How Rural America May Become the Promised Land for Urban Refugees

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In the The Internet is Not Helping Rural America I made the point that rural America is falling behind the rest of the country, largely due to limitations with the Internet. In this article, I’d like to discuss how rural America may become the promised land for urban refugees, precisely because of the Internet.

Why Would Anyone Want to Leave the Big City?

The easy answer is the high cost of living. In many major cities, particularly along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the cost of living is reaching absurd levels.

How Rural America May Become the Promised Land for Urban Refugees
How Rural America May Become the Promised Land for Urban Refugees

There are various components to the cost of living issues in these areas. One is certainly high taxation. States like California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts tax their residents to death. It’s not just high income taxes either. They also have high and rising property taxes, sales taxes and an innovative variety of backdoor taxes, like regulatory fees and traffic violations that make up a significant amount of revenue.

Much of the problem is the high cost of supporting the pensions for public employees. And still more is just plain waste.

The Urban Housing Crunch

The other major cause is housing. Whether it’s rent or house prices, housing costs are reaching nosebleed levels. An interesting article came out on this topic just last week, My Generation is Never Going to Be Able to Have That (a house). It focused specifically on the Seattle housing market, as the poster child for what’s happening in dozens of cities.

Millennial’s are drawn to the city’s growing high-tech employment. But despite salaries that are well above average, many cannot qualify to purchase an average home in the area. Still more can’t afford rent and have been forced into unconventional housing arrangements.

Yet another recent article makes the seemingly counterintuitive claim that Homeownership Does Not Guarantee Middle Class Prosperity. It goes on to explain how federal, state and local government policies have conspired to cause some areas to experience real estate price explosions, while turning other areas – sometimes entire cities – into permanent low-rent districts.

This is a topic I’ve covered before. Contrary to popular belief (or indoctrination), rising house prices aren’t necessarily a good thing. That’s becoming more apparent every year.

Examples from Closer to Home

In case you’re thinking I’m merely quoting third-party sources for information, I’ve seen plenty of this phenomenon close to home. Last week we were tooling around Portsmouth, NH, and while we were there we were looking at housing. My daughter and her girlfriend are planning to get a place together. We were stunned at the number of houses along the New Hampshire and Maine seacoasts priced in excess of $1 million. Those weren’t necessarily houses located on the beach either.

It appears to be the Boston overflow – another city teeming with high-tech jobs and ridiculously high house prices. But the price effect has moved up the coast, a good 50 to 100 miles away from the city itself.

Meanwhile, while browsing on Realtor.com, I discovered the average price of a home listed in my hometown in New Jersey is nearly $800,000. The community right next to it, where I was born, has an average listing price of $1.075 million dollars. (This makes clear why we no longer live in New Jersey.)

Price structures like these are totally absurd.

As prices have been rising in recent years, the problem is becoming more acute, especially for younger people. But rest assured that the search for cheaper housing has been a major migration-driver in the human race for centuries.

And that brings us back to rural America.

How Rural America May Become the Promised Land for Urban Refugees

The historic trend in America – and one often bragged about – is how the country evolved from a nation of farmers and shopkeepers to urban factory workers, and now, increasingly, high tech. The percentage of the US population living in urban areas increased from 10% in 1830, to 80% by 2010.

This has led to rising living costs, especially property values, in urban areas. At the same time, much of rural America is aging and shrinking.

But it’s not ridiculous to contemplate a reversal of the historic trend. After all, today’s world sees the fastest population growth – and the greatest job generation – taking place in what are or once were “third world countries”.

The greatest example of this transition is China. One of the poorest countries in the world in 1945, it’s now the the world’s leading manufacturing nation. It manufactures more goods than the combined European Union, and nearly twice as much as the US, the nation that dominated manufacturing for over 100 years.

Such dramatic shifts are hardly unknown in human history. They take place when there are major cost imbalances. In the case of China, land, production and labor were much less expensive than in Europe and North America. It made sense for manufacturers to relocate operations there.

