I’d always lived in the ‘burbs until I hit the road in 2013. I went from a population of 1.4 million to a few thousand overnight when I moved to Costa Rica. Ever since, I’ve pretty much lived in small communities for the past three years. I used to think I could never do that, but yet again, being open to new places and stepping out of my comfort zone taught me some valuable lessons. I now see the allure to living around less people and am hesitant to go back to city dwelling, traffic gridlock and fast paced action.
I was inspired to write my top five reasons why small town living is better from an encounter in the grocery store the other day, so here we go!
1. You can have genuine conversations with complete strangers
As I was picking out some tomatoes in the store, I felt that someone behind me was waiting for me to move. Before I could turn around, I hear a soft voice and look to see an elderly lady with a big smile on her face talking to me. Not being able to hear her, I moved a little closer and said, “Sorry?” She said, “Have you been to the new theatre yet?” Before I could get the word “No” out of my mouth, she goes on to say that it was just magnificent and that there were 600 people there for a matinee and it had sold out. I asked if she was there to see the current play going on and she said yes. She went on and on like we were old buddies, just dying to tell someone…ANYONE…about her experience. I stood there for a while and chatted with her and left with a pleasantry and a smile.
2. Getting to know your neighbors
Where I live in New Zealand, there are quite a few retirees and my neighbors are home everyday. A lovely couple, I’ve often picked up their mail and newspapers without being asked when I notice they’re away. We chat over the fence and most recently, after they acquired a puppy, had a nice sit down with them to talk about our lives. I’m often gifted with fresh fruits and veggies from their garden and I bring them things I have an abundance of as well. It brings a whole new meaning to commodities trading.
A recent purchase of a large sack of pine cones for $5 from our local Facebook page had me giving away some extra feijoas (a sweet fruit) to the lady who dropped the cones off for me. She messaged me the other day asking if I had more and that she’d like to pay for them. I suggested we just trade feijoas for pine cones and she was more than happy to oblige. When she came by, I had been making some homemade chocolate cupcakes and knowing she had brought her kids last time, came out with a few warm cakes, the bag of feijoas with some cuttings of fresh basil and rosemary and some walnuts from our tree. I love that people either trade or give away when they have an abundance and often see pre-filled kilo bags of fruits, nuts and even sheep manure on the side of the road with a change box so you can deposit your money and help yourself. I’ve stopped more than once to take advantage of things like that. My neighbor often puts out excess veggies in a bin on the sidewalk with a “FREE” sign on it.
3. Less traffic
I find it funny that people who live in small towns get really stressed out at “rush hour”. A busy time of the afternoon would consist of about 20 cars waiting their turn at the roundabout instead of 3 or 4. No matter how much I argue with my boyfriend about how they need a traffic light here, he insists that roundabouts are still quicker. I hate to admit it, but he’s right. However, the stress does show when people fail to give way to the other drivers and squeeze in when they shouldn’t. I was caught in it the other night picking up Chinese food for dinner and commented on how people are really impatient at roundabouts during “rush hour”. It’s a little strange living in a town without a stop light.
4. No urban sprawl
I love driving into town and being able to look across fields of vineyards toward the mountains. After a cold snap with some rain the other night, I was pleasantly treated to snow caps and a beautiful view of the yellowing grape leaves. I’m surprised I didn’t run right off of the road. Sure beats highway traffic, billboards and road rage. The houses are mostly throwbacks from the early 20th century and have character and charm. Everyone seems to have a lot of land so there’s no looking out your window into someone else’s living room.
The stars are easily spotted since there’s not a lot of light from roads or houses and the air is clean. It’s super quiet at night so you sleep soundly. Wildlife isn’t easily spooked by humans and some birds, like the cute fantail, often come within arm’s reach of you, chirping curiously. It’s almost like they seek out human interaction. I’m convinced that the less people you have around you lowers your stress level significantly.
5. You can make a difference
We have a couple of local newspapers that get thrown into everyone’s yard at least three times a week. The town is small enough that if you have something to say or a fundraiser to promote, you can easily have your voice heard (or read) by contacting one of the newspapers. I also like that word of mouth gets around so if you do some kind of work for someone, they’re bound to tell their friends then circle back to you. Unlike living in a city of millions, the competition is lower and if you find a particular niche, you’re sure to benefit greatly from it.
Although living in a small town can sometimes be a bit boring, I like the sense of community and the friendliness it imparts. I love being able to share the things I have with people. It’s a stark contrast from the faceless millions I’ve been used to my whole life, barely knowing most of my neighbors. I find that the stress in my shoulders and back have diminished and I enjoy the slow paced living I’m now growing used to. I find that I don’t walk nearly as fast as I used to, either. I’m happy to have gotten out of the rat race and into the slow lane!
What do you like (or not like) about living in your town? Leave us a comment below!