the process

Are We Cut Out for Small Town Living Long Term?

Last week, as I was driving my work-paid rental car along the ocean, enjoying very different weather from the wintery bluster at home, sipping my work-paid fancy green juice which followed the work-paid Starbucks soy latte, headed toward my work-paid hotel, I had one of those realizations:

All of this goes away when we retire.

We’ve written before about the things we’ll actually miss about working (it’s more than just the stuff they pay for, like our phones and home internet, or getting slightly better treatment at hotels and airports), but the reality of our lives right now – especially mine – is that we don’t actually spend all that much time in our small mountain town where we live. Of course we have a close-to-paid-off house here, we have friends here, we volunteer and are involved in civic causes here, and we spend lots and lots of time working in our home offices here.

But it’s not like we’re spending all of our time frolicking in the wilderness. Or soaking up the small town living. I’m in an actual city for work almost every single week, where I am allowed to expense things we wouldn’t buy for ourselves anymore, like the aforementioned latte and fancy green drink, or dinners at trendy restaurants. I never get a chance to miss “city things.” And despite completely changing our spending habits for our own personal funds, I still live a pretty yuppie lifestyle thanks to work reimbursing this stuff a day or two or three every week.

(Proper disclaimer here: I do not spend extravagantly on work’s or clients’ dimes. Often I buy my meals at Whole Foods, and stay at less swanky hotels than my colleagues choose. But I also do make different spending decisions than we make with our own money, often for the very practical reason that I can’t make my own coffee or juice at a hotel, or cook all of my own meals. But it also feels like a treat to enjoy a nicer meal when I have to be away from home — not gonna lie.)

If you’d asked us five or ten years ago if we think of ourselves as city people or small town people, we would have probably said city people, but then added that we’re happiest in the mountains. And we each came upon this love of the mountains separately — it was one of the things that made us instantly simpatico. Moving to the mountains was never about the small town part, per se, although you sure do get a lot more natural beauty when the place you live isn’t covered with pavement and buildings, and has fewer people milling about.

We had a bunch of reasons for moving to the mountains, all of which were and still are totally legit in terms of our long-term happiness:

  • Though we loved living in the city, we were spending tons of time and money traveling to the mountains as often as possible, to ski in the winter and to camp and climb in the summer. We wanted to stop wasting that time and money.
  • We could only “afford” (per our definition, not the banks’) a small condo in the city, while we could actually buy a house in the mountains. We were so ready to stop sharing walls.
  • We had a sneaking suspicion that the traffic and noise were making us a little crazy, and we were eager to escape that.
  • It’s harder to put down roots in the big city, and we wanted to feel more connected to a place.
  • We completely fell in love with our particular mountain town when we visited it on a ski trip. That was the game changer.

We love living where we do! But there are also things we miss, mostly related to convenience, about living in a big city:

  • The ability to walk to coffee, groceries or just about anything else, almost any time of day or night.
  • Street lights. No, seriously. Walks are done at sunset, unless you want to realize what real darkness actually looks like.
  • Restaurants open past 9, and more than a handful of them that we like.

On balance, it is still so totally worth it to have the privilege of living where we do. Those things we miss are tiny in comparison to everything we gain by getting to understand, every day we’re home, what quiet actually sounds like. By getting to breathe air that isn’t filled with car exhaust. By having mountains for a skyline, instead of manmade structures. But we also have all-expenses-paid trips on the regular to get our fix of city life. What happens when that stops? Are we cut out for small town life long-term?

We’ve definitely noticed that our vacations have shifted since we moved here — when we lived in the city, we did almost all of our travel to the wilderness and mountains, but when we moved to the mountains, we started using our vacation time to visit cities.

Which tells us: We’re probably always going to want some balance of city time and mountain time in our lives.

Fortunately, our early retirement plan is to travel a ton, so we should still be able to get big chunks of city time, even if they’re not nearly as often as I get them now (that’s not a bad thing — the pace of work travel is too draining to be sustainable long term). And knowing that the adjustment to full-time small town life could be challenging for us, there are some things we can do to ease the transition:

  • Make a big effort in 2017, our last year of working, to travel less for work, to ease into being home a lot more. This will involve being a bit more obstinate with clients, but I can do it.
  • In retirement, plan regular mini trips to cities, even if just for a concert, a day a the museum or a chance to walk around. Even if it means camping outside the city proper to do this on the cheap.
  • Build big chunks of city time into our international trips, or even just longer trips around North America. We have a fierce love of the national parks and forests, but maybe we don’t need six months at a time of just camping. :-)

Like so many things in life, we think the devil is in the details on this one. We are definitely not cut out for living in just any small town. But we think we’re going to do well in ours over the long haul. But we’ll build in lots of balance just to be sure.

Anybody else considered leaving the city for early retirement, or like us, actually done it? Or do you have concerns about whether you’ll be happy long-term where you live now? We’d love to hear if anybody else thinks about this question!



