability.

  18. Becky says:

    I find, having moved from urban to rural, that social opportunities are about a wash. There are fewer people to choose among for friends, but the people you have anything in common with are happier to see you, because they also have fewer social alternatives.

    I definitely second valleycat1′s point about not being able to avoid people. No matter how much you never want to see somebody ever again, they will be everywhere. If you ever had mutual friends, you will continue to have mutual friends. Finding another group of friends might not even be an option. Maybe long-terim it’s healthy to be able to work through the awkwardness of, say, being on the PTA with the woman your husband left you for. But it’s not for the faint of heart!

  19. cv says:

    I can see the appeal of rural life, but I’m definitely a city person. I don’t do a lot of what is commonly referred to as “culture”, but in dismissing things plays, museums, etc., people tend to ignore the wider range of experiences of all kinds that city life has to offer. There are many more restaurants, with many more varieties of food, for example. I have at least 5 grocery stores within a 20 minute walk from my house, ranging from Costco to an organic co-op that has all sorts of great stuff, while my relatives in the suburbs have trouble finding quinoa and other things we consider staples. The public library here is top-notch, with an amazing selection. When I need to go shopping for clothes, there are lots of options in all price ranges nearby. If you’re religious, there are more different churches to go to, and I’ve been able to go to services with friends for religions other than my own.

    “Culture” in cities isn’t just expensive opera tickets, for me, but a wide variety of options and experiences in all aspects of life.

  20. Michele says:

    Just a couple of comments about living in a ‘rural’ area…be prepared to protect yourself with guns,alarms with cameras and dogs. DO expect a very high rate of meth-related crimes. Don’t expect a high graduation rate from high school.Do expect a high rate of unemployment/welfare/unwed mothers at a very young age and high child abuse. Don’t expect lots of languages offered in high school, electives or life skills classes. Don’t expect a lot of things for your kids to do for entertainment- unless it is related to the natural beauty of your area. Don’t expect very many county services. Don’t expect much in the way of public transportation or ‘walking communities’.Don’t expect to have much shopping variety–the internet will be your new shopping friend! You may have to travel quite far to attend your particular denomination Church. Gossip is the lifeblood of the community.
    My experience in rural Oregon has been that when property taxes can’t sustain law enforcement, schools, museums, or other places of interest due to a lack of funds, you have to make do. That being said, living in a rural area for me has been a blessing. Beautiful natural resources…less government intrusion in our lives… no traffic…much lower cost of living…very friendly self-sufficient people who do a lot of living off the land- farming, ranching, hunting, canning, preserving, and drying food is the norm here.
    The people who move to a rural area and expect the benefits but complain about the detraction might as well stay in the city. I’m just sayin’.

  21. Chad says:

    I grew up in a community of 500 and it was a great experience. In the end, every experience has its positive and negative aspects. For example, for my mom to stay home my dad worked away for over 16 yrs. He spent 3 days at home and 4 days at work. When I was 16 my dad changed careers and became a teacher in my school district!! That was a huge change for the entire family. The sacrifices my parents made to live in a small town were large but I think I am a better person because of them.

  22. Marsha says:

    I’ve lived in large cities and in small towns. I’ve lived in a suburb for the last 15 years, and I think it suits me best. I have a single-family detached house with a large yard, so I don’t have to live right next to other people, like I did when I lived in an apartment. But there’s lots of things nearby, so I don’t have to drive far to go to the grocery store, etc, like when I lived in a tiny town. And the city is about 10 miles away, so I can easily access “culture.” I’m fortunate to work just 2 miles from home, and my husband’s work is in an outlying area, so he avoids driving in city traffic.

    Overall I think that your state of mind is more important than where you live. I’ve been happy in small towns and big cities. I’ve just concentrated on the positives and tried to minimize the negatives.

  23. Nick says:

    Maybe if you lived in a rural area you’d have more time to proofread!

    BOOM!

