I grew up in a small town
A wheat-fields-for-a-downtown kind of place
There was really not much around
You blink and you miss it
--"Small Towns and Big Dreams" by Paul Brandt
Actually, I didn't grow up in a small town -- I grew up on a farm. But I went to school in a small town, met with my Brownie troop in a small town, and sometimes went to church in a small town. When my family's home burned down, we were lucky to have not just one but two small-town/farming communities come to our aid.
As much as I loved farm life, I can't imagine -- as a single woman -- moving to a farm or acreage. It would be too isolating, and there would be too much work for one person.
There are lots of things city slickers don't take into consideration about country living -- things like packing down the snow with a tractor and "float" in the winter, so that your vehicle doesn't get stuck. Finding tradespeople willing to drive out and assist with those jobs I just cannot do -- like plumbing and electrical repairs -- would also be more difficult.
Small-town living is a nice compromise between farm and "big" city life, and has a lot of perks. You have a better view of the Milky Way, less traffic, and lower crime rates than in the city, but you also have a community of people watching out for you and lending a hand when you need one.
I've lived on the same "big" city street for 18 years. I still don't know the names of the people who live directly across the street. I am on waving terms with them, and when I bump into them on the sidewalk, we exchange pleasantries. But, after 18 years, it's awkward to ask, "By the way, what's your name?"
A sense of community is intrinsic to small-town life, and it's reinforced in many ways. You rely on local businesses for their goods and services; they, in turn, have a relatively small number of clients that they work with on an on-going basis.
This makes it easier for them to remember how many sugars you take in your coffee, what your dogs' names are, and which vehicle you'll be bringing in for servicing. This level of personal interaction creates stronger relationships, and a stronger sense of belonging within the community.
Unlike my neighbours here in the city, your small-town neighbours probably won't remain nameless for 18 years. It's more likely they will be there greeting you with homemade perogies and Nanaimo bars on the day you move in, ready and willing to extend an offer of friendship.
What may be interpreted by some as small-town nosiness is more usually concern for friends. They will notice when your usual routine is interrupted - snow not shovelled, dogs not walked, your car still in driveway when you should be at work - and will pop over to make sure you're all right.
A lower cost of living is also a perk of small-own life. Since houses cost less, property taxes will also be less than for a comparably-sized property in a bigger city. Rental units are cheaper.
Many activities that you are expected to pay for in cities -- like sporting events -- will be free in small towns. There won't be a fancy coffee houses with $5 beverages or very many places to plunk down your hard-earned cash for impulse purchases.
Sure, there are drawbacks to small-town living. Depending on the size of your town, you probably won't be able to order in a pizza -- or any other kind of food. Options at the grocery or convenience store -- if your town even has a store -- will be limited. You may be able to run out and grab milk or eggs, but you may have less luck if you realize you are low on quinoa once you've started making vegan brownies.
Also, you will probably end up spending more on transportation -- both for vehicle maintenance and gas -- especially if you commute to a larger centre for work. Employment options in small towns are usually limited; and most small-town workers I know commute to jobs in nearby cities.
All that said, I think the pros outweigh the cons, and I hope to move to a small town one day. Initially, I was thinking it would be best to move once I retire, but now I'm wondering if it might be better to plan for a period of semi-retirement, where I move to a small town, and adjust to my new life, while still earning some income.
It's the perfect time to explore your passions, the jobs you always dreamed of having. Some small towns are hotbeds of artisan talent, catering to tourists, and are perfect places to set up artsy-craftsy businesses.
Lacking a small-town brick and mortar establishment to hawk your wares in, it's certainly easy enough to start selling online, at sites like etsy.com, as long as you have access to a post office. If working online tickles your fancy, you don't need to restrict yourself to artisan efforts either - there are all kinds of jobs you can do online, from writing and editing; to translating and teaching; to bookkeeping and ... um ... being a phone sex operator.
A big bonus to moving at this stage of life is that if you are moving to be closer to a new job (even one at which you are self-employed), you can claim moving expenses on your income tax.
Everything from packing and hauling to the legal and title transfer fees can be claimed. Given that debt levels among seniors are rising, and many of those approaching retirement age feel that they have not saved enough, building yourself an income safety net with a part-time job you are passionate about and can work at at your own pace, might just be the ticket.
Petty Harbour, Newfoundland
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be
--"Small Town" by John Mellencamp
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