Now that the cost of housing in many urban areas has reached nosebleed levels, is it possible that both businesses and individuals will begin a gradual migration to rural America?

A Trend that May Already Be in Motion

I’ve already touched on this trend in Quiet Revolution – Young People Becoming Farmers. There is something of a back-to-the-land movement by young people already underway. And as I disclosed in the article, my sister and brother-in-law have joined the ranks of urbanites-turned-farmers.

Some of this has to do with the pursuit of a simpler life. Not only is urban life incredibly expensive, but it’s also become unnecessarily complicated. Overcrowding is part of the problem, political fiefdoms are another. The terms “urban” and “simple” are becoming increasingly incompatible.

But it would seem the recent run up in urban real estate could be a serious catalyst. After World War II, millions of people left large cities in favor of the suburbs. They weren’t following jobs, but looking for cheap housing.

That cheap housing no longer exists. Suburban tract homes that were selling for less than $10,000 in the 1950s are now fetching $500,000 and more.

Highly skilled urbanites, who can neither afford a $500,000 house or a $2,000 per month rental, may be forced to rediscover rural America.

The Internet – The Great Equalizer

I admit I have a bias here, since I make my living on the Internet. But I’m not special. When I got into this, I had no skills that remotely qualified me to make a living on the Internet. No degree in IT, no hands-on computer experience – nothing. If I can do it, anyone can.

I see the Internet as being the 21st century equivalent of the interstate highway system. Launched in 1956, the interstate highway system probably did more than anything to move millions of people from large cities out to the suburbs. It created the all-important economic link between suburb and city, or more precisely, between the suburban homestead and urban employment. (Contrary to popular belief, employers only began moving out to the suburbs following massive waves of people, but not leading the charge.)

The Internet could be the interstate highway equivalent, enabling people to move to rural areas, while earning a living on the web.

This isn’t just true in theory. Much of the shift of business and industry from North America and Europe to the developing world has been made possible by the Internet. Yes, businesses had already been moving to those areas due to cost. But the Internet has created an invaluable inter-connectivity, linking the far-flung corners of the world.

I can personally attest to this. I have several clients on the other side of the globe, but because of the internet, we transact business as if we’re in the same office park.

Internet Income Earning Skills are Growing

On an individual level, millions of people have skill sets that can either enable them to work remotely, or to become Internet entrepreneurs in some capacity. It’s even possible to do it on a part-time basis, in combination with some other form of employment or self-employment. In fact, there is a rising class of mobile creatives who are doing just that.

The ranks of that class began to swell in the Great Recession, as traditional employment began to melt down. It’s likely the class will grow even more in the next recession.

The point is, geography is no longer an obstacle to earning a living. In fact, me and my family of four were able to uproot and move from Atlanta to New Hampshire in 2014, without any of us having a job in place. But I had my blog and my freelance blogging business, and that made the move possible.

The lower cost of living in rural America will make it possible – and even desirable – for people earning true middle-class incomes to make the shift. The $50,000 annual income that’s become completely inadequate in a suburb of New York, San Francisco or Boston, may be more than adequate in a rural area.

A part-time Internet business, generating maybe $20,000 or $30,000 per year, might be combined with a local job or product-based business. In fact, the Internet is becoming one of the best ways for a small operator to sell products. Even if you live in a small community, the entire world is your potential market because of the web.

As more people become comfortable with this way of earning a living, a move to the country could become a serious trend.

The Transition Won’t be a Hayride

In moving from an urban area to a rural one, it won’t be an easy transition. In fact, not everyone is cut out for such a move. There are some drawbacks to living in a rural area, compared with an urban or suburban area.

Some limitations to consider:

  • Rural areas typically lack the cultural amenities of large cities.
  • There will be less of everything urbanites are used to – restaurants, movie theaters, gyms, and retail outlets, to name a few.
  • Public transportation will be nonexistent in most locations.
  • Internet availability and quality may be limited in some areas.
  • Health insurance is a problem everywhere in the US, but many rural counties have only one insurance provider, and some have none at all.
  • Healthcare facilities are few and far between, which could be a limitation for older folks looking to move to the country.

