(By Samantha Biggers) First of all, I want you to know that I understand entirely why you want to leave.
I have lived in some overpopulated areas myself when younger. While allowing for more social interaction, they are not the place to be during any major event and here we are in the midst of a pandemic and civil unrest.
Cities have lost their appeal for a variety of reasons. The reasons people chose to live in urban areas have slipped away. An urban area once offered a lot of work and entrepreneurial opportunities. Then there was the convenience of having good parks, bars, and restaurants close by. Many of those businesses and public areas are either shut down or access is severely restricted.
Add in civil unrest and it is easy to see why one would be looking for other areas to live.
It makes sense to go away from the danger you see around you.
My friend Selco at SHTF School teaches that there reaches a point when it is too late.
There comes a time when getting out a city may require extreme risk and danger, a large fee, trusting others, risking leaving without anywhere else to really go, and having no supplies to sustain yourself.
There are plenty talking about what is going on now like it is a major SHTF situation when the truth is that we are not quite there yet. It can get a lot worse. I hope it doesn’t but it very well could. All bets are off at this point. The situation in America has reached a level of seriousness that most of us have never seen in our lifetimes.
That being said, let’s get back to fleeing those cities. There are some things you should think about before and after your move to more rural area than you come from.
Consider why you are leaving when choosing where to go.
Are you concerned about civil unrest or the pandemic? Are both factors part of your decision?
Civil unrest seems to be mostly in major cities but there are flickers of unrest and violence starting to resonate into less densely populated areas. If your goal is to put distance between you and others, then you need to look at real rural places. Pull up Google maps and see just how far it is to your nearest neighbor. At the same time realize the true level of isolation and the planning required to stay supplied out in the country during uncertain times.
There is a difference between suburbs and true rural areas.
The definition of suburb seems to vary a lot depending on the person. For example as someone living outside of a small town of 7,000 I would consider a town of 20,000 to be a city not a suburb.
Suburb can mean that you have a 10-mile commute or a 30-mile commute to the nearest major population center. You need to figure out what you are comfortable with.
Some suburbs or areas outside of small towns can feel really rural but still be fairly close to town.
Usually you pay a lot more for homes and property that are closer to grocery stores, entertainment, etc. If you are willing to accept not having things so close you can get a better deal. Let’s face it when it comes to restaurants and other amenities anyway.
A lot of businesses are closing up for good because the COVID-19 crisis has gone on for far too long. People are not going out for entertainment regularly. Civil unrest and violence is even more incentive to stay home.
Consider what you liked the least about the city and actively try to not bring any of those habits with you.
I will admit that there are some preppers that automatically despise the idea of large groups of urban people flocking to the suburbs or country. Part of their reasoning is that they are fearful that people from urban areas will bring some of the negative aspects of urban life to rural areas. Would you say that all people from your area are good? Do some have bad habits or commit petty thefts? Do they like to cause dramatic occurrences or pounce at the opportunity to participate in ongoing conflicts?
I make a point to tell preppers that there are good and bad people from urban areas and cities just like anywhere else. They may find that some really great people move into their community and forge some long-lasting friendships and alliances. One must be cautious but also realize that you can’t throw everyone in the same basket.
Never say “where I come from we do it this way” or get snappy about price differences at stores.
It is rude to move somewhere and try to get other people to see how much better people do this or that back where you came from. Things are done differently all over the places. I remember living in Alaska and how annoyed people would get when those in the lower 48 states tried to tell them how to manage things up there. You can make suggestions but just outright insinuating that people do it better back where you are from comes off as cocky and rude.
Owning a tract of property is great. If you want to get along with people in the community, be aware about what the outside of your home and the visible parts of your property say about you.
People in the country understand if things are untidy at times and the inevitability of the occasional junk pile that sits a little while before getting hauled off. At the same time, you need to think about the impression your place makes. Use some common sense.
Planned Vs Unplanned Communities
If you look around for lots to put a home on, you might run into some deals that seem a bit too good to be true. The reason the cost is so low on some building lots in subdivisions is often that there are rules and possibly even dues that have to be paid to keep up the appearance of the community. You may not be allowed to burn leaves for example and you could be fined if your lawn doesn’t get cut for a long time.
A planned community does have some advantages that many people may be more comfortable with. Planned communities often have amenities such as a private gate and security. Main road maintenance and amenities such as pools and community centers may also be part of what you are buying into. There may be restrictions that prevent people from keeping some types of pets and livestock.
Unplanned subdivisions and communities are common too. For example, I technically live in a subdivision but that just means that family property was divided up. We have no agreements for road maintenance. Water is provided through privately owned wells. If the road gets rough, no one is required to pitch in to fix it. As a result, we have a pretty rough road.
