Should I move to nowhere? October 30, 2001 8:06 PM   Subscribe

Not all webloggers or Mefis live in big cities. Some live in small towns, while others have moved from one to the other. I'm considering moving from the suburbs to a very small town in the middle of nowhere. I've taken care of the logisistics: telecommuting, finding a house and am already married. From those that have done it, what are the downsides? Upsides? Opinions of anyone who's done it would be very helpful.
posted by danec to General Weblog-Related at 8:06 PM (20 comments total)

Everybody knows your business. Hard to get good fruits and vegetables except in season. Bookstores crappy...and don't give me that I can shop for books online crap--it's not the same as walking down a row of shelves and have a title pop out at you that you'd never have thought of on your own. Access to quality medical limited. Conversational topics limited, candor limited, free expression of thoughts limited--unless you want to be marked for life. Oh, I could go on... Suburbs are car friendly, cities are people friendly and small towns are for people who've lived there all their lives.

Get back to the lonely crowd. Move to a small town and you'll be under the microscope always.

Mayberry exists only in the imagination.

Unless there's dating services for small towns...
posted by y2karl at 8:24 PM on October 30, 2001

"Next stop, Willoughby."

And good theatre and live music can be hard to come by.

Thomas Woolf must be spinning in his grave.
posted by j.edwards at 8:28 PM on October 30, 2001

One upside: when you die, everyone will act like they were your best friend.
posted by ColdChef at 8:39 PM on October 30, 2001

Leaving the doors unlocked; knowing the kid across the way who sells lemonade on his front lawn (no kidding); walking anywhere you need to get; having the people at the grocery know your name and run after you when you forget something that didn't get into a bag; eye contact; conversation on the street; barber shops (I know, not restricted to small towns). And so on, mostly revolving around the pleasure of knowing people's names and having them know yours.


Everything said above and more.

Depends a great deal on your job. Telecommuting sounds like a great idea, but it could further isolate you from a community that's already a little isolationist. Make sure to get out in it - go to the high school football games, the library book sales, etc.

How big a town we talking about here, anyway? I live in a small city of ~90,000 that's 40 minutes from a large city. I wouldn't trade it (at least until my postdoc is up), but it's not for everyone.
posted by gleuschk at 9:21 PM on October 30, 2001

also, I read recently that teenagers in small towns are more likely to drink than their big-city peers, if only because there's nothing else to do.
posted by rebeccablood at 9:38 PM on October 30, 2001

yup.. i don't know how many times i've heard kids say, "there's pretty much nothing to do here except drink and f-ck."
posted by lotsofno at 9:43 PM on October 30, 2001

Hell, I live in L.A. and that's all there is to do here.
posted by Optamystic at 9:44 PM on October 30, 2001

Well, there may be other things to do, but why would you do them?
posted by Optamystic at 9:45 PM on October 30, 2001

I have lived in a town of 415 for 16+ years. I work at the local high school library. I take the gate at the local high school football games. The nearest town big enough to have a supermarket is 20 miles away, the nearest movie theater is 21 miles away. The nearest big city (San Francisco) is 60 miles away. We haven't watched TV since we moved here from LA 16+ years ago. We listen to the radio, rent DVD's and VHS movies, read a lot of newspapers, magazines and books. Our kids grew up here - 1 went to college for 2 years and is now married and working, the other is in college now. They both played sports and in the band and were in student government in high school. There isn't a lot for kids who aren't into reading or who know how to entertain themselves to do. But there was and is always the ocean. We're lucky enough to live across the street from it. It fascinates us every day and it lulls us to sleep at night. People drive from far away to come spend a weekend here. We can be and have been as involved in local activities as we wish and there are many of them. It's easier to make a big splash in a small town/community. And it's not all bad when everyone knows who you are. If our car breaks down on the way to or from town, someone we know always stops to offer help. I'd say for me, it's totally worth it.
posted by Lynsey at 10:01 PM on October 30, 2001

"Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind."

- HD Thoreau
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:16 AM on October 31, 2001

Leaving the doors unlocked; knowing the kid across the way who sells lemonade on his front lawn ... the pleasure of knowing people's names and having them know yours.

Except for the bit about leaving the doors unlocked, that's a pretty accurate description of the way I live, and I live downtown in a city of about 2 million. It all depends on the place.

Downtowns are great places to live; if the city still has a large residential population downtown (and in north america that means NYC, Chicago, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto and ... ? ... you tell me) it's probably a good place to live. The best part is that you can choose to live as described in the gleuschk-chunk I quoted above, or you can an anonymous participant in the game of urbanity. And you can do them both in a night.

I'd have to earn about 5x as much as I do now for it to be worthwhile to me to live in the suburbs (and I'd still only do it for a few years for money's sake): to me, it's just not really a possibility.

A very small town, depending on climate, geography and the nature of the demos (the higher the percentage of the population who wasn't born there the better, I'd bet) could be great, but I'd be reluctant if I didn't know I had the option of moving back to a city.

My advice: get out of the suburbs but quick. Either way, just go.
posted by sylloge at 12:57 AM on October 31, 2001

danec, the major change will be the speed at which your life moves. I’ve lived in towns ranging from a couple hundred to 8 million. Small towns tend to engender tighter communities and a committment to the outdoors. If telecommuting doesn’t require you to be at the machine during the day I’d highly suggest getting outside a lot. Winter camping is more fun and less dangerous than it sounds.

