happy wednesday, friends! gotta confess… we felt a little nervous publishing monday’s post. on some level it felt deeply unromantic to talk about divorce at all, let along talking about how it could sink a couple’s well-laid early retirement plans (or even “regular” retirement plans, for that matter). but we’ve been heartened by your response, and encourage you to share the post if it resonated with you. it’s so true that not enough people in pf are talking about the topic, so let’s change that!
now onto another subject: small town living.
we’ve mentioned many times that we live in a small town, and very deliberately moved here as a part of our early retirement plans. while we for sure could have still saved for retirement in the expensive city we came from, it would have taken longer, and we wouldn’t have had the lifestyle we wanted. so for us it was a lifestyle move: we wanted a house, not the condo we had in the city (which, by the way, cost about $100K more than the house we bought in the mountains!), and we wanted to be able to walk out our front door and be in the mountains, rather than battling traffic and driving several hours to be in the mountains. and we’re happy living in our small mountain town, though we still get a lot of fully paid-for travel to cities through work… part of us wonders if we’ll feel the same way once we’re done working and the small town is all we have. time will reveal all.
related post: should you move to a small town to retire?
but for those of you who have wondered what it might be like to leave the city and retire someplace smaller, here’s our take on the good and the bad of small town living, coming from a decidedly city-dweller perspective:
cheaper housing — while we wouldn’t exactly call housing in our town “cheap,” it’s far cheaper than the cities in the region, as in, you can get a house here for the price of a condo in most of the cities. and our town is a ski town, so that drives the price up more than you’d see in a regular, ol’ small town.
less temptation to spend — we have, like, zero chain stores in our town. the boutiques we have cater mostly to tourists. it’s easy to spend on outdoor gear like skis and bike components, as we have tons of sports stores, but hard to spend on just about everything else, including dining out, since there just aren’t a lot of restaurants to choose from compared to the city.
life is slower — if you’re an aggressive driver, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb in a small town. same goes if you feel the need to barrel down the sidewalk. people just aren’t in as much of a hurry, unless they are mid-triathlon. we completely love this fact, especially after more than a decade of go-go-go city living.
easier social life — there is definitely a casualness about social interactions that makes things easier in our small town. people extend last minute invites for dinner or game night, and we often bump into our friends in the little downtown. back in the city, we’d have to plan for weeks — sometimes months — to be able to get together with even our closest friends.
groundedness and simplicity are the norm — most people who choose to move to a small town these days do so deliberately. they want to lead simpler, more grounded lives. they want to get away from all the busy-busy-busy, overly complicated, ego-first influence of many cities. it’s a lot like the urban homestead movement, but with an actual uprooting. doing things yourself instead of hiring work out is the norm here, and few people seem to think of themselves as “above” certain work. maybe the particular city we moved from wasn’t especially known for its “realness,” but where we live now is a big contrast to that in a good way.
it feels a lot safer — we’re believers that most places that seem “unsafe” only seem that way. a lot of people think crime in the u.s. is at an all-time high, but it’s actually at a record low. but in any case, life in small towns sure feels safer. most people we know never lock their doors. even when they go on vacation! we’re not quite to that point, but love knowing that if we accidentally left the car unlocked, nothing bad will happen. (except a bear might get into it — this is the best reason to keep cars and homes locked!)
careers don’t define us — we’re pretty sure that not a single one of our friends could tell you what we do for work. and since we don’t see our careers as our defining factors, and want out of them as soon as possible, we’re cool with this. people care much more about what we do for fun (“do you ski or snowboard?” “do you mountain bike? hard tail or full suspension?”) and where we live (for ease of hanging out) than they do about how we afford our mountain lifestyle.
no transit — our town has one bus, and it runs a few times a day between town and the ski resorts. completely unhelpful for us. we’re stuck using a car most of the year, and a bike sometimes in the summer. we miss the trains and even the buses in the city.
some things are more expensive — utilities, for one. natural gas costs a fortune. and groceries, too. we call it the mountain tax. it’s a good thing there’s less temptation to spend, because the things you do buy are going to cost a lot more than the same stuff in a bigger town.
it’s impossible to be anonymous — we all know this feeling, right? sometimes we just want to go do something and not know anybody, and not talk to anyone. in a small town, this will never, ever happen. you have to be prepared to be friendly and social all the time.
businesses don’t need your business — contractors are in short supply in many small towns, especially the ones that are thriving and building new homes. in the city, any contractor we called would call us back and get us a bid right away. in the mountains, we sometimes have to call as many as seven or eight companies to get one call back. i am not exaggerating. it gets exhausting to feel like no one wants your business. and just pray your pipes never freeze, because good luck finding someone who is willing to come out on an emergency basis.
organizations can be… interesting — people who are driven in their careers and have natural leadership skills do not leave the city and move to small towns. (we’d like to think that we’re an exception to this, but we still have our city jobs.) the people who do move to small towns often don’t have the kind of traditional job experience that might translate into being able to keep a meeting on track or being able to lead a group in a way that’s motivating to everyone. needless to say, some of our experiences volunteering with local nonprofits have been… interesting. we’d like to volunteer a lot in retirement, so we’re still wrestling with how to do this with orgs that might otherwise frustrate the pants off of us. stay tuned.
everything closes early — if we get home from business travel at 9 at night and want to grab take-out, we’re out of luck. while that’s good for our wallets, sometimes we just don’t want to cook. but if you want to eat, you cook.
you can’t get everything you need — we think our small town kicks ass, and offers a pretty incredible range of services for its size, but we for sure can’t get everything there. some things we have to get from the town whose airport we use for work travel, but we also keep a running list of things we need the next time we’re in a “real” city. thankfully, with us barely shopping these days, this list stays short, but you do have to plan ahead for some things in ways we never appreciated when we lived in big cities with 24-hour everything.
that small-town mentality is real, too — our town is one of the most progressive small towns we’ve ever known, but there is plenty of that narrow-minded thinking here, too. we just try not to focus on it.
have you considered relocating to a small town? what are the pros and cons that you see? anyone leave a small town for the city, and never look back? we’d love to hear your perspective, too.