City mouse or Country mouse?
December 25, 2009 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Help me find resources that can help me decide if I'll actually be happy moving to a smaller town.

I'm a city boy, having grown up in Victoria BC. It's about 300,000 people, not huge, but it's a city. I like it here in many ways, it's a beautiful, interesting city, though it can be a little sleepy (New York it is not). I've lived here for most of my 37 years. I appreciate being able to get around town by bicycle and on foot, all year long. I also like urban food culture, live shows and dancing.

I also like the outdoors, nature, wilderness and I'm increasingly pulled towards thoughts of having a bit of land, growing food, permaculture and natural building. I teach public school, and can therefore find work in most any sizable community, at least within my Province.

I'm currently single and have, for the time being, become somewhat frustrated with the whole 'dating scene'. I have had serious, long term relationships before. I know I'd like to have one again and I definitely want kids one day. I am male.

The last few years I have being mentally toying with the idea of moving to a small town, purchasing a few acres and pursuing elements of my permaculture and natural building dreams. I'm also tempted by thoughts of being able to get out to 'outdoor sports' locations far quicker than I can from the city. This was also a dream pursued by my most significant, recent ex; she has since gone the other direction and moved to a much larger urban center.

In some ways this is a convenient time for me to just pack up and move, having just sold my house, and being single. Yet part of me wonders at how the likelihood of meeting a 'special someone' while living outside a small town. I also wonder if my city boy brain can actually fathom the reality of small town/rural life. It can sound very idyllic, but I recognize that I have no real experience of it, just a bunch of vague ideals.

So my questions boil down to:

- Have you made this move (to a small town) with little previous experience of the life, especially as a single? How was it?
- Do you know of any good books, websites, stories etc..., exploring this conundrum.
- What is your opinion or experience of 'country dating' for displaced urbanites in their late 30s?
- Any other comments or thoughts?
posted by Sustainable Chiles to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Can't speak to the whole dating angle, but as I have a similar disposition (city boy who loves nature), I can say that I went crazy after less than a month in a small BC town. Nature is great but I missed the live shows, the multicultural diversity, old dirty buildings ... etc. But that was just my experience and I was almost twenty years younger than you.

Since you are talking about staying in BC, what about Nelson? You can get both sides of the coin there, at least in my experience, although it might not be small enough for your interests.
posted by mannequito at 4:53 PM on December 25, 2009

Have you made this move (to a small town) with little previous experience of the life, especially as a single? How was it?

Yes, Santiago, Chile (pop. 7.2 Million) to Napa, Ca, (pop. 72.000). It sucked, bad.
Aside from the whole absolutely nothing to do and nowhere to go without a car (and even then it just meant you could go to a slightly better mall)-deal, the social life was abysmal, nobody I could relate to even slightly.
I ended up moving to Berkeley, which was a 1 hour highway commute versus my previous 5 minute walk to work, just to get some semblance of city life again.
posted by signal at 5:01 PM on December 25, 2009

Best answer: You might consider getting land near a college or arts town. This will reduce your driving and give you some cultural & social outlets. Even then, be sure you're willing to drive a lot and depend completely on your car.

I grew up in a major city, then moved to a city of about 250k, and then 10 years ago moved to a house in 13 acres of woods. The cool thing is that my home is biking distance from a somewhat hip college town of about 90k that has art films, ethnic restaurants, and all that. A short drive down the road in the other direction is a lake and national forest.

If I had bought land further out, I'd be sick of driving all the time (I drive too much as it is). And even though I'm a mere 15 minutes' drive from the center of town, my town friends act as if I live in the boonies and are reluctant to make "such a long drive" to get to my place, so I end up going into town to their place way more often than they come to mine. This would be even worse if I were farther out.

Another option you might consider is an intentional community in the country. However, they have their own challenges, and the ones I'm familiar with have a substantial drive into town.

Also consider how willing you are to depend totally on a car, especially if you're concerned about peak oil. Besides my bike (it's a 40-minute ride), I have no other way to get to town, because there's no public transport. A cab costs US$22 one way. And once I get to town, there's not even a bus or train to get people to the bigger cities in the area. You have to drive.

I'm currently visiting a city and love not needing a car. It's possible that my 10 years of living outside of town has made me sick of driving, and I'm now considering living in a city for part of the year.

For romance, it can be tricky navigating a small dating pool where everyone knows everyone else. With any luck, you'll find a community that knows how to do that without drama. I'm happily single but when I occasionally come out of my hermit shell and look around to see if there's anyone new, I just see the same people I've always seen.

For lots of info about rural living and homesteading, check out Countryside and Small Stock Journal, which I think is available in Canada.
posted by PatoPata at 6:44 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was young (first grade, 1969) my family moved to a small town. Bad idea. We were different -Yankees in the south - and it didn't work out well at all. Much discrimination, much religion in the public, unaccredited schools, and got defrauded by a real estate agent on the way out.
posted by bleeb at 7:01 PM on December 25, 2009

Best answer: I moved from a bustling college town to a tiny community in a rural, mountainous area. It worked for me because I went to work at an outdoor rec company, so there was a large community of interesting, outdoorsy, not-from-around-here types already there. I went there, I thought, just for a summer and ended up staying for years. I eventually married there and my husband and I lived on several acres down a gravel road in the middle of the woods. Dating was easy for most youngish folks because there were so many other youngish folks there.