    Just kidding Trent.

    Rural living definitely has its advantages.

  24. Nate Poodel says:

    Becky and Michele are spot on! I grew up in a small rural community of 6,000. I absolutely hated it! I went of to university in the “big city” and never looked back.
    The things I hated about rural living were the gossip and the cliques you have to deal with. If you are a conformist and you can stand the inane BS that goes on in rural communities you’ll do fine. If you prefer an alternative lifestyle or you aren’t conservative you’ll be miserable.
    Trent made a point of having small Physics classes but you also have to understand that to keep the funding for AP classes the school must have students taking those classes. In the end, students who may not even be college bound end up in AP classes. The education tends to be subpar overall in my opinion. I heard it once describe as the Buffalo Syndrome. The herd can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo so teaching tends to be of a lower standard.
    I also found my rural lifestyle incredibly boring. We had to drive 35 minutes just to see a movie. The high unemployment and general lack of entry level jobs available gave teenagers little to do. There was a reason that we had one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in the nation at that time.
    You can keep your country living. I’ll stay in the city.

  25. Jonathan says:

    @Nate Poodel (#24) – I’m not sure where you grew up, but your experience was very different than mine. I grew up approximately 20 miles from a town of less than 5,000 people. I high school I took several AP classes, and to my knowledge everyone in those classes attended college. We did not have the variety of classes offered that were offered in larger cities, but I found the education system there to be adequate.

    I now live just outside of a town with a population of of less than 1,000. The town is extremely conservative, as you’ve suggested, but I’ve had no problems even though I am very liberal.

    Another thing I’ve noticed over the past few years is that even though unemployment is high across the country, the rural areas (both near where I live and grew up) seem to have lots of entry-level jobs. Almost everytime I go out I see a hiring sign in the window of some local business. It seems that around here business can’t find enough employees for the type of entry-level jobs that are often done by teenagers.

    I’m not suggesting that there are no problems with rural living, because there certainly are. It is definitely not right for everyone. I think it all comes down to priorities. After living in a city of 30,000 for 10+ years between rural living, though, I was more than ready to get back to the simplicity of the country.

    My point is that different people have different experiences with rural living, and experiences also likely vary from one area to the next. Since the majority of the population live in cities, it seems reasonable to conclude that most people prefer city living. For those of us who enjoy rural living, though, there is no comparison. Just because Trent lists the reasons he likes rural living doesn’t mean he’s trying to convince you to give up the city. We all have the freedom to live wherever we choose.

  26. Janis says:

    My husband and I made the move from suburban to rural living almost 10 years ago. The positives and negatives mentioned by other commenters are pretty much spot on, especially the observations about employment opportunities. My husband’s job requires a daily commute of 120 miles. I found something closer, but it was still 80 miles a day and for less money than I used to make when I was able to commute to the city. (I should note that the 80 miles was mostly highway driving and the commute actually took less time than my old 40 mile a day round-trip to the big city.)

    One irony about traffic noise is that we live on a high-speed state road that is something of a commuter route. We actually have a lot more traffic noise than we did in our little suburban neighborhood.

    Still, I love our rural life, and have done and learned many new things since making the move.

  27. Riki says:

    I love the city. I live downtown (like, literally as downtown as you can possibly get) in a city of 50,000 people. I hear bar noise, see lots of hustle and bustle, and the Canada Day festival takes place 1 block from my house. I love it. I’m definitely a city person. I will be moving to my first house soon and it is *gasp* 5 minutes away from the downtown core in an area considered very much “city” by everybody else but it feels like it will be a million miles away to me. Perspective, eh? Oh well, it will be worth it for the closet space.

    That said, I don’t think I’d want to live downtown in a large city. I love living in a smaller city — much less traffic, and my city happens to have a huge number of restaurants and cultural events (way more than the average for a city this size). It’s perfect and I get all the advantages of a city without the disadvantages like high cost of living and annoying traffic. I think it’s perfect . . . but then again, I recognize my bias.