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89 replies »

  1. I have a strong suspicion that my parents are headed to a small town for retirement (when my mom finally decides to retire retire and not go back to work!). My dad hates crowds, and I think they both see the value in slowing down. They have a cottage up north already, and I could definitely see that turning into their retirement home. I’m not sure how they’d battle the snow and ice, though. That’s my only worry. Last I heard, my dad was trying to convince my mom to go RV-ing in the winter. ;)

    • I can tell ’em lots of horror stories of RVs we’ve seen driven off slick mountain roads in the winter if you want me to freak them out. :-) I don’t know if I’d be able to do full-on cottage — we still live in a fairly regular, suburban-style neighborhood, just in a smaller place. But more power to people who really want that solitude! I just think we only partially want it.

  2. Yes, I can totally relate to this one too! We’re planning on moving either to the mountains (Southern Appalachia) or very near the edge of the mountains onto a larger piece of land with less house. I know it will definitely be a trade-off to what we’ve become accustomed here in the Atlanta suburbs, but I spent most of junior high and high school in a rural setting so I know I can re-adapt.

    I’ve also spent the last couple of years traveling for work. It’s usually been one week every other month, so maybe not as extensive as yours. I also don’t splurge on the company dime but, as you say, it’s nice to have dinner at a place I normally wouldn’t or splurge on Starbucks.

    This year hasn’t had any travel so far for me and I both miss it and don’t all at the same time. I guess I miss the amenities and the direct engagement with teammates and clients (I’m a remote worker the rest of the time). For the most part, the time away is spent in a conference room that looks like any corporate conference room. Even travelling internationally, I don’t get to really see much. Looking forward to just travelling for pleasure one day.

    • Funny how far a little free Starbucks goes. :-) I can absolutely understand what you mean about missing travel and not missing it at the same time. And we’re both remote, too, so definitely get the client interaction part. If you do more international trips this year, can you try to find even a few hours to get out of the conference room or your hotel room and look around? We’re big fans of fitting just a little bit of touristy stuff into many of our work trips, and that makes a big difference in the enjoyment of the travel.

      Good luck deciding about your move! Sounds exciting!

      • Oh yes, I’ll definitely get out for at least a few hours or overlap the trip and get a weekend day. When I was in Ireland last fall, I was there over a weekend and took part of Sunday to hit the Jameson distillery for a tour. So, I was able to be a little touristy and it does make quite a bit of difference. In fact, I had to buy and extra bag from Tesco to make room in the luggage for ‘souvenirs’ from the distillery.

      • That sounds amazing! Glad you are able to squeeze in time to see at least some of the sights! (My travel is all domestic for work, so I’m feeling pangs of envy.) :-)

  3. Seriously – I am beginning to suspect you all have a bug in our house to listen to our conversations… we were just discussing something similar a few days ago. I was even trying to figure out what I would do in a small town, or if I would go stir-crazy in 2 years after I finish decompressing. I think we are trying to find a small town that has like-minded people… that may be the key to success. Hmmm… you are like minded, maybe we should be neighbors!

    • Um, you weren’t supposed to figure out about the bug!

      I think so long as you go to an ourdoorsy small town, there will be plenty to do. And totally agree — find one where you love the PEOPLE. That is more important than the scenery or the lifestyle or anything else. But yeah, come be our neighbors! :-)

  4. I think it really matters how small the town is. We’re into our first full year of both of us being retired. We’re just finishing two months in our winter home,, which is in a town of 5000 people, but it has a good grocery store, a good butcher, pharmacy, two cafes, a library….and so is a full service town. The larger town with the movie theatre etc is 15 minutes away. We’re going home to a tiny village with one bakery, no sidewalks, everything is a 20 minute to 1 hour drive away. And we’ve decided we’re moving, to the larger university town north of us so I can walk to the grocery store, bike to the library, etc – in other words have in the other 9 months of the year the lifestyle we have in the winter location. I’m really tired of having to get the car out for everything. It was fine when we were working, errands were run on the way home from work – but not now. It’ll be healthier for us and the environment. I find some of the city attractions matter less as I get older, but I also don’t want to drive everywhere all the time.

    • Such a great point! I’m glad that you’re making the move to support the lifestyle that will make you happier (and be better for the environment). It’s funny in our case because our town is for sure “full service” (minus the movie theater), but it’s also a bit spread out, so we can’t walk to any of those services. We can bike to things, though, and can’t wait to do more of that once we aren’t so busy with work all the time!

  5. I suppose in a way we are doing that – leaving a city for “small town” living, although with us, it’s a little different because we will be out in the middle of freaking nowhere at times. But other times, we might be in smaller cities with campgrounds. We do plan to bike as much as we can when we are near or in a city.

    For us, we definitely prefer the smaller town kind of feel, though we do appreciate the niceties that come with a larger metropolis. Having an apartment in the city and walking everywhere actually does appeal to us, though not nearly enough to actually spend the money for one of those places!

    In the end, we are very similar to you guys – we like a balance, which is why we can’t see ourselves staying in one place throughout retirement. We need to keep moving around and experiencing new things, new scenes, new weather, new people, new surroundings, new…everything. When we are in the mood for a larger city, we can make that happen. But, when we just want some peace and quiet, well, we can work that into our plans as well – just like you guys.

