How to Adjust to Rural Living...Moving from the City to the Country
Five years ago my husband and I moved from not quite the city (more like the suburbs) to the country. Geographically isolated, my visions of quick airplane trips to shop and visit on days off and over weekends were dashed with challenging financial circumstances. It was a transition much more difficult than either of us imagined, and left on our own with few friends or entertainment options, stressful on our marriage as well.
Today, if we had the opportunity to pick up our house and put it anywhere else in the world, I am sure that both of us would decline the offer. Perseverance has paid off, and we now see the value of a slower lifestyle in a small community. The following are strategies that helped to ease the transition...and the more we apply them the happier we seem to be.
Listen and Learn. In new surroundings, it is vital to develop your listening skills. People are talking about the issues and politics of the area. Take the community pulse. Don't be the new person coming in and trying to apply your big-city viewpoint to a place with its own unique history. Also, in small towns many people are related or connected somehow. It is helpful to recognize this and learn the connections. It helps to break the ice when you can say “Oh, I met your cousin the other day!”
Attend Events. In the beginning, I remember feeling like I was in some kind of rehab facility. I know that's weird, but I was used to going to bars, concerts, art openings, and restaurants for social activities. In my new home, those things just weren't happening. Instead, I was going to fairs, fundraisers, rodeos, and family parties, all with massive amounts of children in attendance. It just is not the same vibe, but does give you a good glimpse of the people who live there, and something to talk about with your new co-workers. It helps you to become part of the community, not a stranger who just happens to live there.
Smile and be Friendly. When I expressed nervousness about “fitting in” to a friend before I moved, she reminded me that being a rural place, other people would also be nervous about me. Certain openness is critical as to how you are perceived in a small town. I can honestly say that I have made more quality friendships in the five years here than I did in the fifteen years I lived in my previous town. I attribute much of this to my effort to be open and friendly with people.
Show Enthusiasm. There is nothing worse than someone who moves to a new place and then does nothing but complain about it. Where I live, the service is slow and sometimes terrible, the selection of things to buy is poor, the prices are high, and things are generally inefficient and inconvenient. I have a choice. I can both further alienate and mark myself as an outsider by constantly and loudly complaining about it, or I can appreciate all that is awesome about it. There is no line at the DMV, parking at the airport is close and free, there is no traffic (and there are no traffic lights), and everyone waves to each other. How great is that?
Cultivate the Values and the Lifestyle. Well, I do miss good Thai and Mexican restaurants, but guess what? I have learned to cook! I have my own chickens and fresh eggs. I grow my own sprouts. I wear jeans and t-shirts more than anything else. A day out on the boat replaces a day at the mall, and an evening at the beach replaces happy hour. Allow the natural rhythms of a rural lifestyle to guide you, and your priorities will naturally shift. I have a feeling that the rewards will continue to accrue.
Be a Big Fish in a Small Sea. When we do go out at night, chances are we know the musicians. They all have day jobs, but at night have the opportunity to practice their passion. Use the slowed-down lifestyle to pursue greatness in your creative or intellectual pursuits. There is time to practice, time to focus, and usually a venue in which you can shine. Crafters and artists refine their skills, use the Saturday market as their test crowd, and then sometimes shoot to success. Both my husband and I have pursued hobbies that I have a feeling we would have never gotten around to in our old location. It is those moments, when the guy who I bought my groceries from is knocking out the crowd with his fabulous voice, that I love rural living the most.