Never having lived in a rural area, there are doubtless many more I can’t even imagine. But most of us are a lot more flexible and resilient than we realize. It may be that shortly after moving to a rural area you’ll find that the things you don’t have you never really needed.

As well, there’s a very long list of urban irritations you’ll no longer have to live with. This includes high housing costs, high property taxes, high crime, traffic jams, traffic lights, long waits at restaurants, over-crowded shopping malls, and a general lack of privacy, among others.

Advantages and disadvantages always have to be carefully weighed out when you’re making a major move. But one thing I do know about transitions – that’s that economics often play a dominant role. If you’re able to make a comfortable living without geographic limitations, the motivation to lower your cost of living will be a strong draw.

A Few More Important Caveats on Moving to Rural America

As is so often the case, when I wrote The Internet is Not Helping Rural America, I learned a lot from the many comments left by readers. A few, who had made the transition to rural America, offered some excellent advice for anyone making the move.

  • Be respectful of the locals – it’s their community, and you’re the “foreigner”.
  • You’re not on a mission to save the locals from themselves.
  • Respect the lack of suburban lifestyles and income levels. A lot of people in rural areas like their lives just the way they are.
  • Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean you need to deface the land by building a McMansion or some other type of suburban edifice.
  • Be purposeful about blending with the local community. Plan to work a local job, start a small business, or going into small farming.
  • Gently immerse yourself in the local culture. That may involve joining a church. Religion hasn’t disappeared from rural America at anywhere near the rate it has in the urban areas.
  • There may not be a Chinese restaurant, a bagel shop or a tanning salon – get over it.

While economics may be the major reason for moving to a rural area, it can be a dramatic change in many other respects. You have to be prepared for that, and ready to blend in. You’re not going to convert the area and the people to something more acceptable to you, and you’ll be building resentment if you try.

Final Thoughts on How Rural America May Become the Promised Land for Urban Refugees

All that said, the few people I know who’ve made the move from metropolitan areas to rural areas overwhelmingly appreciate that they did. It’s not always apparent in the early years; after all, it is a transition. But it’s one that if done right, and with the right expectations, can reap a lifetime of benefits.

Have you made the move from an urban or suburban area to rural America? Or do you hope to in the future? And if so, how are/will you earn a living? And how are you adjusting to the different lifestyle?

( Photo by Nicholas_T )

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28 Responses to How Rural America May Become the Promised Land for Urban Refugees

  1. I particularly liked your caveats on moving to rural areas. What I’ve been reading is that too often people leave their big city environment because of crime, taxes and other urban problems but take their big city mentality with them and immediately try to turn the new area into a clone of what they left. Texas has had a huge influx of people from California and have had political and cultural conflicts with the new arrivals. Examples are trying to turn the state from red to blue politically and alter it culturally by taking their anti-gun culture to a state that has historically been gun tolerant. Why leave a place and then expect the new place to have the same things you left? Great topic, Kevin.

  2. Hi Kathy – I’d love to claim credit for all those caveats, but they actually came from comments by Bev, Mary, Kristen and Josh on The Internet is NOT Helping Rural America. But I agree with them all, which is why they’ve been included. There’s a definite regional arrogance/ignorance that follows us when we move from one place to another. I used to encounter it when we moved to the South. Northerners move down there and want to “northernize” it. I can only imagine what they’ve done to South Florida!

    But I agree, if urbanites move to rural areas they have to do so with the full intent of becoming local. Besides, big urban/metropolitan ideas, laws and politics are usually totally irrelevant in rural areas. Heck, most are leaving the cities for the very policies they so lovingly endorse, and fail to see the connection. I think that’s how Northern New England got so blue, all the transfers from NY, NJ, MA and CT coming up here. But the locals seem to have a definite libertarian orientation, especially in NH. I’m hoping that never changes.

