Over the course of the pandemic, as working off-site became the new reality for a number of office workers, there seemed to be an apparent shift in thinking: If one can work remotely, is proximity to the office a must?
To my surprise, articles emerged about the beginning of a trend, an interest in migrating from the city and its suburbs to more rural properties. I guess we were just a little ahead of the curve when we chose this country property as the backdrop for our approaching retirement years.
For the record, it wasn’t a completely random choice. This is where my partner grew up and where his parents live now. While I may be a little farther away from my own mother and stepmother, to pay them a visit would entail little to no traffic along the way, which is a relief in itself.
I know that a few people in my immediate circle of family and friends wondered (… or should that be worried?) if I had made the right decision.
Even I will admit that I was very entrenched in city life. I liked being within walking distance to shopping. I was a heavy consumer of entertainment and cultural events. I appreciated variety in restaurants and food offerings. The vibrancy of the city and many of its amenities were always important to me.
But I think I surprised everyone, including myself, in terms of how quickly I took to rural living. I was definitely ready for the change.
During my years of city life, for the most part, I had delightful neighbours. Unfortunately, in my first apartments, I had to deal with a few self-entitled morons whose understanding of “quiet enjoyment of premises” as described in our rental agreements, held different interpretations.
For me, there were sleepless nights, not only from blaring stereos and surround sound systems at all hours, any day of the week, but from the constant internal struggle for the balance between being an accommodating neighbour and still being able to feel calm and relaxed in my own home.
I didn’t want to become that short-tempered, cranky neighbour to others, but sleep deprivation and the constant “fight or flight” adrenaline rush in my stomach triggered by the vibration do not bring out the best in me.
When shopping for my last townhouse, I specifically chose an end unit, to deal with fewer neighbours. Unfortunately, at one point, I was stuck with first-time homeowners who seemingly ran their home like a frat house.
In addition to late night parties and music so loud that it could have been measured on the Richter scale, the fact that they didn’t see anything wrong with their dog pooping in my yard (repeatedly) or using my driveway as their guest parking without permission (repeatedly) added to my escalating blood pressure. Fortunately for me, that episode only lasted 18 months… (18… VERY… LONG… MONTHS…) but left me with a non-negotiable craving for distance from neighbours in my next home.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the commuting was getting to me as well. As much as I am by nature, a patient, cautious driver, I was drained from the constant hypervigilance required to be everyone else’s eyes, when theirs are busy checking their phones.
Just last week I ran a couple of errands and noticed how I had to adapt my driving style as I crossed into the city limits, to survive the “me first” lack of courtesy and the “get out of my way” sense of competition, urgency and/or self-importance.
The background noise of the city that used to be a delightful soundtrack that propelled me and energized me, was also becoming an increasing irritant. Noise pollution seemed to be ever present, whether construction noise, barking dogs, air conditioner units or traffic. I never seemed able to get away from it.
That was when I completely understood why people bought cottages or became enthusiastic campers.
At that point of readiness, when I was so starved for tranquility, moving to the country was a pretty easy decision and transition for me.
Over the last year, I found great enjoyment in the wide open spaces, the calming sounds of nature, and how dispersed the neighbours were. There are days when farm machinery is going full blast in the neighbouring fields, but those account for just a day here and there.
Most times, going for a little walk outside is pretty soothing for the senses, although there are times that there just isn’t enough tranquility to make up for a lifetime of ambient noise. Some healing is required, I think. It is surprising, even to myself, how I cling to my peace and quiet.
Even though we are more than delighted with our parcel of land, there is a lot of work to be done outside. Finding time and energy at the end of a work day or work week, after meal prep and household chores can be a challenge, but we manage.
Do I ever feel isolated? Not yet. We have been so busy this past year, I have not had time to be bored or lonely. Looking ahead, I have a number of interests that are not really dependent on geographical proximity to anything, so I should be fine. But if I didn’t, I can see how someone might find it lonely.
I did find the winter a little long, but then again I find every winter a little long for my liking, even in the city. I don’t think that will change, wherever I happen to be living.
For me, you could say that moving to the country was a return to my roots (…sort of). Growing up in a fairly new subdivision in the early 1970s felt a lot like the way I feel now in this rural town. It’s a familiar vibe and one that holds many wonderful memories of a simpler time and a less harried pace which is exactly what I am looking for.
There were adjustments to be made. The first was hard water. Even with a water treatment system, hard water does have a distinct smell, better on some days, worse on others, and has slowly turned some of our white linens a shade of pale yellow. We’re still searching for the magic combination of laundry additives to prevent that from happening.
The other big adjustment was the quality of rural Internet (or lack thereof), that wasn’t intended to accommodate so many residents working from home or attending school remotely.
If someone was contemplating moving from the city to the country, before putting in an offer on a house, I would suggest reviewing carefully their current routine and their dependency on the city’s amenities and offerings. Then they need to ask themselves, can they live without them? What are the substitutes, if there are any?
Also, in moving from a city condominium to a country home, not only are we responsible for the costs if something were to happen to big infrastructure pieces like the roof, the foundation, the heating and cooling systems, but we are also responsible for a well, a septic system and a sump pump system. Repairs to home infrastructure are not cheap and should be factored into the decision.
And do they have the time and energy (or budget) for the maintenance that goes with a rural property, like snow removal and lawn and garden care?
In a nutshell, is moving to the country the right decision for everyone? No, I don’t think so.
But for me, moving to the country was the right decision at the right time, with no sense of regret or a need to return to the city.
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Have a great day,