Odds are that you are going to have to purchase. Rentals are increasingly rare.
I live in a very popular area in western North Carolina. My people have always lived in this area. If they had not literally always lived here, I would never have been able to afford to live here. Realtors are selling houses without buyers every setting foot in the house before the sale is finalized. A video tour online lets potential buyers see enough to be comfortable. Those that rented out properties have decided that selling is better.
Regardless of how you feel about the laws that prohibited evictions for non-payment due to COVID-19, the result has been many property owners deciding they are better off selling then having a rental property that it is hard to get any money from. The demand for homes in the suburbs and rural areas is staggering. Landlords still have to pay mortgage, taxes, and maintenance on properties that are occupied so it is not surprising that so many are choosing to sell. Some people with mortgages have received some relief from lenders but they still owe the money.
Renting may be possible in some areas but it is quickly dwindling and one must ask themselves if renting is worth it when they see the cost versus a mortgage or selling their place and using the money to buy a place somewhere else. You can get a really nice place in some areas for what the price of a run-down fixer up is in a city.
Homes are normally inspected for any issues before being sold. At the same time, there are so many people buying without seeing a property in person. This means no opportunity to take a look for yourself. If your home comes with some extra property attached, you are going to have to maintain that too. As someone that has a single parcel over 10 acres, I can tell you that we have our hands full maintaining it. If you don’t want to keep the lawn mowed then you have to hire someone to do it for you.
In some cases, if a major issue arises soon after a sale, you may be able to get some help but this is not typical nor something you should rely on.
Ask yourself if you can really handle a more rural or suburban lifestyle during a pandemic and civil unrest. Could you handle a week in the country before?
If you are a really social person then get ready to be less social and less involved when you move. Don’t get me wrong, there are usually all kinds of things to keep kids and adults busy and entertained if they look around but with COVID-19 shutting down and eliminating so much, you are going to need to plan entertainment and projects that are more home-oriented. Hikes and camping are two things that a lot are choosing to do when the weather is appropriate.
Matt and I have lived on the side of this mountain for 12 years now. It has been good but it sure hasn’t been a social experience and we are always busy. For entertainment, I read a lot and then I always have my writing which is work but also something I like to do as well.
If you are leaving a city to return to where you are actually from, understand that in some ways you can never really go home.
Things can change a lot when you are away for a few years. Towns grow. What seemed rural is not anymore due to sprawl. Crime statistics can change a lot over the years. Just because a neighborhood or community seemed great when you were younger doesn’t mean it is anything like that now.
Internet accessibility may be a lot different in some areas.
I always advise checking out what internet options you have well in advance. Matt and I had to do without internet up on the mountain for a little while and then we had to make do with slow connection speeds and a lot of ups and downs. Internet access may be slower and cost more out in the country particularly. There are still quite a few spots in our county where the only high-speed options are satellite or cell phone coverage. It is getting better and some even have radio internet.
Consider how much everyone in your home uses the internet now. Take a look at the number of gigs you transfer on average. It may be more than you think. While internet is not the main deciding factor for a major move, it is a pretty important thing overall since more people than ever need it for work and school.
Medical services can vary a lot in availability. Some rural areas don’t have a hospital that is that close. If you or anyone in your family needs major medical care or anticipates needing to be near a hospital, this is an important thing to consider.
Living out in the country means being further from medical care. During icy and snowy weather it can be dangerous to go to town due to slipping and sliding on the road. This takes us to the next subject, the fact that you are going to have to drive everywhere in some places. Public transportation can be very limited or even non-existent.
If you are not used to driving that much or at all, you can reduce the time you spend in a car by ordering a lot of the things you need and using Instacart or similar shopping services. Changing habits so that you just pick things up in town when you are coming home from work or similar can also help. Planning trips out for efficiency will become a bigger part of your life if you want time to do other things.
In many areas people are allowed to shoot guns on there own property as much as they want.
Gunfire is part of life in the country. Suburbs and towns often have rules about target practicing since people live so close together but out in the country, you can do what you want as long as your bullets aren’t going everywhere and causing trouble. Complaining about shooting is just going to make your neighbors not like you. Get some earplugs or headphones and get used to it.
If you don’t want to be around people shooting for fun then you should live in a small town or a planned community.
Don’t move in and start campaigning for a ton of changes that people might not be on board with.
Meddling in things when you are a newcomer is a sure way to get on the wrong side of people. I will give a good example from my own area for context. I doubt that some of these people understood what a big deal they were getting themselves into when they started on an issue.
The Signs By Lowes
For many year’s the intersection by the major home improvement store in my county has been home to a variety of small billboards. Some of these are local charity groups, the Sheriff’s department, small businesses, and a sign explaining the details about how people in need could get some free firewood to stay warm in the winter. Perhaps one of the most popular signs is the one that said “Have you hugged your kids today?”. The person that owned the property was actually the person running the free firewood program. Since he retired he had spend some time each year cutting and providing firewood to those in need.
