Life like Walden
August 31, 2012 11:06 AM   Subscribe

After many years of living a very social life in a very big city I find myself living alone in a very remote part of the world. Seeking advice and insight into a life of solitude.

My partner and I had planned for years to get out of the city and take on a smallholding far, far away. When the opportunity arose I took the risk and jumped but she didn't and we ended up going our separate ways. My new home is pretty remote, the nearest store is five miles away, I have no close neighbours although it's easy enough to meet people if I try. There are very few people my own age or background here however, the locals are much older and quite conservative. I work from home and am happy with my life choice however I can easily go a week without seeing or speaking to another person and when I do it's usually in a structured setting like being served in a shop, giving directions or simply saying hello as we pass. I'm naturally quite introverted so for the most part time on my own is entirely comfortable however I am plagued by doubts about this being a "natural" or "healthy" way to live. I miss female company most of all, there is practically zero chance of meeting a partner here and I fear becoming the strange old man in the empty house who dies alone. I have Internet access and good contact with old friends in the city which suffices me for human contact. My day to day work is fun, enjoyable, stimulating (copywriting, design). I rear animals and grow my own food, hunt and fish in a beautiful part of the world. I can indulge hobbies like stargazing and painting. I guess I'm looking for input, advice or reassurance on living a life opposite to what the majority of people (?) would consider successful or normal i.e. no partner, no close friends, no social life, no children and insight into how to make the best of this situation I chose to place myself in. Many thanks.
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I can't offer reassurance, being a social extrovert as I am. However, if you're looking to meet people even in out of the way areas, is a pretty useful tool to find activity groups of like-minded people.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:09 AM on August 31, 2012

Your life right now sounds amazing. It's a great way to reconnect with yourself, living in beauty and nature. Do you have the means, when you get ultimately sick of it, to pick up and leave?
posted by rhythm_queen at 11:13 AM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

Quality social time is what has mattered to me when I've lived in relative physical isolation. This could be something like finding a pub you like, taking a class or volunteering.

Volunteering I would particularly recommend, because it gives you the structure of having a responsibility but lacks some of the stresses that often go along with that.
posted by howfar at 11:14 AM on August 31, 2012

Are you unhappy?

Ultimately, that's what life choices boil down to. If you do X and it makes you happy, keep doing it. If it doesn't then try Y, or Z. The problem arises when you do things that you feel you should do because other people are doing them. And yeah, mimicry is a good way to learn what you like and don't like, because there's probably going to be some value in something if lots of people do it. Whether or not it works for them, though, is of minuscule importance to whether it works for you.

Other people's rules work fantastically well for those other people. Don't be applying their rules to yourself, because you'll drive yourself round the bend trying to fit into a mould that you're completely the wrong shape for.

If you don't have a partner, and want one, then that's something to work on, because it's a desire you have that's coming from within you. Society places an extremely high value on finding a special someone who is everything to you - lover, friend, soulmate, etc. That's a really high pedestal to put someone on, though. And it doesn't work for everyone. If you're lonely, then go out and meet people, but don't do it because you feel you ought to. Do it because it will make you feel good.

If it's any comfort, I'm actually a teeny bit jealous. Your life sounds idyllic to me. Ultimately, though, what other people think doesn't matter. Do it for you, not because someone else says that you should or shouldn't.
posted by Solomon at 11:20 AM on August 31, 2012 [4 favorites]

You might like to read Sara Maitland's A Book of Silence. She talks about living alone and being in remote areas.
posted by paduasoy at 12:10 PM on August 31, 2012

Being alone can be blissful, but it can flip over into utter emptiness if you don't groom it properly.

I would schedule one or two times per week where I'd meet people in some non-random fashion. Example: after my ex-family left me here in the Swedish bush (that is, at the end of a tiny road in a 600-people village where I knew almost nobody), I joined a choir and drove 30 miles back and forth to Gothenburg every week as some type of self-commitment exercise. It matters somehow less what exactly one does during these times; the important thing is to know that one will be able to interact with people during these times. A pottery course, a model train club session, a reading circle, whatever.

Such organized morsels of social life help enjoying the remaining alone-time in a much more intense fashion.
posted by Namlit at 12:58 PM on August 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

The options of the past are even easier today than they were in yesteryear for dealing with the same lack of social activities.