  28. Pat says:

    We went from living in a NJ condo, close to just about anything you wanted to do [for a good 10 plus years]……the traffic, the high cost of living, the hurry-up attitude [calling it a rat race is too nice! lol] finally drove us out of the state. For the last 20 plus years we have lived on 12 acres…in the “country” in NC. The openess, quiet and relaxed/slow way of living was quite a change. The first year we lived here, I hated it. We had to drive at least 15 miles [one way] to get to stores, the people did everything toooo slow [but I did love the southern accents]! It really took time for me to get used to the “quiet” and differences in culture. A high paying job wasn’t the problem since hubbie had that with only a 6 mile commute. But after a year of “adjustments” I have come to LOVE living here!

    No way I could have afforded the property we have here, living in NJ. You learn to plan your trips into town…..and the quiet makes you really appreciate the beauty of mother nature. Yes, I will agree it was a distance having to drive the kids to sporting events, to their jobs, etc etc. But both my kids got a good education, got their drivers licenses, married and found good jobs in this same area.

    If moving into a rural area is what you think you want……I say go for it. BUT, expect the first year to be difficult while you transition yourself to a new way of life. We used to travel back to NJ to visit relatives, at least 2 times a year. And they would come visit us. Now, all but one of my relatives live in NC…not too far from us. lol The thought of going back to NJ…even for a visit…..its something I really just dont want to do anymore. We do love the country life and wouldn’t change it for anything.

  29. Trudy says:

    To each their own is all I can say. I laugh reading what city folk think of rural living – too funny! They have literally no idea what living in the country is like. I could go on for several pargraphs refuting what people think but I would rather just go out and play in the woods. Wouldn’t do any good any ways….

  30. I agree! I grew up in the country (Nashville IN) and really miss it. I have been living in Cincinnati for the last 10 years, its not so much the cost of living which isn’t that different, its all the people driving me crazy. I get so sick of people shouting in the street in front of my house, annoying neighbors, and endless idiots on the road. I need some space to get away from these yahoos! Unfortunately with the housing collapse I can’t sell my house for what I owe….

  31. EllenB says:

    I lived in a rural area four miles from a small town a number of years ago. Loved having a large garden, animals, and the quiet. Most of the townspeople considered anyone not born there an outsider and outside of their social sphere, so my only friend also came from somewhere else. Not all towns are like that, but it is something to consider.

  32. Johanna says:

    Cost of living depends on what you want to buy. A lot of the things I buy regularly are actually cheaper where I live (in the near suburbs of a major city) than they are in small towns and rural areas. A cheaper 2000 square foot house is only a bargain if you want a 2000 square foot house. And if you’re in an urban area where you can get by without a car, that knocks your cost of living down quite a bit.

    Rural areas aren’t necessarily any quieter than urban areas. When my mom first moved to the rural area where I grew up, having lived in cities and suburbs all her life to that point, she was constantly distracted by all the animal noises, especially at night. It’s just a matter of what kind of background noise you’re used to, and what you can block out.

    As others have said, there’s more to culture than museums and symphonies. There are ethnic restaurants, street performers, coffeehouse concerts by little known singers, and neighborhood festivals, to name a few. None of them worth a three-hour drive by themselves, but all of them worth going to.

    Class size isn’t the only, or even the best, measure of the quality of a school. A three-person physics class is great, as long as there’s a well qualified teacher teaching that class. And as long as the school doesn’t cancel the class entirely because only three people signed up for it. And as long as you don’t have a schedule conflict between the one period when physics is offered and some other class you need to take.

  33. Nicole says:

    Living in a much larger city than I grew up in, I’ve come to the realization that it can be a bit like being “alone in a crowd.” Even though I have many more social opportunities, it’s really the same five or so people I hang out with regularly, and the same two or three restaurants we go to (granted, the food is good). We have an enormous “upscale” mall but minutes away that has the same generic, mass-appeal stuff every time I go and I often come home empty-handed and in a worse mood. Maybe it’s a comfort knowing it’s all there if you want it, but how many people are ever really going to take full advantage?