What I loved: incredibly easy access to outdoor recreation; lovely people (this was an established outdoors community); beautiful scenery; lots of trees.

What I didn't love: driving 30 minutes to the grocery store; driving 45 minutes to a crappy movie theater; driving 90 minutes to the one good movie theater in the region; and going to that same city to have any shopping options beyond big box stores; everyone judging everyone's else's relationships; the off-season lull that seems neverending; being incredibly dependent on my car for just about anything. Unfortunately, the simple life in the country is not compatible with urban values of low impact living, at least when it comes to transportation.

We stayed in most nights. Going out meant dinner at a friend's house. That part was nice for me, actually. But it doesn't work for people interested in a bar or club scene.

When I lived there, lots of city people would come and go all the time--after saying it had been their life's dream to be there. It's a really hard adjustment for some people. You have to wait to paddle/hike/bike/snowshoe (whatever) all the time, and for it to be your real passion.

You say you like live shows, dancing, and walking around town. This is not a rural lifestyle.

I lived in the woods for about eight or nine years, and it was great. But I'm so glad now to live in a larger city. And now after being back in a big town, there's really no way I could go back. For a summer yes, but not for good.

Is there any way you could do a test run, say by spending a summer in a small town?
posted by bluedaisy at 7:27 PM on December 25, 2009

I have a friend who is like a gypsy, and although now married and with kids, continues to move about the country (US) and has never regretted the many places she has lived. I have another friend who always tells me "you can always do a u turn" which is a unique approach to things. I don't think she regrets anything either, even her 3 failed marriages, which says a lot.
You could have an urban farm. I read the book, Farm City, and thought this would be a good compromise, having had a similar quandary as yours, but may not be ideal. In any case, it is a good read. She has a blog too, as does her sister, who is doing something similar in France.
Travel helps too. Spend a month somewhere and see if you like it. That has helped me a lot.
Best of luck.
posted by bookshelves at 7:57 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I moved from Seattle (metro area pop. 3+ million) to a small town outside of Flint, MI (the town itself is pop. ~3000, and Flint is pop. ~120,000). I did not move because I wanted more suburban/rural life, although that is certainly what I got. That being said, I think being cut off from urban life depends on just how rural you go.

I'm not familiar personally with the B.C. countryside. Is it possible for you, like me, to live in an area where people comfortably have half an acre or more of land to themselves, yet still be able to reasonably drive to a moderately sized city? Flint is no Seattle, that's for sure, but there are still opportunities for nightlife, cultural experiences, some okay shopping, etc.
posted by asciident at 8:18 PM on December 25, 2009

This was also a dream pursued by my most significant, recent ex; she has since gone the other direction and moved to a much larger urban center.

That just leaped off the page. You've recently broken up with the the most significant love of your life and now you're going to move to the sticks and eat dirty home-grown potatoes and wear flannel shirts, you're thinking you need a buxom woman wearing a gingham dress and a straw hat to bear your tribe of healthy, corn-fed children? Come on.

I'm actually somewhat amazed that no-one else reading this thread and/or responding to it has caught this. Your most significant ex, your most recent ex -- she pursued this dream but has since moved the other direction. She tried this but didn't pull it off. Are you trying to show her that you've got the jam to do this, even though she's just a weak city-slicker?

Don't buy anything for a year, get yourself sorted out, settle down, teach some school, date someone or don't but there are plenty of fine women in that town, there just are, and you know it, though you maybe can't see it just now. Obviously, do whatever you want, but don't do it in response to this relationship.

Slow. Down.

Good luck.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:00 AM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @ dancestoblue

I can see why (due to my ambiguous grammar) you had the impression that it was a very recent break up, and that my ex had lived the life.

It ended a couple of years ago, and I've dated since then, though nothing very significant. And my ex did not end up moving off to the countryside at any point.

This is indeed a conundrum I'm struggling with in my own right, my own dreams.

So, nope, I'm not looking to slot the first Earth Mama that comes along, into my empty void...
posted by Sustainable Chiles at 1:04 AM on December 26, 2009

Phew! 'k, sorry to jump up and down there, and good luck!
posted by dancestoblue at 1:46 AM on December 26, 2009

I'm in a smallish town but driving distance to the GTA. In most of Canada, small town = way the fuck away from everything and the relatively few colleges/universities mean we don't have the same number of quirky small towns as the US. The dating pool (and opportunities to meet) are much smaller than what you have now.

That being said, there is nothing more attractive than someone that has their shit together and is pursuing their own dream. I know it is kinda weird, but there is a book by the financial post (I know, I know) that gives you demographic info on a lot of places in Canada. I am pretty sure it is called FP markets. Obviously, moving somewhere with more single people will help you statistically. Good luck!
posted by saucysault at 2:26 AM on December 26, 2009

You probably already know this but Harrowsmith Country Life magazine is a great resource.
posted by saucysault at 2:38 AM on December 26, 2009

Um, I said you have to "wait to paddle/bike" etc but I meant WANT to paddle/bike etc. Sorry.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:32 PM on December 26, 2009

Don't know if you are still reading this, but there's something to be said for trying out this kind of life so as not to dream about it forever, always wondering.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:06 PM on December 26, 2009

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