Have you tried letter-writing? Here is a site you could try, it's free, and you can link up to people anywhere to either write emails, or old fashioned letter writing.

I'm quite introverted myself, and only like limited social interaction, but everyone needs some, it's hardwired into our brains.

As for what other people consider normal or successful, don't worry about what other people think. It's that much easier for you since you're so secluded. The idea of what's normal is really quite different from person to person. If you're happy with it, that's all that matters. As Dr. Seuss wrote, "The ones who matter don't care, and the ones who care don't matter."

Finding a mate will be a big challenge however. Rural areas are notoriously difficult in this respect. Just keep yourself open to whatever opportunities present themselves. Maybe try posting ads in CL or in homesteading magazines looking for someone with an interest in a similar lifestyle, apparently this wasn't unheard of in the not too distant past.
posted by Monkeyswithguns at 1:12 PM on August 31, 2012

What about listing your house with couchsurfing, or airbnb, or something similar. With that, you could have overnight visitors regularly but still within your comfort zone. And meet some pretty interesting people along the way. They'll just be passing through, so it's still a temporary setup, but you would still have some human interaction on a deeper level than clerks and servers. Do you have a guest bedroom?
posted by raisingsand at 1:32 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have lived in remote places outside of the U.S., for long stretches (Asia, east Africa). Sometimes I didn't speak to another human being for long periods of time. Other times, I was surrounded by people but they did not speak a word of English (water everywhere, but yet not a drop to drink...).

But, I was happy, I lived those times to the fullest - and I will never be the same having experienced emotions, scenes, and thoughts that I had only read about through characters in books.

It didn't break or harm me, and I returned to the U.S., and am living a full, productive life in the largest city in America, always talking, always surrounded. I miss that silence. But everything I returned back to, family, girlfriend, friends, all stand out a lot more to me, I appreciate them much more consciously.

What helped: knowing I will never do that forever, nothing is permanent. Initially this thought did not stick. But, as I started to settle in, I became much more at ease in enjoying the moment, even though this moment was not a short amount of time. Eventually, I started to see each day as bringing me closer to the inevitable day on which I would have to return. This more than anything, allowed me to fully remove those lingering doubts of the "harm" and the "danger" I was in.

Humans have developed tremendous capacity to adapt and persevere. We have an in-built survival code. When it's time to head back, you'll know.
posted by Kruger5 at 3:49 PM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

You say that the nearest store is five miles away.

How far away is the nearest town of 5-10,000 population? the nearest city of 75,000? Those factors affect the options for occasional socializing available to you.
posted by megatherium at 4:22 PM on August 31, 2012

Not sure if this is what you're looking for but since you said you miss female company most of all, I saw a news story once on a dating site for farmers. If you do a search, there's a couple different ones. At least you'd know the people on it are into rural life as much as you.
posted by stray thoughts at 4:26 PM on August 31, 2012

To echo stray thoughts above, take a gander at and
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:05 PM on August 31, 2012

Using your alone time to establish a 'sitting practice' may be useful for your growth. Ultimately you know what you need. The hard part is listening to your heart to hear what you need. Take time to be quiet and ask yourself the same questions.

BTW, it sounds like you live where I do. If you get involved in the community it will be good for you and for the community. Hope to see you out there some day!
posted by lake59 at 1:00 PM on September 1, 2012

As a relatively: young, single, rural person, I want to tell you there are a few others of that flavour out in the boonies. Many are, like you or me, in the countryside by choice rather than by accident of birth, and through that alone you will find some common ground...

...and the best way to find these people is through community involvement. And it is worth it. You will probably find that you like your neighbours, too.

Which is not to suggest that there's anything wrong with solitude, but I do think that the current state -- living in one community but avoiding creating bonds to it, while working on holding on to the bonds to the community you left -- is a mistake. It's easy, safe, and comfortable, but, a mistake. Start reading the local papers and bulletin boards, and sign yourself up for volunteer work and the like.

(Also, your house + the older outwardly conservative folk + your city friends = first-rate parties)
posted by kmennie at 6:05 PM on September 1, 2012

Is there a gathering place for locals such as a bar, dance hall, diner, etc.? Some sort of weekly happening (farmer's market, book club, etc.)? If so make a habit of showing up once a week and start making conversations.
posted by deborah at 1:15 AM on September 2, 2012

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