    @ Becky: That’s true, but that stuff doesn’t spoil in a matter of days like produce. Also, I recently saw a video about a woman who lived in 90 square feet. Yes, that’s right, 90 square feet. If she could fit two or three people in that space, I wonder what the 400 guy’s excuse is? I’m pretty sure the average dorm room is a lot smaller than that too, and has to house two, and somehow we managed. For heaven’s sake, my studio apt is probably not even that size and it feels plenty spacious to me. I’d be highly surprised if most of us couldn’t find at least one or two ways to use our space better — for instance, if I had been thinking, I might have lofted my bed.

  34. littlepitcher says:

    Michelle is correct. Add to the mix: little for teens to do except drink, drug, and drag-race. Your child’s high-school companions could get him or her killed or addicted.
    Educational level, and interest in the life of the mind, is low to nonexistent. Expect to keep your intellectual life online, and to tolerate long and tedious conversations on soap operas, sports, and repetitive personal life problems, in order to pacify neighbors.
    If you have or develop health problems, the gasoline expenses will add up, especially if your local hospital makes a vet’s office look stellar. If you need emergency prescriptions, they may take up to a week to arrive.
    If you unwittingly make an enemy, its relatives will be in your doctor’s office, on the register at the store, and at the convenience store, so don’t use your credit cards at any of these places.
    I adore country nights, back porches, and gardens, but they have a steep price.

  35. Meredith says:

    I’ve lived the country as a child and an adult, and I’ve lived in a huge city and a few medium-sized ones too. The isolation and the lack of opportunity (as well as the lack of recreation for teenagers) are all big negatives for me.

    Critical mass of anything is reached faster in a city because you have lots of people around. It takes a lot more work to build a business, start a gaming group, or organize anything in the country since it’s so much more spread out.

    Not to mention each family member needs a car and everyone has to be driven everywhere. As gas prices increase, this will continue to get even more expensive.

  36. Mister E says:

    My Dad’s side is from very small towns.

    Nothing much to do other than drink, fight, and uhm fornicate.

    Or to paraphrase Alan Thicke regarding his small town upbringing – Basically the boys played hockey and the girls got pregnant. I don’t think that we ever sent a boy to the NHL but a few of the girls went pro.

  37. guinness416 says:

    Mister E – nice one, I laughed.

  38. KC says:

    I’ve lived in both environments – grew up rural, most of adulthood spent in urban – RDU, Charlotte, Memphis, Winston-Salem, NC (so cities of varying sizes). They all had their pluses and minuses. I love the city – visit NY and Chicago anytime I can. All of our vacations are to cities. I loved living in the city – the big ones and the smaller ones. My parents are still in the same town I grew up in – so I still have that rural connection. I have to laugh at some of the comments. Guns, meth-head crimes? Yeah, they happen, but I’ve always had more crime problems when I lived in the city – even in the affluent neighborhoods. Even in bucolic Winston-Salem I’ve had some problems with crime. Charlotte, Memphis? Don’t get me started… On the flip side my parents, despite my constant urgings, still leave the keys in their car and don’t lock their house sometimes.

    Everyone is going to have some choices. Some people will make more and be happier in rural or suburban settings – others will not. When we moved from the large city to the bucolic smaller city we saw an increase in income of 250% as well as a cost of living that was about 30% less. But not everyone else will have the same experience.

    Live near your family, live where you can maximize your earning potential and live near what makes you happy. For us its a smaller city (400k pop.) near our families. It has been positive for us financially and emotionally.

  39. Andrea says:

    The rural/city life is what you make of it. Be content wherever you are. We used to live in the city, now we live at the end of a mile long dirt road. There are pluses and minuses to both places we have lived.