    Yay to travel! :)

    • Haha, yeah! You guys are kind of getting the best of all worlds, getting to continually change where you live. Though I suspect it will be tough to park an Airstream in big cities, you can always camp outside the city and take the train into town, or bike. (I think the bloggers Gone with the Wynns even found tour bus parking in downtown Chicago and were able to camp out of their class A RV during Lollapalooza! So it’s possible!)

  6. Oh, I have so many thoughts about this topic. I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire and moved to an even smaller one (population: 325) when I was 14. It’s beautiful there, truly — my dad still lives there and I love visiting — and I totally understand what people mean when they say that they want to be near nature rather than near concrete and steel.

    However. Now that I’ve had the experience of living in both a city and a rural area, I can’t see myself ever living in a rural area (or even a small town) ever again, because: streetlights. I haaaaaaate the feeling that I am locked indoors after sunset (unless I want to drive somewhere in a car, which I probably don’t). This is even worse in the winter in New Hampshire, since it gets dark at like 4pm. My whole life I thought this was normal, but as soon as I moved to a city I was like, wait, I can go for a walk? After dark?? So yeah, I totally know where you’re coming from with the streetlight issue.

    Oddly enough, I also feel MUCH safer in cities, despite the fact that crime rates are higher: I’d rather have lots of people around than no people around. (Other major benefits of having lots of people around include: more people-watching and more diversity.)

    Ok, enough rambling on about MY preferences. I think you guys are really smart to think so consciously about this. You obviously have spent enough time in both types of environments to know what you like about each and what would be a challenge. And I totally hear you that there are benefits and drawbacks to both. As long as your post-retirement budget allows you to travel to cities on a regular basis, I bet you’ll be fine. :)

    • Haha — yeah, streetlights! One of our first nights in our town, we went for a walk near dusk without even thinking about it, and got stuck out in the dark. It was quite disorienting, and of course my first thought was, “I could smack right into a bear and never even see it,” as though the bear wouldn’t get out of my way first. Ha! Of course, we could get streetlights in our town by just living in the small downtown, so it’s not an irrefutable truth of small town life that there are no streetlights. :-) The safety feeling is funny, and in my experience it changed. At first, I felt a little freaked out living in a smaller place with so much darkness surrounding it (I definitely could not handle watching the Walking Dead without getting major worry that zombies were going to pop out of the dark — not joking), but now I feel super safe there compared to the city. The thought of someone breaking in or anything else just really never occurs to us anymore. And DIVERSITY. Yes. I didn’t include that here, but it is so super true, and something we totally miss.

      You lived in a way smaller place than we did, and in truth we don’t feel like our town is rural at all. It’s more like a suburb in the mountains — that’s probably a big part of why we like it, honestly, even though I find most actual suburbs dreadful. But we still have neighbors on all sides, like we would anywhere else, and have all the “normal” stores and services. So I’m probably overstating how small it feels — it’s just a big contrast to where we came from!

  7. We chose to retire to a small, mountain town (population 16,000), after spending all of our lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. We left a lot behind: kids, grandkids, friends, restaurants, bars, night life, street lights (we don’t have any up here, either!), and everything else that goes along with living in a giant, urban/suburban area. Even the ten years we lived an hour south of the biggest city down there, on an acre, we were still surrounded by major metropolitan areas within less than an hour drive in every direction. We knew there would be adjustments when we made this move, and there have been! Restaurants are a thing of the past, thanks to both our budget and our concerns about food quality (organic, or vegan, or even non-GMO menu items are next to impossible to find unless we drive thirty miles one way). There actually is no Starbucks in this town (but there is a nice Ma and Pop place with better coffee). Night life is non-existent unless you count Indian casinos (we’ve gone to a few concerts, but do not gamble so don’t frequent them). Walking to anything except the tourist trap mountain grocery market is out of the question, and there’s nothing there you’d want anyway (after the three plus mile walk to get there). So yes, we drive everywhere we need to go for anything. We finally bought a hybrid after talking about it for years, and we love it! We plan trips carefully and get everything done as expeditiously as possible. We order a lot from Amazon Prime (borderline essential up here, especially for hard to find items). We rarely go to sporting events in person anymore (too much hassle); we didn’t buy season tickets to ice hockey this year, but we’re thinking of getting a minor league baseball package. (70 miles on empty roads through nice country). We’ve made a lot of compromises, but they are all worth it. The clean air, the friendly people, the helpful neighbors, the honest business people, the lovely, calm quiet of the Sierras…I could go on and on and on (and I frequently do). Do we miss the kids and grandkids? Hugely. That’s the one (and the only) downside, and it’s a heartbreaking issue for us. But the positives so outweighed the negatives (no $4700 per month mortgage, no outrageous property taxes or utility bills, no crowds everywhere, no constant rudeness, no traffic, smog, stress, etc.), it was an easy, although gut wrenching, decision to make. I still get misty when I think of the kids being so far away (a few hundred miles, but it seems like a million), but I’m confident we made the best move for us. Life is frequently about timing, and for us, this move came at the exact right time. We couldn’t be happier.