  3. This is a trend. However, don’t overlook the fact that it is happening in smaller rustbelt cities also. My city is a perfect example. It is small, 237,000 people last I checked. Very low cost housing and rents.

    For many years it was a forgotten place. It has boomed in the last 10 years. Especially the last five. Many expats have moved back home after leaving for greener pastures only to find what you have stated above, about big cities.

    People seem to be going totally rural or migrating to these smaller rustbelt cities again. Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh has exploded and is now ranked eighth on a top retirement destination. Rochester is also one.

  4. So true Tim. With everyone wanting to crowd into the coastal tech centers, a lot of great cities in between have gone quiet. But they offer urban amenities, lower costs particularly on housing, and often a better quality of life than the coastal cities. I sometimes see where I live as being like the 1950s. I imagine there are larger cities where that’s true on a larger scale. Of course, here in NH, because of Boston, housing isn’t as cheap as it is in the so-called rust belt.

    I should probably do a post on low cost cities, but that would be easily 5,000 words, and I don’t know if I’m up to it.

  5. I’m 8 hrs from NYC so it’s not a real factor. Like Boston is for you. The thing about going rural is it seems it’s mostly established people who have made there money elsewhere and looking for a a much slower pace. The issue here now is things are starting to rise because of the massive influx in the last five years. If my real estate rises enough in the next five to ten years I would bail and go rural. Sell my business and home and go for it.
    I’m not sure a young person just starting out can go rural but I could be wrong on that.

  6. A young person can go rural if he or she has internet skills, and is prepared to make some effort to do rural related work with it. It’s the half farmer/half X combination. There are thousands of people making a living on the web, not counting telecommuters, and many, maybe most are under 35. But I agree, if you’re right out of school and looking for a traditional job, rural won’t work.

    But naturally, an article like this isn’t written for the second group, but the first. I’ve even thought that it could be a real advantage if you have an online store, to sell locally grown/produced/manufactured goods from rural areas to urbanites. You’d have local product, and unlimited market reach with the web. Of course, you don’t have to go rural to do that, but it’s one scenario.

  7. On a side note. I looked at real estate in NH. I was surprised at how high it was.
    Funny you mentioned south Florida. A friend of mine moved there a while back and lasted a year. He said he was a total minority because he spoke English. Lol

  8. I was a bit surprised too. But having visited NH several times over the years before making the move, we did know in advance. I suspect what’s happening, apart from the Boston overflow, is that the ranks of internet and stock market millionaires are growing. There are now millions of people in that group. They’re moving to places that are desirable – which NH has plenty of those – and running up house prices. It’s happening in a lot of the coastal areas, especially in the Northeast and the West Coast, and some places in between as well. For example, Atlanta was once famous for cheap housing, but not in the last three or four years. Where big money (the top 5-10%) swarms, property values skyrocket.

    BTW, nothing against Florida, I love to vacation there, but we’ve checked it out several times and in different areas and don’t see it working for us. Much of Florida is a lot more urbanized than TV and the slick brochures show. It’s also not as inexpensive as it used to be. And of course, there’s the heat, the bugs and the growing number of creepy crawlers in the bushes and waterways that I’d prefer to not encounter.

  9. One more comment. Part of my business requires internet. I own a print shop. We print on all kinds of fabric. Make pillows from scratch etc etc.
    I have found it to get quite costly to advertise on the internet.
    Especially social media platforms. Facebook is a nightmare and you can run up thousands of dollars trying to grow your business online. Without many results. Unless your shelling out big dollars you get pushed to the back of these pages very quickly. Nobody ends up seeing it. There are tons of rules when it comes to social media advertising. The pictures can only be a certain size etc etc. It gets crazy. We have grown to a six figure business all on word of mouth. So I’m not so big on internet for this type of thing. I think it’s very overrated.

  10. It can work for some. It seemed to be an endless rabbit hole for me. To spend thousands of dollars with little to show for it I decided to use my money more wisely. Investing in new equipment and physically attending events has worked much better for us.