    What no one has commented on so far is Trent’s comment: The lack of distractions makes it easier to focus on the task at hand and focus on your goals as well.

    If you are a person who is easily distracted, you can just as easily be distracted out in the country as you can in the city. That becomes one of those personal things that you have to adjust yourself to. Sure no one rings our doorbell (we dont even have one anymore), but when the cows get in the yard that’s just as unwelcome and distracting. At least the person ringing the doorbell wont eat my flowers to nubs. :)

  40. EngineerMom says:

    This is definitely a very personal decision. I do NOT want to ever live rural. I would miss a lot, including:

    1. Public transportation. I expect to be unable to drive at some point when I’m old, and I want access to a good public transportation system so I can remain independent.

    2. The freedom to NOT spend an entire day at the museum/zoo/theater. I love that I can take my toddler to the zoo for just couple of hours, then get him home in time for a good nap. I also love the time to really explore an entire museum over the course of weeks’ worth of visits.

    3. Being able to walk to the store, library, church, friends’ houses, mall, restaurants, etc. We only own one car. That would not be possible if we lived in the country – DH would need one car to get to work, and I would need another car to do anything away from the house.

    4. People! I am a people person. Living with only myself, DH, and my children would quickly drive me batty. I love that in a metro area there are so many different people from different cultures. I’ve vacationed in very rural areas, and it’s incredibly boring. An entire town of white Protestant Christians. Blah.

    Granted, I’m a SAHM, not a blogger, so my need for concentration time is lower – DS’s nap usually gives me enough time to do what I want/need to do. DH is a scientific researcher – he will only ever be able to find jobs in fairly large universities, so we will never live in a rural area unless he agrees to a VERY long commute, which I definitely won’t make him do – 30 minutes is our max.

    I dislike most suburbs for the same reasons stated above. I’d rather live in a smaller home closer in to the city (we live in a 1400sqft home in an older suburb of Cincinnati – 20-30 minutes to reach downtown by car, 30-45 minutes by bus) than in a large home and have to drive hours to get to a good library or museum.

  41. Meg says:

    I live in a semi-rural area (Population: 5,000). I agree with Katie about the job-situation, as my husband and I both travel 45 minutes to an hour each way to get to and from work to earn more than $30,000/year.

    Though some things are inexpensive, others can be extremely expensive. We dont have sewers or city water so we had to pay $16,500 for a new septic when we moved into our fixer-upper.

    There are no gas lines in the area, so we heat our home with propane. Instead of having a monthly bill, we get hit with an $800 bill two or three times a year when they come to fill it up.

    We spend ALOT of money on water softener salt for our water because we dont have city water. We have looked into a system to make the water that comes out of the tap drinkable, but it would cost nearly $10,000.

    Forget about broadband internet. There are no lines even CLOSE to where we live. We have only one choice for our phone carrier, and they arent the best (nor the least expensive.)

    But I absolutely love where we live. We are nestled on one acre with a nice sized garden, room for our puppy to run and raise chickens. It is alarmingly quiet and full of nature. Though some of the expenses are higher, WE WOULDNT HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY!

    And as for the job-situation, we are working on paying off our last debt (except the house) and building up an emergency fund so that I can get a job in-town making almost half of what I make now in hopes of starting a family very soon.

  42. Ryan says:

    I’ve always thought I live in at least a somewhat rural area, but now I’m thinking maybe not. While there isn’t as much to do as there is in bigger cities, there’s way more to do than “drink and drugs”. And of course, no teenagers in cities EVER do those things, right?

  43. jim says:

    There are pros and cons to anywhere.

    One thing about schools is that small rural schools might do OK in state level tests but they don’t necessary prepare you well for college. Case in point : There are 2 high schools in our state top 10 if you rank by the generic state tests. Neither of those schools has any AP classes and only one of them seems to have some sort of spanish instruction. They seem to have very little choice in classes.
    On the other hand our local high school in the suburbs here only does average in the state tests. Yet there are 12 AP courses, a talanted/gifted program, honors courses, 3 foreign languages, etc.