The bigger the town the more oppurtunities it has. That includes everything from entertainment and culture to careers and neighborhoods.

The point is to find a lifestyle that fits you, unless you like moving.

I agree with sylloge totally about the goddamned suburbs. No one should live in the suburbs. Not only is it environmentally ruinous, living there is like an emotional purgatory with inflated real estate prices.

sylloge: Seattle and San Francisco? Why this: “the higher the percentage of the population who wasn't born there the better.” Its funny — I had the exact opposite opinion.
posted by raaka at 5:36 AM on October 31, 2001

I think you're thinking about different things, raaka - you and sylloge.

I think he's referring to immigrants from other countries. I think you're thinking of recent migrants from other parts of town (i.e., gentrification).

I agree with sylloge that having a good mix of people is important. It helps if they are new to the area but are trying to put down some roots as well - a sort of middle ground.

As a general principle I'm a city-dweller all the way, BTW. I lived in a town of about 5K for a couple of years and although I loved my time there and the lifestyle, I can't imagine forsaking city (not suburban) life for town life again. And the suburbs make me palpably uneasy (I work in the suburbs).
posted by mikel at 8:35 AM on October 31, 2001

Thanks everyone for their great input so far. You've all given me much to think about. To better clarify my situation, I live in a town of about 100,000 within an hour of the San Fransisco and I am thinking about moving to Winnemucca, NV - three hours east of Reno with a population of 8,000.

Has or does anyone lived in Winnemucca or Northern Nevada?
posted by danec at 8:52 AM on October 31, 2001

I've been to Winnemucca on a road trip (heading south from Oregon, I think). BBQ, gas station, casino, maybe whuzzit ... don't remember it much, but it did seem to have a real town center at least. As I recall.

Re Seattle and SF. I didn't include either of them in my list since they both have relatively weak downtowns (relative to other cities I am thinking of; relative to most US cities they are great). And both have cool neighborhoods very close to downtown, so I didn't mean to imply that they are not great places to live, SF in particular (I think I'd take Portland over Seattle though). If they didn't build the freeways, imagine how much nicer those two cities would be.

Re people moving around: I meant small towns, specifically. I was thinking of the distinction between the place I lived until I was 5 (pop. 350) -- it was over 50% people (hippies) who had deliberately come there and wanted to be there -- and the nearest large town (pop 12,000) which was mostly people who were born there to work in the mill and always dreamed about being somewhere else.

Of course, any city with lots of out-of-country immigrants is going to be a better place to live, all other things being equal (mikel) and gentrified neighborhoods in cities can be, IMO, good AND bad (raaka + mikel).
posted by sylloge at 3:04 PM on October 31, 2001

I've been to Winnemucca too. In fact, every time I go through on 80, I make a point of driving to the top of Winnemucca Peak. I haven't done it in a few years, hope it's still possible.

Winemucca seems like a nice little town, but definitely a small one. I moved from Ann Arbor to a town of 16,000 for a while (Northfield, MN), and even though it was a college town (two colleges, in fact), it was just too small, If I hadn't been able to escape to the Twin Cities once in a while I would have gone bonkers.
posted by rodii at 4:03 PM on October 31, 2001

danec, I lived in Reno for about two years and did a lot of driving around in northern Nevada while I was there. Winnemucca seemed like a nice enough town - livelier than most of the leftover way stations scattered through the hinterlands, probably because of I-80 and the fact that most cars headed east from Reno are starting to run low on fuel by the time they get that far. But it's still a small town in the desert, and all of its neighbors are smaller towns in the desert. Reno is two and a half hours to the west, Elko is two hours to the east; don't be fooled by Reno's skyscrapers, either - outside the tourist area it's basically just another college town.

In summary, it's a nice enough place, provided you don't mind the climate, but there's nothing to do. You'll either need to develop a passionate love for long drives in the desert or be really good at entertaining yourself indoors with cable TV and a crappy Internet connection.

I was ready to go when I left Reno, and no question about it. I miss Nevada and its wildernesses, but I don't really miss Reno at all. There was nothing to do except watch movies, go shopping, do stuff on the computer, or get in the car and go somewhere else.

I don't know whether that's an endorsement or not. I'm sure it will be great if you have the temperament for it, but if you don't it's likely to be desperately boring.

posted by Mars Saxman at 4:56 PM on October 31, 2001

We are more anxious to speak than to be heard.


dedicated to stavrosthewonderchicken
posted by y2karl at 5:29 PM on October 31, 2001

Hey, you disrespectin' the chicken?

Ah well. Perhaps there are some heroic acts waiting to be performed....over there!

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:08 AM on November 1, 2001

On telcommuting: I've done it for the past 3 or so years. I like it (and I'm way more productive). However, there's been a few scary moments - I'm not sure it'd have worked if we (me + the other 3 or 4 people in the company up in Edinburgh) didn't know each other fairly well. And it's still necessary for me to visit for a week every couple of months to get things straight. YMMV of course - this is a very small company, and I'm developing software (I tend to get the small new, fun self-contained projects, so I can work alone).

Get a fast internet connection and a rhythm (no late starts, no working late).
posted by andrew cooke at 8:05 AM on November 1, 2001

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