  11. Most people I know who have grown internet businesses have done it primarily with a website with heavy search engine optimization. One friend built a trash business by using keywords centering on trash, and in specific communities he services. I’ve heard of others doing that as well. I don’t know anyone personally who has built a business advertising on the social media.

    The website/SEO approach involves creating an authority site with lots of free content, updated regularly with articles and blog posts. When combined with email marketing and maybe youtube videos, that seems to be the most common strategy. I write for some sites that do just that. It adds a whole new dimension to your marketing, that becomes website centered. And of course, you can then post new articles on the social media sites for free.

    If you’re interested in growing your business on the web you might talk with an SEO company. I know a couple.

  12. Interesting. Maybe. Let me give that some thought. I just figured I haven’t met the right people. One thing that is sorely lacking here are people with these skills. Are website is where I want traffic but really haven’t gained the business I thought I would. We have grown organtically at a decent rate but I would like it to be more.

  13. Everybody here wants to use social media. That’s where they seem stuck. It was too much of a rabbit hole like I said earlier.
    I went to a so called social media marketing person and it took me two meetings to bail. They weren’t for real.

  14. Yes, let’s discuss this further by email, since it isn’t related to the post topic. There are a lot of bad SEO companies out there, most doing nothing you can’t do yourself.

  15. One thing all the comments pointed out was the movement of people with different views than the locals coming in and changing the political and cultural urbanization from the state it was to what they left behind. Instead of blending in, they create their own version of things ( fancy housing, etc). The biggest effect is raising prices of everything especially housing and work to eliminate anyone who isn’t on their income level.
    I live in an area of New York which has seen more development of high end housing because they have created a need and a means to live in my area and easily commute to Manhattan where they make their big salaries.
    What gets me mad is New York gives tax incentives for businesses to set up but does nothing to offer affordable housing unless you want to travel a long distance to and from work. There’s a lot of businesses who need workers but only the top people get high salaries. Everyone else gets much lower.
    Rural areas may be cheaper but with the blue Ultra liberals spreading in, that’s not a long term solution. An entrepreneur in a specialty niche might a place to operate in a small town after a detailed search of the area.
    This article addresses creating an internet business in an already saturated field which means that you have to have a great way to build and keep traffic on your site. Even YouTube is now throttling some Youtube bloggers unless they have a certain number of viewers—that’s what caused that woman to go to their headquarters on a killing spree because of this.
    Kevin has been a blogger for a long time successfully but it is not an easy thing to achieve plus you need to be careful not to be taken advantage of with all the scammers and hackers on the internet.
    As to some of the younger generation becoming small farmers, that’s also a tough job both physically and competitively because of the big corporate farms but duable if you have the desire for that kind of life.
    A person who’s a doctor could get hired as the town’s main doctor if they don’t mind doing GP doctoring instead of specialty work.
    But we have a whole group of high income individuals who are determined to create their own utopia with no care for us regular folks. We need to find a way to keep them from ruining the whole country. Like in my area, the houses and properties are too overvalued for no reason.except to create social islands.

  16. I couldn’t have said it better Maria Rose. I think the problem is rooted in human nature. As soon as we get rich or influential, we want to become masters of our own universe. That often leads to destructive trends, especially when it’s done by a group of would-be masters. My home town in NJ used to be true middle class, including a lot of factory workers. Now it’s white collar and prices are at $600,000 to $1 million. When that happens, the true middle class moves out. Preservation of property values (a metaphor for policies that increase property values even more) becomes the dominant mentality, and the community loses it soul. You should read that Homeownership Does Not Guarantee Middle-Class Prosperity article I linked in the post, it goes into some detail about that. Having worked in the mortgage business for so many years, I can endorse what that article says.

    One thing I do think will somewhat insulate rural areas from an upper class remake though is the shear size of rural areas. They may succeed in overtaking some areas, but they’ll be few and far between. They won’t be able to take over all of rural America they way they have certain suburban districts or states. That may not even be a bad thing. They might create “hubs”, that other communities can feed into and off of. That could work out better than anyone thinks.

