There’s a valuable opportunity out there for many people, but it’s going to waste. This opportunity is presented by the thousands of small, under-populated towns and villages in the world, and the chances these places offer for a sane, satisfying lifestyle.
I grew up and lived in the suburbs of Toronto until I was 27, but have spent the next 30+ years and counting as a full-time country dweller. I still have friends and family who I visit in big cities, so I know both sides of the urban versus small town scene better than most. And despite the decades-long trend for people to move from rural areas to urban ones, I’ve found significant changes in the world that make it more sensible for some people to buck this trend. So, if you’re tired of the city, let me tell you why retooling yourself for small town life is more doable and more desirable than ever. These opportunities can be the makings of a better life for you and your family, and the arrival of the right kind of people out here in the rural hinterland could also improve the situation in thousands of small towns across the world. A win-win situation.
The more people who crowd together in one place, the more competition and stress there is for everything. Resources, business opportunities, houses, parking spaces, even peace-and-quiet, and all the things people need – they all take more effort and more money to acquire when competition is high. Have you been trapped in a traffic jam lately? That’s you competing with a bunch of other drivers for very limited road space. Are you having trouble affording a home? I know young people who are comfortably living in their own home for 90% less money than they’d have to pay in big cities. Once again, the lower competition of small towns means saner access to the necessities of life.
Want to start a business? Many small towns offer better opportunities than cities, especially given the opportunity for online work and business. The small town where I shop, for instance, Gore Bay, Ontario, Canada, has terrific vacant retail spaces at subsidized rates. Business regulations are more sane than in cities and, most important of all, competition is lower. Businesses succeed in my area that would be pushed to bankruptcy in mere weeks in bigger places with more people running faster and pushing harder.
Slowly, without fanfare, the quality of shopping and entertainment in rural areas has skyrocketed over the last 20 years. The online shopping I enjoy now, living in the middle of nowhere, is superior to what anyone enjoyed in even the largest cities pre-internet in bricks-and-mortar stores. Entertainment is great, too. Streaming a family movie on a Saturday night is not the same as live theatre in big urban areas, but most people in cities never make use of high culture anyway.
A peaceful, well-ordered city is a wonderful thing, but what happens when unrest rears it’s ugly head? The more densely populated the area, the more vulnerable you are to unrest that’s completely outside your control. COVID has reminded me of this big-time. Here in our area, life has been more or less business as usual. No store lineups to speak of, no shortages of much, no unfounded hassles from over-zealous authorities trying to make politics look like science. Put on a mask when you go into shops (if you forget someone will politely remind you) and that’s about it. Our beaches and parks have been open all summer. If I based my worldview on observable reality, I wouldn’t know much unusual was going on.
The one thing many small towns needs is energetic people with a vision for a better future. We need more of the right kind of people out here, and that’s where you might come in. Take a drive out past city limits someday and think about what life could be like if you never paid for parking, you didn’t need a fancy vehicle for an hour-long commute on screaming-fast highways twice a day, and no need to be a slave to a monster mortgage. This has all been my experience living out here in the country and it could be yours, too.
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