    • Thank you for this — such a great, personal take on the pros and cons of moving to a smaller place. We are in 100% agreement that it’s a lot easier to keep your money in your pocket in a small place, and we’re reaping that benefit as well. And having to drive most places is a bummer, but not a deal breaker (we at least have some good bike options when the weather is nice). I’m sure it’s super tough to be away from your kids and grandkids, but it sounds like you’ve found an otherwise wonderful situation. So glad you’re happy!

  8. I’m sort of in between. I don’t think I could ever just move to a tiny town with not much going on, especially because I’m still single and want SOME hope I’ll meet someone. But I don’t think LA is my forever home. While the town I live in in LA feels kind of small town (with the bonus of it being by a beach), LA as a whole kind of drives me nuts. The one problem is I LOVE the weather! what to do…what to do…

    • Weather is a BFD! :-) Don’t underestimate that! But I will tell you that most small outdoorsy towns are loaded with guys — maybe not always the most put-together guys with mega earnings potential, but the male to female ratio is extremely favorable to hetero ladies. :-)

  9. This is interesting! I’m scanning through all my thoughts right now, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across a conversation of someone, or people wanting to retire in a city! It’s typically the “let’s move out of our city/big city and get to the wilderness/woods/mountains” etc. This could be due to where I’ve grown up, where most families choose to live in larger cities for access to schools, hospitals, entertainment, retail, and other conveniences. It will be a vast difference when you finally feel like you can settle into your home into the mountains without the hustle & bustle of traveling for work (that feeling of actually being able to fully unpack your bag because you don’t necessarily have to travel anywhere if you don’t want)! So this may be throwing a crazy idea way out there (and may be wayyyy too much work), but have you considered selling your rental property, to purchase a rental apartment/condo in a city that maybe you just use as a VRBO/Air B&B place? That way you can split your time between mountains & city life, while still bringing in income? I know this would probably take away the consistency of the income you are already making off your rental, but maybe the maintenance factor will go down as well. The logistics of this may be way too much to even consider, but just a thought! :)

    • You are reading my mind from a few years ago! :-) Selling the rental is not in the cards because we’re renting to a relative, and we actually did have a “pied a terre” of sorts in the city, and we didn’t like that either (this was because we didn’t sell our city condo right away when we moved to the mountains)… it felt weird to have our lives split like that. But it’s such a good idea for others with a different temperament! And we have some relatives who lived in downtown Chicago for years, recently retired to the suburbs and now talk about nothing except wanting to move back downtown! So it can happen. :-)

  10. Anchorage is really the best of both worlds. It’s a small town big city. Less than a mile away is the ocean and whales and dall sheep. But I think about this a lot as well. If there was no job tying us here, where would we actually go. My obvious answer is “rural UK” – at least for a bit! But I’m not sure Mr. T has formulated his answer yet. And ideally, our kids would live near cousins… but those cousins keep moving.. so it’s tough to figure out where our early retirement chapter will actually play out. And, ironically, the longer we live in Alaska, the more we hate the cities. We are fine visiting… but even though we both grew up as major suburbanites, every time we go visit, we get so small town “Ugh, the traffic is horrible. Why are there so many PEOPLE everywhere?!”

    • It does seem like you guys have a pretty sweet gig up in AK. (And your rural UK answer is what the Ditching the Grind family are getting to do — I think you know that. So awesome for them!) I’m sure the choice, too, is infinitely harder with kids and cousins and those concerns! And I definitely get the impatience with traffic — though I look back, and don’t think I had any patience for it when I lived and commuted with it every day either. ;-)

  11. To each their own . . . Mr. Smith and I have never been “city people.” We’ve both spent most of our lives living in suburbs and we crave even more space to ourselves. I do agree with the concept of “everything in moderation” and that’s why we plan to do a lot of RV traveling once we retire. I think you will be fine living in a small town, because you will have the freedom to take a journey whenever you please. Also, with all of the traveling that you currently do, it will probably be a nice break to just stay put, for at least a little while.

    • I feel like I should actually start every post with “to each their own.” :-) SO true. And we totally understand the desire for more space — that’s a big part of what drove us out of the city. But then we got more space and realized that we missed things about the city that we hadn’t considered before. So we’ve concluded that, for us, balance is good. I love the RV travel plan you guys have — we hope to do lots of that, too!

  12. We spent five years wandering about in and RV and loved it. We’d still be doing just that but RVs are not warm enough for Canadian spring and fall and we have to be in Canada 6 months plus a day. We bought a small house in the country and we absolutely love it. The town is a retirement town for farmers and is all set up for seniors including a seniors centre and home care and meals on wheels. This means we could stay into our home much longer if we start have health issues. The neighbours also look after each other in ways city people simply do not. I know all my neighbours and who to call to fix a plumbing problem, or mow my lawn. I make a mean pizza and that ha been worth more thane lawn mowing.

    The city issue? Once or twice a month we stay overnight in the city with one of my kids. We spent the entire day shopping, sticking up and then return home. The more we stay away from cities the less we like them. You like fancy coffees? Buy a machine that allows you to make them yourself.