    I like the “social islands” metaphor. When we were living in Atlanta there were a lot of gated communities, where people identified more with the neighborhood than with the city they lived in. They were communities unto themselves designed to (but never admitted) to keep out the Great Unwashed. Those are social islands. It’s a rich people thing, the desire for exclusivity.

  17. Hi Kevin. Sadly, it’s happening everywhere in that people moving to a rural area and trying to change it. It doesn’t always have to come with big salaries, but it usually accompanied by a different mentality…one that was brought with them. “You can’t stop progress” is an old saying, and one that most people don’t agree with or want to see happen to their neighborhoods. I’ve seen tremendous changes in Vermont just in the past 13 years I’ve been here. I’m not happy about them. Although still mostly rural, there are many places where building is going on. Vermont in an expensive state to live in, and there are no tax breaks for anyone, no matter your age. But people are still moving here, some stay, some leave. My family comes to visit and say they like it here but don’t want to live here….nothing to do. And we say “bye.” We love them but we know they would be very unhappy here. Everyone wants something different. Great article with a lot of resources to read. Thanks for that.

  18. Hi Bev – I’ve checked out property values in Vermont, and much like NH, they’re higher than what you might expect, especially in the Burlington area. On a recent trip to Montpelier, my wife and I felt as if the town is largely a slice of Manhattan. A lot of people from NY and NJ move to Vermont, and I think they bring that mindset with them. The problem is that as conditions in the urban states get worse – and they will – more people will move to rural states. Small states like VT and NH can easily be overwhelmed and changed by the arrival of just a few thousand well-to-do transplants.

    I don’t want to get political, but it’s amazing to me that Vermont elected an openly Socialist senator in Bernie Sanders. When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, no one but college professors publicly admitted to being socialist. But it shows how the whole country is changing. I think the basic progressive nature of Northern New England might be fertile ground for that kind of shift, which I don’t say with any warm, fuzzy feelings.

  19. There are many homes here that are second homes in the country for a lot of very wealthy people in the northeast. They are mostly unaffordable for the majority of people, I’m talking $800,000 and up. They’re quite beautiful with a lot of land, but still very expensive and add in the taxes and you’re looking at quite a bundle. It’s a nice life if you can afford it, so they say. I wouldn’t know. Yes, Bernie is liked by many people here, and he got farther in the recent election than many thought he would. He’s not my cup of tea either, but that’s just me.

  20. It seems to me that if you’re moving to the country, you’d want to go cheap and blend in. Bringing your urban/suburban amenities with you like a giant backpack defeats the purpose. But I have noticed from my experiences in accounting and mortgages that the wealthy often have a different way of thinking. Even the ones who say “Oh, stuff doesn’t matter to me” have trouble being places where they’re not surrounded by it.

    I love the parable of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27). He was being given an opportunity to inherit eternal life – if he would give up his worldly possessions – but it ends with “But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property”.

    Also, in the movie The Greatest Showman – which I highly recommend seeing – Jenny Lind says “It is hard to understand wealth and privilege when you’re born to it.” She was talking about the inherited money of the 19th Century, but I think that becomes a factor even with self-made money. I’ve seen a number of self-made rich people who never changed who they are at the core, and consider them to be outstanding examples. But I’ve seen more of the other kind, who want everyone to know what they have. That tends to become a lifestyle.

    I know it sounds like we’re trashing wealth here, but it is true that not all of what the wealthy do is positive.

  21. Prefect commentary on Socialism and Bernie Saunders who keeps preaching to that tune while living the life of a 1% , just look at his fancy homes. Those who push for that program of socialism really need to live that way but they don’t. I don’t know about anyone else but I am not into a socialist society which only increases the power of the rich. They have more than they need and don’t share well with others. Inside their social islands they can practice socialism and leave us to create a better world. Too bad you have to live so close to Bernie.

  22. I agree Maria Rose. I personally am not into any of the “-isms”. They try to solve all human problems within strict philosophical parameters and always miss the mark. It seems to me that both the Right and the Left basically pursue policies that create power vacuums at the top, but each has a different approach, but always the same end result. Have you noticed that whether a republican or democrat is in power, the middle class still keeps getting squeezed? The choice between the two has become an illusion.