Then someone that bought a second home in our county complained to the county board and tried to get the signs removed. This resulted in a major campaign against his cause that a lot of the local people backed. Bumper stickers with the hug your kid’s quote popped up on everyone’s car and for a time period, this person was on everyone’s naughty list.
This person complained enough that the sheriff’s department had to take down the sign they had at the same intersection. The sign said something about drunk driving. Maybe you feel differently but I don’t really think it is a good idea to cause trouble for the sheriff’s office for no important reason.
So pick your battles when you move to the suburbs or out in a rural area. There is nothing wrong with getting involved in the community but make sure it is something that is really beneficial for everyone and worth it. Don’t be the guy that finds out he is bullying a fellow that has been doing a ton of charitable work for two decades. While you might achieve your goal, you will lose in the long run. People hold grudges and remember things for a very long time.
Stereotypes exist. You are going to be judged based on the actions or perceived actions of newcomers before you.
No matter where you live in the USA there are stereotypes of people from this or that area. In Washington State people always had something to say about people from California that moved up to the North Cascades. In North Carolina people sometimes talk about people from New York and Florida. Unfortunately for those coming from those areas, they have to deal with being judged based on the actions of those that came before them or the perception of certain actions. Rumors and gossip are powerful.
It can take time for people to accept you and your family. This is the way it is for everyone. Even if someone is a relative of someone in the area or community, it takes time for full acceptance. People from the country and suburbs would expect the same thing if they moved to the city. Don’t take this too personally unless there is real hostility. I won’t tell you that everyone will accept you at some point.
Realize that if they do or don’t is at least partially dependent on how you present yourself and treat others. A few bad apples you might just have to ignore and learn to live with the fact they will never warm to you. There is no rule that we all have to like each other. People just have to be civil and get along well enough to leave each other alone and not cause trouble. You don’t have to get rave reviews from everyone and you should try too hard to make that happen.
Dogs are going to bark and people are going to keep livestock or at least chickens.
If you cannot handle livestock or at least backyard chickens then you might be surprised what you run into when you move to the country or suburbs. Even larger towns at least allow a few chickens. The ability to own and raise some livestock or have more room for pets may be one of your motivating factors in moving further from the city. Just be sure to check the rules before you buy because ordinances on livestock and pets vary a lot depending on if you are in a town or out in a county.
You need to have a defense plan.
I wrote an article on suburban defense that has some pointers on how to defend your home and property. There are many methods beyond firearms that can make a big difference. While suburbs and rural areas are considered safer, violence and crime do happen. Do not get so comfortable that you think that you can just keep a baseball batt by the door or use a deadbolt. As conditions in the US deteriorate, those in the suburbs may find that they need to be vigilant when it comes to personal safety and security.
Check crime statistics when deciding where to move. You may be very surprised.
Some rural and suburban areas can have much higher crime rates than cities believe it or not. When my husband and I graduated from college we went to Ketchikan, Alaska. I had a job waiting for me there. When you tell someone that you are going to Alaska the image is that of pristine nature with not many people to cause trouble.
The truth is that at the time Ketchikan had a higher sexual assault and crime rate than some of the most crime-ridden areas in the Northeast. People would kill each other over a $3 pack of rolling tobacco in a bar. I had people follow me at times. Women were major targets for abuse and crime.
Be ready to be your own first responder.
Law enforcement is still operational in a lot of the rural areas and suburbs bu that doesn’t mean that the response time is going to be fast. It might take a considerable amount of time to get any help from law enforcement or emergency services. In the wintertime, the response time might be even worse. Terrain matters too. I live in the mountains and it can take some time to get to some areas due to the road conditions even when the weather is just fine. You need to be prepared to deal with some things at least partially on your own.
For more info on being your own first responder, I will refer you to my previous article “Being Your Own First Responder In Good Times and SHTF”.
I hope my words have helped you. The intention of this post was to educate and give those fleeing cities some suggestions that will help with the transition from urban to suburban or rural. If it sounds discouraging to you I am sorry that is how you feel. The intent was not to discourage. I think that any major life-changing decision deserves good analysis and consideration. This is your life and your family’s future that you are dealing with. Big decisions are never easy but with some forethought and planning, you can push things in a more positive direction during these uncertain times.
Wishing you the best,
About the Author: Samantha Biggers lives on a mountain in North Carolina with her husband, Matthew, in a house they built. They have a small steep slope vineyard, raise sheep, and grow gourmet mushrooms. Since 2017 she has been proud to write for Backdoor Survival.