    The is only one thing I really miss. It is really hard to get fresh mushrooms. In Winnipeg there is a mushroom factory and we can’t really great fresh mushrooms in any store very cheap. I am looking into growing my own mushrooms.

    • I know there are some wonderful coffee machines out there (most of which are way too wasteful for us to use on a regular basis, with those disposable pods), but nothing replaces a quality latte made by a skilled barista — and I’m not talking about Starbucks on this point, but real coffee shops. I’m sure we’ll still splurge on those once in a while after we can’t get work to pay anymore — since we DO have great coffee in our town, just not within walking distance. :-)

      And yeah, mushrooms! I can see how that would be tough. We LOVE mushrooms. Christine at the Barefoot Budget recently did a blog on growing mushrooms — maybe worth looking up!

  13. It’s kind of funny, I already hate driving at night, so I don’t think the lack of street lights aspect would deter me from living in a small town. The lack of proximity of services however would. Ideally I’d like to find a place that has enough services in town, but not so many that’s there’s a ton of traffic and overpopulated….

    • The streetlights don’t bug us for driving (that’s why we have headlights) ;-) but they deter us from walking at night, which we miss. And yeah, access to services is important!

  14. I do look forward to eating at restaurants and some of the other perks of work travel. I think we’ll get some of that while traveling after I retire, but it’s definitely not going to be as fancy at times. I think I enjoy the travel more than the other perks, so as long as I can pursue that, I think I’ll be satisfied. I will miss the Starbucks soy lattes, too!

    • Haha — Someday we’ll be saying RIP to the Starbucks soy lattes. :-) But I sure savored the free one I got to enjoy this morning!

      Yeah, no doubt that there are some nice perks that come with work travel, including the travel itself! Here’s to enjoying it while we can. :-)

  15. My husband and I mull over a similar issue about relocating after retirement, or even as soon as financial independence happens. We go back and forth to moving close to family in a rural setting vs. moving somewhere where hiking and outdoor recreation are close at hand vs. a small metro area where we used to live and loved in early adulthood. It is not an easy choice!

    • At least it being a tough choice means you have multiple good options, right? :-) But yeah, it’s a BIG decision, and there are so many factors to consider. Good luck making your choice!

  16. Does suburb living count? :p

    I can definitely see the dilemma here. Work-paid “luxury” items are nice for sure. It should be easy to adjust if you slowly take a step back and get used to the slower pace and making things yourself.

    Mrs. T is from a small town (like 300 ppl). When we visit her family in Denmark, I definitely enjoy the small town feel and don’t miss the big city.

    • Wow — 300 people is a REAL small town. We’re in the multiple thousands, so not a TINY place. But yeah, agree with you that taking a step back slowly should make the adjustment easier!

  17. Its something we are giving serious consideration now, but not sure if we’ll have an answer anytime soon, maybe just options. We’ve got about 8 years at a minimum before our children are potentially out on their own, and where they land we have no idea. We are just trying balance where my wife and I want to end up as being semi-local to our three children.

    • I don’t envy you trying to figure that out, Brian, especially if your three kids end up in different places. Let’s hope they end up somewhere geographically compact! :-)

  18. Sounds a lot like the situation here. I do like the busyness of the city, the possibilities to choose from 5 coffee bars in 5 minute walk, to have restaurants and sushi bars to chose from. But some times, I do need the quiteness of nature to walk or run.
    For me, it comes down to the fact that we might always want or need what we do not have.

    For retirement, our idea is to live in the city, to have everything close by. Then again, we will have build up relations with the neighbours that we will miss when in the city.

    To me, your situation has the advantage that you are now building up the connections that you can expand lateron. The city is always something you can travel to and spend some time. Or maybe after a year or so, you ight get a work-in-the-city itch and jump back in for 6 months or so… who knows…

    • Who knows is the right way to describe it. But yeah, agree with you that we’re building the relationships now that were a little tougher in the city, and we’re super grateful for that. But yeah, we do miss that coffee bar or sushi within easy walking distance!

  19. We made the move to a mountain town (population ~5000) from a bigger city a few years ago. The city is pretty spread-out, so we’re enjoying the fact that most places in our town are within walking or biking distance, or at most a short drive away. I am finding that I buy more stuff online now, as the local shops don’t always have the greatest selection.

    I hadn’t really considered that some towns don’t have streetlights–I will appreciate our streetlights that much more now! Have you considered getting headlamps? Quite a few people around here use them to continue their outdoor activities (mountain biking, xc skiing, snowshoeing, etc) after dark.

    I think we’ll be happy living here for the longer term. The town has a pretty good vibe, and we’re getting to know more people now that we’ve been here a few years and gotten more involved in various activities. We probably know more people in our town than we did in the city–it helps that people here tend to be less busy, and we don’t have to drive 30+ minutes to see them.

    We do go back to the city a few times a year–we quickly get tired of the busyness, sprawl, traffic, and lack of mountains, so moving back isn’t an option we’re considering.

    • Where is this magical mountain town that has streetlights??? :-) We do have headlamps, but aren’t as interested in going for walks at night if we can’t look around — headlamps force you to look where you’re going, and not at much else.