    I went to a school that was in the suburbs and had AP courses, etc. I’d rather take that school over a rural school with 53 kids and no advanced college prep courses.

  44. Jonathan says:

    @Jim (#44) – I assume that this varies from state to state, and school district to school district. I grew up in a rural area (population of the largest city, which is where my high school was located, was less than 5,00). I took 5 AP classes while in high school. My school offered both Spanish (AP Level) and French. I had plenty of science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics) and Math (Algebra, Geometry, Calculus, was a member of the computer club and was involved in the school bank. While my high school didn’t have quite the offerings of the suburban school you mention, it did have significantly more to offer than the rural schools you mentioned. It may be that my school was exception for a rural school, but I do know that the education system isn’t as bad in all rural areas as some seem to believe.

  45. AndreaS says:

    I am really amazed at the anti-rural bias in these comments. Nothing for kids to do except drugs, drag-racing, sex, and drinking? Oh for pete’s sake.
    I raised a bunch of teens in a rural area… none ever did any of those things. Of that I am utterly sure. They are now young adults, of legal drinking age and still none likes alcohol, two have gone into law enforcement. None did drugs. Sex… well most didn’t have significant others until after high school.
    We live a brief walk across the road from a river. My kids had a canoe and a kayak, which they pulled to the river on a small cart my husband made for them. Some kids were on sports teams, and we hosted breakfasts and pre-meet pasta suppers. We hosted camp-out sleepovers, with teenage kids having the most awesome time romping all over the property playing hide-and-seek in the dark, water-balloon fights and so on. We hosted make-your-own pizza parties and parfait parties. Rural kids know how to make their own fun… flinging apples (from our old trees) on sticks, frisbee. If you give them a broken-down badminton set, don’t you know they make up some special rules to accommodate what they have. It is heart-warming to have so much fun with nothing.
    As younger kids they had the most amazing time building forts in the woods. Now, in their twenties, they look back and recall that as the most fun they ever had… now they say they are glad I didn’t allow video games, because if they had that, they would have never played in the woods with each other. Winter activities including snow shoeing, cross-county skiing and sled riding, all on our property or the adjacent properties. Some of my kids were quite involved in Scouts.
    Now as young adults they come to visit and still play together. Recently they got out the potato gun one son built years ago, and on several occasions were deliriously entertained shooting those same apples from old trees. One adult daughter is into geo-caching. They also go hiking and do similar outdoors activities. Sometimes they bring friends to pick our blueberries… on a peak day we might get ten quarts.
    As far as adult entertainment, it is what you make of it. I think living rurally is best suited for people who like productive activities as opposed to passive entertainment. We garden, build furniture, refinish yard-sale finds, sew, renovate, make our own wine (which adult kids don’t drink!!!) and so on. If you want to enjoy more of a social life, then you have to work at it more than we do. A friend who lives in a different rural area regularly hosts and attends get-togethers with other adults. These are usually pot-luck meals.
    And yeah, if I want to go to a theater movie it’s a 35-minute drive. But why would I do that when Netflix delivers to my mailbox?
    As for unplanned pregnancies, well, I guess we’re doing better than New York City where 41% of all pregnancies end in abortion.

  46. George says:

    One trend in the comments that I see is that people expect supplies of entertainment. Why? Can’t you entertain yourselves and your families? Or are your lives really that empty?

