It’s generally assumed that 20-somethings gravitate toward metropolitan areas more than they do small towns, but there’s a new trend that is redefining the post-grad dream: small cities. We’re talking about places like Austin, Pittsburgh, Lancaster, Asheville, Charleston, Burlington – all of offer all of the interest and convenience for a fraction of the cost, a better quality of life, and a chance to get your foot into everything up-and-coming.
1. You develop a stronger social circle.
Not only do you naturally associate with the same groups of people simply out of proximity, you get to know the people you interact with each day. You become friends with your baristas and hairdressers and the people you always see at your favorite bar on Friday night.
2. You get the “small town” feel with all the convenience of “big city” life.
You can get all of the Stars Hollow-esque small diner, friends with everyone, walk everywhere, kitschy tradition lifestyle with all the convenience and excitement of a city that’s bustling with cafés and diners and pop-up shops. Basically, it’s the best of both worlds.
3. Everything is uniquely charming.
Though it’s impossible to say there aren’t beautiful and interesting parts of every major city (there are) smaller cities each have a particular flare about them. There’s something beautiful about preserved buildings and old streets and decades-old traditions and stores and restaurants that only exist in that one town.
4. You can afford a better quality of life.
Plain and simple: you can afford better food, a nicer apartment, and so on. With living costs cut at least in half – if not by a third – of what you’d be shelling out for life in a bigger city, more opportunities naturally open for you: to start a business, travel more, invest in property, buy a home.
5. There’s less of an obsession with overworking, but just as much ambition.
Somehow there’s less of a neuroses around your professional life as a status symbol, yet that doesn’t mean you aren’t surrounded by driven people. You’ll come to have friends who open their own shops, own clothing lines, design jewelry, make music, take photos, and all with unimaginably high quality.
6. There’s more support and less competition.
Smaller cities are notorious for being incredibly supportive of their businesses, and shop owners/citizens take pride in this.
7. People are more down-to-Earth.
It’s also impossible to generalize what *every single person* in an entire region is like, but there are definitely trends in behaviors, and then of course, some places simply appeal to different personalities. All of this to say: people in smaller cities tend to be more down-to-Earth, humble, friendly and unassuming.
8. It’s easier to get your foot in the door (any door).
Though there are fewer jobs to accommodate a smaller population, there are incredible companies and magazines and startups that are inevitably easier to get into when the size of the candidates pool is always in your favor.
9. You can afford to make investments that will pay out in the long-run.
You can potentially own property in your 20s – period. If you’re not looking to be a homeowner, you can invest in property to flip/sell, have an easier time renting a space for a start-up, simply get in with various developing businesses while they’re still small, and you can grow with them.
10. You’re more likely to be closer to nature, or anything other than city streets.
Many small towns are as known for their natural wonders as they are their bustling sidewalks. Because of how much smaller the city is – therefore, how much more shallow the suburbs are developed – having access to things like nature trails or mountain hikes or lakes or beaches is much, much faster.
11. There’s more potential to find a partner who shares your interests.
Not to mention there’s a higher potential to find a partner, period – not because there’s a greater abundance of options, but because the pool is skimmed out well. You’re surrounded by people who are like you, who are from areas similar to the one you are, who you see and have the potential to interact with more than a once-in-a-blue-moon passing.
12. It’s cooler than “following the crowd.”
Everybody migrates, or at least dreams of migrating, to the bigger cities, and while there’s definitely great reason for that, it’s becoming the new cool thing to take a smaller city, and completely make it your own.
13. A lot of people remain disillusioned about what “big city life” will really mean for them.
Unless you are profoundly successful at a young age, have managed to cultivate a thoroughly sound friendship group within your first year in the city, and do not mind extensive work hours and astronomically high costs of living, you’re bound to meet a ton of disappointment. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t make it, it just calls into question how much you’re willing to sacrifice to.
14. It’s easier to build a life, not just earn a living.
This is certainly not to say that people who live in other areas don’t build a life, but it’s easier to develop roots and become settled and stable in an area that’s simply designed to better suit your needs. Not everyone has to work full-time to get by; the style is cooler and decidedly unique; the people you pass on the street aren’t just strangers, they’re part of a real community, and that is priceless.
15. Because you live on less, you can do more.
That backpacking trip you’ve always dreamt of? A lot easier to fathom when your rent isn’t more than half your paycheck. Spending every other weekend staring at open skies and mountainous terrain? Absolutely possible. Saving for retirement or a two week vacation or a home on your favorite block? Sincerely do-able.
16. You will discover more about who you are, and you’ll develop more of who you are.
It’s easy to get lost in the hustle of a bigger city, and lose part of your identity to the city itself even. (How many actors do you hear describing the biggest character of the film to be “the city?” Lots. Really, lots.)
17. There’s always an incredibly cool counter-culture.
If you’ve always went around feeling as though you never quite fit in, you have your chance to meet your people, find your niche, and really thrive.
18. There’s a slower pace of life.
People will smile and greet you and ask you how you are when you check out at the grocery store. People walk slower, and talk more, and work just enough.
19. People more often “dress for the weather.”
… Which is another way to say that they aren’t completely tied up in how things appear, or what status you can attain. Style is important, but fashion isn’t as much. People are generally more concerned with how they feel than how they look.
20. Statistically-speaking, you’ll be happier.
This can be attributed to a deeper sense of community (which is profoundly important for health, identity and sanity) or exposure to nature, or a difference in quality of social life or cultural importance on individual success vs. achieving something for the whole. No matter what it comes down to, one thing is for sure: smaller cities are associated with a larger wellbeing.