      So awesome that you found a good spot for you. We’re in total agreement that the vibe of the town makes ALL the difference. Glad you found a good one, and don’t miss the city!

      • Maybe streetlights are more common in Canada with our longer winter nights? Based on the quick Google Streetview survey I did out of curiosity, streetlights seem to be standard in Canadian mountain towns, but much more limited in US ones.

  20. I saw a great list of things to think about if relocating in retirement, and it was a bit more than big versus small. It’s targeted to a bit older retiree I think, but it’s an interesting set of things to think about: what climate do you prefer? Do you love water or the mountains? Do you love the excitement of a city? It is important to be near family? do you like participating in group things? do you like going to the theater/concert/sporting event/etc? how important is being near good health care? how important is access to educational opportunities? will you volunteer and what kind of work will that be? Is airport accessibility important? Is walkability important? Do you have budget constraints (for cost of living differences)? They recommend thinking through your values when doing this as well.

    And as you said, to each his own – One of the things I’ve learned about us as we talked about relocation/resizing – we love the walkability of a “town” environment. Being able to walk someplace for dinner, take the dog for a walk , or just not having to drive to get something done. We also love access to the theater and good restaurants. And we are concerned about access to good health care (we are 20+ years older than you guys).

    A friend of mine narrowed her requirements to small city (for health care & culture), close to the mountains, and having a college/university. She & her husband then visited their top 10 cities over a few years – long weekends and wandering around. They ended up living 25 miles outside of a small city in a home with a great mountain views – driven by his desire to be in the mountains. But now she struggles with the 25 miles to the grocery store, bank, gym, church, doctor’s office. She’s talking about moving into town after just 5 years, especially as her husband’s health is beginning to go down hill.

    Her dilemma made me realize that our next house/place is not our until-we-die home. It’s my “10 year place” – fulfilling the needs we have now. So that changes how much we invest in it, and how much it needs to be forward thinking.

    • What a great list of questions! I would add “what kind of town vibe do you like?” encompassing things like “do you want friendlier but possibly nosier neighbors, or do you want to be around people who keep to themselves?” and “do you want to live in a town that has a more ideological vibe or is more mixed?” etc. And it’s a great point about a “10 year place” — who knows what we’ll want in a decade?! Maybe we’ll be sick of the cold and will move to the beach. :-)

  21. Not so much the city for small town but we have considered leaving New Zealand for Mexico or Spain. Simply because we love the culture and our money goes so much further there. The thing is living in our city in New Zealand gives us a great lifestyle for getting out in nature, walking, hiking and exploring – I can actually see the rim of a dormant volcano from my kitchen table where I am type this. So it’s a tough call because we could have a frugal life here with lots of free stuff to keep us happy or we could have an almost luxurious life in Spain or Mexico. I’m not naturally frugal – I love to have nice coffee and meals – so it bears more thinking about.
    Also I totally get missing the nice perks of corporate life. I miss fancy business lunches and paid overseas trips. And coffee meetings. And going to Vanuatu/Hawaii/New Caledonia for conferences. Oh man, why did I ever quit?? :-)

    • I’d say you’re looking at a much tougher choice! Moving to a whole other hemisphere, perhaps! Though — WOW! — your present view sounds amazing. And yeah, why did you quit??? Just kidding, of course, but I sure don’t get to go to such exotic locales for work! Mostly just bland office buildings in mid-sized U.S. cities. :-)

  22. I know I’m not! I love city life and I’m lucky to live in a small country where the beaches, bush and mountains are just a stone’s throw away. (But I suppose our ‘big city’ of a couple million is tiny by US standards.)

    And yep, those expensed perks are definitely a bonus of working life :)

    • If you can be in the city to be close to all of that, then it sounds pretty tempting to stay put! And yeah, I’ll miss some of the work perks… but I won’t miss work itself. :-)

  23. I’d love to live out in the country, such as on a farm like Mom grew up on. My wife continues to resist talking about this next stage in our lives. I suspect, given that she grew up in global cities, that suburbia is the closest to nature we’ll get.

    The price differentials between various cities means I anticipate landing in a smallish urban area. Budget will be set by how much we can get for the current house after the nest empties, and however much extra she manages to set aside. I think she’s going to be disappointed about how ignoring my advice will “constrain” her choices. (I could live in a shed or RV or dorm again and be happy.)

    • The where to live question is tough in the best circumstances, but all the more so if both partners want different things. Hoping you guys can find a place of happy compromise, in which you *both* feel listened to and heard. :-)

  24. We live in a suburb of the Twin Cities and enjoy city life for the most part. This past weekend we were in a small farm town a couple hours away for a funeral and when we pulled up at the small town church we both said “I could never live in such a SMALL town.” When we went inside, someone asked where we were from and they said “I could never live in such a BIG city”! I guess some of us are more natural city mouse or country mouse.

    • I do think some people have strong preferences for one or the other, but we’re maybe those odd ducks who are happy in both places. Of course, a “one church town” is a town that’s TOO small for us. Ours is small, but still has multiple supermarkets, two big drug stores, and is full service except for a movie theater. :-) Anything smaller probably would be too small!