  47. Berdette says:

    What I find most interesting in the comments is each person’s definition of “rural”. To me a rural community is not at all the same as living in a small town. Rural is the lack of a town–being “out in the country” or “out in the sticks”. There are likely no businesses or services for several miles in a rural area. I think this is just my definition, not necessary THE definition.
    As to the advantages/disadvantages, urban, suburban, small town, and rural all have numerous advantages and disadvantages. Many posters commented on there being nothing to do in a rural area except drink, fight, fornicate, drag race, etc. I very stongly disagree with that statement. I grew up in a rural community and still live there now. We complained to our parents that we were bored and there was “nothing to do”, but kids everywhere do that. There was always plenty to do and still is–and fun, legal stuff, too. A few of the things that I enjoyed or do enjoy that are more limited in more populated areas are: riding horses, riding ATVs, hiking, swimming in the river/lake, building forts, hiking, being completely alone, raising animals, gardening. And of course there are many things that are available in all kinds of communities (movies, Scouts, church events, museums, zoos)–we just might have to drive a bit further to do them.
    It all boils down to that we all have different tastes and we live where we are free to make choices that suit those tastes.

  48. Katie says:

    One trend in the comments that I see is that people expect supplies of entertainment. Why? Can’t you entertain yourselves and your families? Or are your lives really that empty?

    Uh, because some people enjoy certain things that require a higher concentration of people to effectively do? Seriously? Someone who wants a community large enough that they can effectively engage in their passion of (to choose the example of a friend of mine) robotics is “empty”? What an odd, narrow way of looking at the world.

  49. George says:

    How does pursuing robotics require living in a city or higher concentrations of people?

  50. Katie says:

    How does pursuing robotics require living in a city or higher concentrations of people?

    Because, in this case, this one person can’t muster the physical resources and knowledge-base the person needs to do it at the level they want to. That is true of any number of hobbies and pursuits.

  51. kristine says:

    Meg, the water and heat (your negatives) are 2 of the reasons hubby and I are moving rural in a few years. Primary reason- I live for solitude and time in the mountains (I paint, he reads/writes). Reason 2- Can afford a house- 60-80K, paid off by age 65 (I am 45, and can still DIY most repairs). Right now we pay 2100/m in rent for a great school district, but the kids are almost grown. Reason3- gas shortages have nothing on the impending water shortages- I want a well! My grandma had one in CT. Reason 4- self sufficiency. I am looking at 2-4 acres, well water, in Western MA- gorgeous! State option for lo-cost healthcare, and tremendous pride and upkeep in public spaces. High taxes, but you actually get what you pay for! I will bee-keep on the side. But if you choose such a life- you had better love tons and tons of 1-on-1 time with your partner!

  52. SLCCOM says:

    Better check on your water rights first, Kristine! Some agricultural well users have been blocked from using wells on their property.

  53. jim says:

    #44 Jonathan, Yes it certainly varies school to school. I think its unlikely rural schools would usually offer as much advanced or varied course work as big schools but thers no reason a rural school can’t have a decent selection. But of course you can also find inner city schools with really poor offerings as well.

    I was mostly responding to Trents point about looking at state averages. You have to look deeper than that to get a good picture. Those state scores don’t really tell you all that much.

  54. #1Nana says:

    Another reason why rural works for me: short lines at the post office and relatively short at DMV. You can get a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment quickly. Short commuting time…I get irritated when I get caught at the light by the Mormon Church otherwise it’s non-stop to “town.” Most of the time we don’t bother to lock our doors.

  55. Nate Poodel says:

    @#25 Jonathan-I’m happy for you. I do believe your experience is/was different than mine and I am sure there are people I went to school with who are living happily in my hometown today.

    #45 AndreaS-”As for unplanned pregnancies, well, I guess we’re doing better than New York City where 41% of all pregnancies end in abortion.” I’m sure that’s true. I believe the national average is 20% of unplanned pregnancies end in abortion. Where you live that would mean a larger number of unplanned pregnancies are brought to term with the babies being born to parents who may or may not be prepared or even wanting them but in New York City they would not. I would like to know how your area compares with the rest of the nation in unwed and teenage mothers. And, are they struggling to live above the poverty level?