  23. Very true, as a poll worker at my local ballot place, I try to explain to people that whom we vote for should not be based on a political party affiliations but their performance in that position that effectively deals with the needs of the people they represent. The only reason to “register “ for a party line is to also have a say in the primary elections ( whatever good that does). If someone( politican) has a loud mouth, they better have the actions to match. Political parties should be viewed the same way we view consumer products—Does it benefit me the individual. Rhetoric never sits well with me, as talk is cheap.

  24. Again — really interesting conversations here. We all tend to think that we would have a perfect society if everyone else lived like we did and believed in all the same things we did, yes? And then think about how boring the world would be!

    Really good point that rural life takes some adjusting to. Making a quick run to the store at 2 A.M. is not really that doable, and if you’re hungry, nobody is going to drop a pizza off at your front door. If you’re planning to leave the city, you really need to be more intentional and deliberate about how you live your life!

    Just got back from a trip to rural southwest Michigan. For years, the only option in this one area for internet access beyond dial-up was via satellite, so if the weather was bad, forget it! Now, they have high-speed internet — not from the giant telecoms but from a locally-owned electric co-op! Don’t have many other details at the moment, but apparently the electric companies already had access to a lot of the infrastructure, so now this area has high-speed fibre. A good internet connection really will make a lot of these places more livable. I would be more than happy to trade in a lot of city conveniences and comforts and adopt the local rural culture if I knew I could get online!

  25. We have to hope those local solutions will catch on. I wonder if the cable from the coop is less expensive. If it is, they could be on to something revolutionary. But my thinking is we can adjust to the different lifestyle (again, for me as long as there’s a solid internet connection). Apart from being able to make a living, we really don’t need all the conveniences we have. For example in the days before all-night eateries, you didn’t even think about going out for tacos at 2 am. If you don’t have it, you don’t need it.

    But I think your stronger point is the homogenization thing. If we were all alike and lived alike, civilization would collapse, maybe humanity as well. I don’t think we completely appreciate how important personal differences are to our survival and prosperity. One example that gets me on my soapbox is when they tell young people they need to pursue careers in healthcare and the STEM fields. If every young person did, we’d have no teachers, chefs, electricians, retailers, restaurant works, bloggers (shameless plug!), farmers, artists or writers. Society would literally collapse.

    The same is true of living arrangements. Look at the suburbs, particularly housing developments with essentially similar homes; how many people contemplate how emotionally stifling that is? It imposes a conformity of lifestyles, occupations, pastimes and even goals. So I say viva the cities, the rural areas and towns, and even the ethnic barrios that so many Americans feel threatened by. All add a richness to our culture, our lives and the economy.

    Ah, I love thinking outside the box – it’s downright liberating!

  26. After trying both urban and rural living, I ended up in the happy middle.
    The cities were expensive but had great public transportation and libraries. Rural areas were cheap, but I needed a car and expensive internet.
    I ended up in a small town on the outskirts of a rustbelt city. The rents are cheap but the county bus system and libraries are close at hand. The small town has post office and 2 groceries within a few blocks. Plenty of free concerts and festivals in the summer.
    One side of town joins up with the city, but the other side opens into rural country to the next rustbelt town 90 miles down the canal.
    It took a bit of research and visiting places but it was worth it. The area is beginning to experience a rebirth but I hope it lasts for the rest of my time!

  27. That does sound like the perfect happy middle Rick. We’re kind of in that situation here, living on the edge of a former industrial city, but where we are housing is high. That’s probably because of easy access to the Greater Boston area, as well as the New England Seacoast. Still, it’s less expensive and a lot less competitive than most prime suburban areas. So we get the benefit of close in urban amenities, plenty of recreational areas nearby, and lower (but not low) housing prices. Still the idea of moving farther out does cross my mind pretty often. Gonna have to see where our kids settle.

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