  25. I should also comment about the first part of your post — the part where you talk about your ‘divorce’ from corporate luxuries. This was actually a big concern of mine. I’ve had a cushy executive ride for a while, so I worked longer to build a nest egg that could afford the standard we’ve gotten used to. While we can now afford it, I don’t know if we will actually spend to that standard. I’m kind of practical, but it’s nice to know we don’t have to “step down” by necessity.

    • Ah, the corporate luxuries. :-) I think it’s great that you planned for a cushier retirement than what a lot of folks are working toward. We are certainly panning to go the lower-budget way, except that we’ll be in a house that’s plenty big and nice. But we also don’t have kids, don’t mind sleeping on the ground (camping), and DO plan to live a little more comfortably when we’re in our 60s and beyond. So the luxury is built in — just not til later! But in your case, I’m so curious to know if you end up spending what you’ve planned. I feel like everyone whose blog we read who’s already retired spends less than they’d budgeted.

  26. I’m going to be more obstinate with clients… I expect a full update on your success with this. I say that every single day, yet my success is below limited. I almost ignored an email the other day, but actually came up with a solution that required just 5 minutes of my time, so…

    • Haha. Easier said than done — I am fully aware! But I only plan to be obstinate on travel, not my actual work. So next year I’ll be proposing a lot more videoconferences instead of in-person meetings. I think if I couch it as saving them money, it will be more persuasive. :-)

  27. That’s great you guys have found that balance. It’s hard to do that depending on where you live. For example, we’re not really close to any really big cities, so there aren’t many opportunities to get that “big city fill” more than once a year. And that’s IF we decide to use our vacation time to visit one.

    We have no idea where we want to live when we’re retired. Or even before retirement for that matter. We’re not even sure we’ll remain in Montana (gasp!). Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely love it here, but we also love change and challenge and chances to grow, so we keep the option of moving open. So all we know at this point is that we probably won’t be living in a town much smaller than the one we currently live in, or a bigger city that “feels” like a big city. :)

    • Nothing wrong with keeping your options open! I’ve lived a bunch of very different places, and I’m super happy about that — you never *really* know what you like, after all, if you haven’t experienced different things. Though you might have to change your blog name if you leave MT! :::gasp::: :-)

  28. Of all the blogs I read, yours is probably the one where I most frequently think, “Was she listening to my thoughts the other day?”

    On the work expenses topic, I’ve never abused the expense account, but I’ve also never hesitated to order a fancy coffee or the expensive entree when someone else paid. I expect I’ll miss some of those little perks (I’m hardly stoic enough to be one of the frugal masters who claims to genuinely prefer not having the thing), but that’s certainly not enough to offset all the positives of not working and traveling.

    On the small town topic, I’m future-oriented to a fault, so I’ve already found myself thinking about where we may eventually settle down after we finish traveling. I’ve lived in cities my entire adult life and never lived anywhere without a 300k+ population metro area around it, but I’m also attracted to the idea of a smaller town life — where you can really know a place, get to know your neighbors and your community… that kind of thing. Realistically, I would probably only even consider a handful of western US towns with plentiful outdoor access (Bellingham, Bend, Truckee/Tahoe, others?), but I do wonder how well I would do without all the liveliness of being in the heart of a walkable city. I could see it working well with regular city trips, perhaps.

    • Haha — We seem to think about things the same way a lot of the time. But I’m going to take that as a compliment. :-) Totally with you on enjoying the work perks, but not finding them worth keeping our jobs! I look forward to following along with your travels, and afterward where you decide to settle down, whether you pick a small town like one of the ones you listed, or go with a bigger city.

  29. Last week, as I was driving my work-paid rental car along the ocean, enjoying very different weather from the wintery bluster at home, sipping my work-paid fancy green juice which followed the work-paid Starbucks soy latte, headed toward my work-paid hotel, I had one of those realizations:

    All of this goes away when we retire.

    So I read this and first thought, yeah that’s great to have green juice and latte’s paid for, nice work hotels, a rental car from time to time. Then I really thought about that for a second and thought “I want all of this to go away when I retire”! Mrs. ESM used to travel a good amount and she hated it, going from small town to small town or rental car to hotel, staying up late and working at the hotel, I mean sure you are getting a stipend to cover your latte, but I can feel and hear both of you dying a little on the inside.

    The first transition for Mrs. ESM was to switch to a 9-5 j.o.b. that was train ride to work and back, no travel. She loves it. While I don’t know if that is possible in your situation I did like the idea of less work travel in 2017 and getting back to what is going to be normal.

    Myself I grew up in a small town and have lived in a big city ever since. I really feel like it depends where you live, like I live in the “big city” but many times it feels just like a small town, I think a lot of it is what you make of it certainly and I’m sure ONL will do just fine with that.