  56. MARY says:

    Wow! I thought after reading the article that there would be a lively discussion but it exceeded my expectations!
    Have to put my 2 cents in-I grew up in Boston and met my husband in Fla (outside Clearwater). He grew up outside a very small town (1 traffic light) in Michigan. There are things I miss about living in a big city,but we live now in a rural area outside a smallish city in the Midwest and I love it. Living where we did in Fla,we didn’t connect with too many people because it was such a transient area. Here it’s just big enough that if you are shopping or at the doctor’s office, you will see someone you know,but there are enough people that you could probably avoid someone you don’t get along with. 15 minutes from the movies,theater,nightclubs,minor-league baseball, even rollerderby! We are north of the city and I commute south of the city and it’s only a 25 minute commute!
    One thing I miss about Boston though is being able to get clams with bellies-this is the land of the clam strip (rubber bands!)

  57. Jan says:

    We live semi rural. The choices in jobs are small- but available. The neighbor kids (ours are grown) fish, hike, skateboard, 4H, Scouts (through high school), marching band. I could go on. I see them all over the place. We haven’t had a DUI death in a long time. My nephews (in a large city) has three students who have died in “his class” so far. He is a sophomore.
    Most of the kids who come from homes that care, go on to college. It is a norm in my rural state. No one asks where you grew up but which of the six state colleges, 28 private colleges or 19 technical colleges you attended.
    When I want to go to a good museum I get on a plane and spend a week in DC. I have the money since I spend very little here. We went out to Italian two nights ago—$21. with wine! Yes, I do know what Italian tastes like. Most of our marriage was spent overseas. My groceries and gas cost about the same as it does in Phoenix (I was there three weeks ago).
    My door is rarely locked. I know a number of people who leave their keys in the car- knowing that if someone needs it they will return it.
    You do have to get used to the dark again. Starlight is amazing!

  58. Petercha says:

    Another benefit of rural living that the writer didn’t mention is that you don’t have people breathing down your neck all the time telling you how to live – far fewer home owner’s associations measuring the height of your grass to the last eighth of an inch, what color you can paint your house, what kind of mailbox you can have, etc.

  59. Ash says:

    I can’t believe I am the first one to say this but here goes
    I am non-white, non-Christian. I do not ever expect to “fit in” in a rural setting. Gotta love diversity and the city life.

  60. Nina says:

    Hi,
    I grew up in a town with 11,000 people, now 13,000.
    Today I live in a city with 683,000 people (a million during the workday due to commuters) and it’s soooo much better.
    Public transportation after 8 in the evening – yes! Walk to a library in less than ten minutes, open five days a week, not two hours per week, yes! Museums, a broad variety of doctors, ethnic shops and restaurants of all types – great! Large corporations that offer employment in my business area instead of a one hour drive each way.
    No neighbours who tell my parents if I did not come home till the wee morning hours – fantastic!

    I guess I am staying in my new city forever.

  61. aj says:

    Just like with everything else, we are all different and have different views on this.
    I live in a rural town. I love it here, most of the time. It is what you make of it.

    When I first graduated high school I wanted to get the heck outta here more than anything as I felt the desire to get out into the real world that was more diverse & cultured. And I did love, and still do, traveling…but I learned that here in my small town is where I want to call home. My Husband & I did a lot of soul searching before committing to buying a house…for us, living near our family was more important than anything else.

    And raising our children here has been great also. We are very active in the community & volunteering, and there are a lot of after school programs offered that are absolutely wonderful (and free!) like intro classes to violin, piano, guitar, blacksmithing, glass fusing jewelry making, sports, karate, etc. And we are an hour away from 2 larger cities.

    As long as we have high speed internet we have the world at our fingertips! That really does make a huge difference compared to when I grew up rural–you still can have the peacefulness of the country but you don’t feel cutoff from the rest of the world. I wouldn’t change a thing.
    I can always travel, but Home is Home.
    And so it is up to each of us to determine where their true Home is, what is best for each of us individually.

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