Traffic got you in a tizzy? Smog got you feeling sluggish? The countryside has charmed everyone from Thoreau to Fleet Foxes, and now you, too, are hankering for a breath of fresh air and some quality time among the pines. Read on to find out if you should pack your bags, cut up your metro card, and head out of town to unknown parts.
First things first, you must be clear about your intentions. Let’s examine, shall we? In the past week, did your landlord turn a blind eye to a cockroach the size of a small dog? Did you run into your ex at the bar? Did you get stuck on the train next to the guy clipping his toenails? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, do NOT move to the country for those are the wrong reasons. Those reasons mean you want to move away from the city, not to the country. You might be suffocating in concrete and fighting for breath in dizzying crowds filled with faces you don’t know and never will, but those feelings are temporary, and you are only looking for an escape. Relocating should be about the place you’re going, not the place you’re leaving. The country—quiet and vast—does not want to be your fling. It wants to be your home.
But maybe you answered ‘No’ to the above questions. Maybe you are fairly happy in your city but believe you are better suited for rural living. Let me ask you this: have you recently begun adding to a Pinterest board entitled ‘Cabin Ideas’? Did you just marathon the first season of Twin Peaks? If yes, do NOT move to the country because again, those are the wrong reasons. Those reasons are romantic reasons, and you are idealizing a place that will never live up to what you want it to be. It’s like falling in love on the train because you saw a boy reading your favorite Graham Greene novel or a girl wearing a Buzzcocks t-shirt but like, not in an insistent way. They are beautiful and perfect because you are across the aisle from them. They are everything because you know nothing about them. The same is true for the country because you don’t live there. You see it as it appears to be through pictures on tumblr or scenes in movies, but you do not know it as it is.
The questions change now. We’ve whittled them enough to find the points, so ask yourself: are you ready for days to start early, hours before you would dream of waking? Are you ready to rise in the cold and wait for the sun to fracture through thick morning clouds? There might still be coffee and there might still be toast for breakfast, but you won’t have an internet connection strong enough to complete your normal morning routine of Facebook/Buzzfeed/Vice. Are you prepared for that? To be disconnected from “news” of the world that constantly refreshes with nothing real to report and from “friends” that share banalities to make you feel less alone? Are you prepared to be alone? Are you prepared for the quiet—the deep quiet—of the sky and the tiny, frightening new sounds that come with it?
Your ears aren’t the only parts you’ll need to prepare if you want to move to the country. Get your hands ready, too, because you will need to use them for things besides typing. Sinks will break and lights will go out and doors will stick and you will need to fix them because there won’t be a maintenance man to call. There won’t be an online food delivery service so you will need to have pots and pans to put on the stove and oil to heat and vegetables to chop. Muscles you’d forgotten you have will need to be woken up and warmed and put to use. You might need to pull weeds from the cracks between the stones on walkway or crank the generator when the power fails in a storm that feels like the end of world. And in the country all the storms will feel like the end of the world. Shut all the windows and call the dog inside.
When all this is done there will be time left over that you will need to figure out how to use. In the city you spent it commuting on packed trains and texting everyone you knew to make plans so you wouldn’t be swallowed whole by a night in watching Netflix on your bed. But the country is different. You might need to make plans with friends in advance or go to the store to rent a movie or god forbid take up a hobby. You will need to add more verbs to your vocabulary. Are you ready for that? If yes, then maybe you should move to the country. Maybe you are ready for endless skies and wooded paths and hills covered in evergreens that climb out of sight. Maybe you are ready for a change.