Our vacation home is on a lake in a rural area. The nearest small town is a 20 minute drive. Although we do not live on a farm or have lots of land, it is a country lifestyle with a waterfront bonus. When we spend time here, I often think about the positive and negative aspects of retirement in a small town or rural community.
Benefits of Retirement in a Small Town or Rural Area
Cost of Living. Food is more expensive in our local grocery stores. If we were to drive another 30 minutes, we can find larger chain groceries with lower prices. When we start living here for longer periods that might make sense.
Everything else that we buy in our rural community seems to be less expensive, including utilities, insurance, and maintenance services. I think that a lot of that is related to real estate. The land is cheaper, houses cost less, and property taxes are lower compared to city living. This flows into all other cost of living categories.
Peace and Quiet. I can sum up this benefit this way: Without fail, I sleep much better at the lake than I do at our home in the suburbs. There, sleeping past 6:30 AM is a rarity, even on weekends. Up here, I routinely sleep until 8:00 AM or later.
It is quiet here. Less noise pollution from people and things around us. There is also less light pollution. At night, the biggest glow is from the moon and stars, sometimes reflecting off the lake. I don’t think that we as city dwellers understand how sound and light distractions affect us physiologically. Being in the country calms our bodies.
Slowing the Pace of Life. Things in living-life slow down in rural areas, and generally not in a bad way. My thinking about this phenomenon is that it comes down to geography and practical living. For most country folks, it takes longer to get from one place to the other. This causes you to not go there as often. You stay around home more, resisting that large-city temptation to go shopping or go “somewhere.” Out here in the country that “somewhere” is a lot farther away. Although it is sometimes inconvenient to drive 25 minutes to a hardware store or grocery, I like the overall slowness of rural living.
The People. To me this is the biggie. The people up here in rural Kentucky are just plain nice. It’s as simple as that. Our neighbors here are genuinely friendly and helpful. In the city, some neighbors are friendly, some are competitive, some we don’t even know.
There were two examples of this yesterday. First, I saw a truck on our little street looking for a neighbor to provide an estimate for a gutter repair. I flagged him down, pointed out where the neighbor lived, and asked him to come by when he was finished there. I had a small section of gutter that was torn off in our ice storm earlier this year.
He came back later, saw what was needed and said it was so small, he would do it for free when he back to fix my neighbor’s gutter. And that’s not the first time that has happened.
Later, I saw a pile of gravel in front of a nearby vacant lot. I asked my neighbor who owned the lot if I could buy some of the gravel to finish my retaining wall project. She said to just take what I needed, for free. Another neighbor heard me ask. A few minutes later, he drove over with his utility vehicle and some buckets and volunteered to help me transport the gravel.
I just appreciate the genuine reality and kindness of small town and country folk. I can overlook a lot of negatives in rural retirement based on the people alone.
Disadvantages of Retiring in a Small Town
It is easy to identify two of the prominent drawbacks of retirement in the country, although they haven’t really affected us.
Transportation and Travel. Although it is easy to get to our lake house by car (we are only 9 miles from an Interstate), flying somewhere takes effort. The nearest major airport is 90 minutes away. This makes it more inconvenient for us and for long-distance visitors. I think this is something I can handle.
Medical Care. Routine health care and a small county hospital are 25 minutes away. A 911 call would probably bring an ambulance in 20 minutes. The nearest major medical center is 90 minutes. Thus, if one of us had a serious health problem, we would be traveling quite a bit. That is something to worry about but not yet. If a problem like that develops, we will deal with it then. I cannot see making a retirement decision now based on something bad that might happen in the future.
Cultural Amenities. If you are big on pro sports, museums, fine dining, and the like, then rural living is not for you. I like all of these things but not enough to keep me tied to a city. As long as I have the time and money to experience city culture now and then, that suits me fine.
Final Thoughts on Retiring in a Rural Area
I will be the first to concede that I have a lot more to learn about this subject, for the simple reason that we haven’t retired yet. But so far, I cannot see any real obstacles to my enjoyment of retirement in a small town or rural area.
Do any of you have any insight for me?