    • Oh yes, the dying on the inside is in full effect. As my dad put it recently: “I can see the toll it’s taking on you. It’s like you’re an alcoholic and you can’t stop drinking. Or like you have cancer and can’t treat it. I can’t wait for you to retire so you can get healthy again.” So, come to think of it — evidently I’m dying on the inside AND the outside! :-) The job change is not super possible in our case without seriously slowing down our timeline since we live in a place without a lot of job options now (we brought our jobs with us from the big city). But it definitely helps to know that this year is our last year of total devotion to our careers — next year begins the senior slide. :-)

  30. I’m a suburban girl, while the suburbs are no way mountains, I share this feeling with you. Before moving here, I’ve always been a city person & living in the suburbs took a lot of getting used to…but I love it now. I think I’ve also mentioned in my blog that we intend to buy a house in the mountains (whenever that happens!), away from the city, where there are lots of trees! I still have days when I miss the city, especially when I feel a random urge to go get dessert or something after 9pm. There is nowhere to go unless I’m ok to go to a TAB (where people gamble) or a pub. I miss the city but only in passing, at the end of the day, I know I’m no longer cut for it – it’s too hectic and everyone seems to be in a rush.

    Your transition plan seems like a good idea. You guys are so mindful of everything and I think we all benefit from that because you start these insightful discussions. We haven’t thought about early retirement still, but if and when we do, I’ll definitely binge read your posts amd make notes from them.

    Awesome post, as always! I hope you’re having a great weekend! :)

    • Hi J! Not quite weekend here, but thiiiiiiis close. :-) I think it’s great when we can recognize that we’re in a different place in life, which it sounds like you’re doing in recognizing that you fit better in the suburbs these days. I might aspire to live in the fabulous world capitals, but I also have to admit to myself that I’m no longer cut out for that pace of things! How exciting to know that you plan to live in the mountains some day.

      Thanks for the sweet note about our posts. I’m sure it’s because I’m an overthinker, and the blog just gives me a place to air some of that publicly, instead of keeping it bottled up. Enjoy your weekend!

  31. You are so inspiring! I love how cheerful you are in all your replies to each comment.

    I agree with the person who said you bugged their house, except you must’ve read my mind first. I told my husband yesterday I was nervous about the things we won’t have when we move to our retirement destination. There’s a grocery store, but it’s not very big. We might have to go in town an hour away to pick up things that we need (toilet paper, household goods, etc.). And don’t get me started about doctors and medical treatments…. My husband said his parents’ health was keeping him grounded right now where we are. I can understand that as well. It’s just not easy, but there will always be a reason we can’t, right? And if you want to make the move, you have to take the steps or you’ll never get there.

    Happy Dreaming!

    • Aw, thanks! :-) It is always a tough balance — there are always reasons NOT to do something, and sometimes you just have to take the risk and go for it. But I also for sure understand the health care concerns. We live in a small town with a full hospital (that was a major requirement!), which tells you we don’t live in a *tiny* town. And yeah, Amazon subscribe & save is our pal for things like TP… not that we can’t get them here, but we pay the “mountain tax” on all that stuff, so they’re vastly cheaper online. :-)

      • Yep. I understand. The population of our fishing island is about 1000 and we talk about it all the time as a concern. But we would have to drive about the same as we would for anything in this big town too. So, what’s the difference?’:-)

  32. I’m not sure where we’ll end up, but I think the strange thing for us will be living in any place for an extended period of time. We haven’t lived anywhere for more than 2-4 years at a time for the last decade plus. Usually by year 3 we start getting the itch to move. I wonder if our mindset will change once we’re not forced to move anymore?

    • Yeah, I’m curious to know how it goes for you guys! I’ve only lived in one place for more than half a decade twice in my life, so I can relate to that itch to move! But now I definitely feel more comfortable settling somewhere, albeit with lots of travel on the itinerary!

  33. We went in the other direction ~ from a much less populated area to one about 5 times bigger. I disliked it so much and couldn’t get used to taking a half hour to go 3 1/2 miles. I’m so happy to be home again. I wouldn’t mind big city life if it weren’t for the crazy amount of people. Long lines and endless traffic do not a happy me make! I’m glad you’re finding your sweet spot. Everyone has one, but not many do something about it. :)

    • The traffic is the thing I have never once missed! I shudder just thinking about what that used to be like! It’s much more pleasant to drive like there’s no rush, and where we live now, there seldom is. Glad you figured out what’s most important to you and went back to the place that makes you happy! :-)

  34. Living in a large city now ourselves, there are definitely lots of perks – restaurants, museums, theatres, etc. but there are also lots of things that are a pain, like the traffic and all the people who have forgotten to just say hello or thank you when you hold a door. I grew up in a small down and love the outdoors, so I’m looking forward to a move to something smaller, the wife though is more of a city girl. We’ll probably settle somewhere in between and are looking at a few small cities around the U.S. One thing we have going for us is that when we cash out and move away from one of the more expensive cities in the country, our money should go muuuuuch further!

  35. I lived in a mountain town in the rockies for four years (after spending the rest of my life on the east coast) and loved every minute of it! I definitely have plans to spend part of the year there every year in FI. Everyone I met was so relaxed and valued time, experiences, health, and the outdoors more than money or material things.

    • We definitely feel like people in the mountains are a lot more grounded and value experiences over things. It’s definitely a great vibe for us!