The view from our front porch. It will be hard to give that up one day.

Ten years ago we moved our family out to the country.  We used to live in Carson City, Nevada, not exactly a sprawling metropolis, but we wanted to get out of our cramped subdivision and live a simpler life.  We bought five acres in Smith Valley, Nevada a few years earlier and we finally were ready to build out dream home.  I designed the house, I was an engineer after all, and it had everything we thought wanted.

Now, a decade later my wife and I can’t wait to move away.  Don’t get me wrong, we love the area and our house, but living way out in the sticks has its disadvantages.  So why am I airing our dirty laundry on a retirement blog?  Because, it seems a lot of people dream of leaving the big city for a small town or some acreage out in the country.  If that’s your thing, good for you, but the grass isn’t always greener.

Our garden out behind the back yard from last summer

Of course, everyone had a different idea of what out in the country or small town means.  To someone from Manhattan, a small town might be Las Vegas and out in the country might mean New Jersey.  For most of us though, a small town is probably under 10,000 people, and out in the country means a drive to basic services of maybe 20 minutes or more.

We live in a valley of 2,000 people.  A big valley with two small towns, but most of the population is spread out with 5 acres of land being the minimum.  There are several ranches that are thousands of acres in size.  There is no grocery store, only two small convenience type stores, one with a gas station.  There are no traffic signals.  The graduating class at the school last year was like 15 kids.

But on the other hand, we do have a K-12 school with most of the stuff bigger schools have.  We have two post offices, though it seems a bit of a waste, the one general store has a deli counter and the other is attached to a Mexican restaurant.  We have two tractor dealers, a small hardware store and recently we got high-speed internet.  We have a really nice Basque style restaurant too.

The same view from our porch after a snow storm last spring.

Lots of small towns and country homes are like ours.  It’s not the lack of amenities that is the problem, it’s the cost or the drive to get to them cheaper.  We drive 40 miles to shop for groceries.  It’s 25 miles to reasonably priced gas or we pay a dollar  more per gallon here.  Other goods like clothes, shoes, electronics, etc., are an hour away.  Costco, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, all an hour away.

Luckily, we have a sheriff sub-station and a large volunteer fire department.  Some places don’t.  We also have trash pickup, but no recycling.  Until recently we didn’t have high-speed internet unless you paid through the nose for satellite.  We have propane delivered, but it pricey and we only have satellite TV.  We have a small medical clinic, but the nearest hospital is 25 minutes away.  The nearest full-service hospital is an hour, or 20 minutes by helicopter.

There is no cable TV, sewer or water.  We have a septic tank and a well.  If the power goes out, so does our water.  We live amongst ranchers and farmer.  They run cattle down our street and leave their field plowed and bare over the winter.  Because there are few buildings or many trees to block the wind, it howls when it blows.  We’re talking 90 mph!  Every couple of years the bare fields and high winds make for what we affectionately call Iraqi sandstorms.  The last one deposited an inch or two of fine sand all over our yard.

I took this shot back in September looking west down out street. That's our closest neighbor and a few years back they had a meth lab. Neat!

Some small towns are right next too a bigger city.  Some country properties are just a few miles from shopping, restaurants, movies, libraries and more, but you’d never know it.  Some aren’t.  We’ve decided that although we love the views, the peace and quiet, the great school and the privacy, we don’t like all the driving, the lack of services and shopping or the giant mortgage.  We also don’t like all the work.  If you opt for a big piece of property, you need to expect a lot of work to keep it in order.

Bottom line, do your homework before you decide to move to small town or to a place in the country.  There is a big upside, but also a downside.  Can you handle all the driving or the higher prices for goods.  Do you need special medical care or are you OK with taking a risk by not having a hospital nearby?  If you like something in particular (Starbucks, movies, fast internet, etc.), do you have access to that?  Can you handle the work it will take, especially if you have a larger piece of land?

Ultimately, it’s up to you, but being ready for the realities of small town or country living can make the transition smoother.  As long as you know what you are getting into and have done all the research, go for it.  For us, we just like the convenience of living in town.  We’re not opposed to living in the country, just a lot closer to a city or town.  This life just isn’t what we thought it would be.  You’re mileage may vary.

We’re staying for the time being.  As long as our boys are in school, we want to keep them here.  It’s a good place to raise kids.  When they are grown and out of the house, we plan to full-time RV for spell, and how we look forward to that day, and then when we lose the wanderlust we’ll find a place near to or in a reasonably sized town.  We really like Reno, about an hour and a half away.  Now, if we can only sell our house for what we still owe on it when the time comes.  But that’s another post.

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