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Moving From a Big City to a Small Town

Moving From a Big City to a Small Town

Alex and I have lived in New York for two decades, but we still daydream about moving to a small town. I’m always fascinated by how different daily life might be and what we’d miss and what we’d love. So! I spoke to nine women who moved from big cities to smaller places, and here’s what they revealed…

Why did you decide to move from a big city to a smaller city or town?

“We were looking for a simpler life. At ‘Mommy and Me’ classes, other moms were already talking about putting their babies on waiting lists for preschools and what schools were the best. It all seemed defeating and competitive.” — Carrie, Chicago to Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

“Living in Seattle was starting to wear on me. I had a difficult time with the weather and experienced terrible seasonal affective disorder. The increased cost of living also caused me stress. It was important to me to buy a place and I knew that would never happen there.” — Lauren, Seattle to Santa Fe

“We felt like every extra minute we spent commuting or working was taking away from time with our family. Money was not an insignificant factor, and we realized that staying in the city meant more work hours.” — Alyssa, Boston to Brunswick, Maine

2) What do you like about living in a smaller town?

“The town feels like a 1980’s John Hughes movie. We have a 4th of July parade, ice cream socials, and a Halloween festival. Kids walk or ride their bikes to school, and I love falling asleep on summer nights to cicadas. Oh, and parking lots! I could have thrown my arms and twirled around like Julie Andrews in Sound of Music when I first pulled into one.” — Carrie, Chicago to Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

“Moving to the island has forced us to slow down. We see our friends not because we make actual plans but because there is only one beach, one brewery and one park. We run into someone on the way out of the grocery store and, because we have no plans, walk to the park with them for a play date. It’s as if moving to the island has put a sense of spontaneity back in our lives.” — Christina, Seattle to Vashon Island, Washington

“I like that when my GPS says it’s going to take me 10 minutes to get to the grocery store, it doesn’t actually take 45 minutes because of unexpected construction and/or one-ways that weren’t there before!” — Alyssa, Boston to Brunswick, Maine

“I value the lack of decision fatigue. Want to try that hip new restaurant that just opened? Great! There’s only one in town. In D.C., I felt guilty about all the things I wasn’t doing. I was constantly living in a state of FOMO, and I never visited all the Smithsonian museums.” — Michele, Washington, D.C. to Rochester, Minnesota

“My commute has gone from an hour and a half each way to ten minutes. Instead of getting home at 7 each night, we are both home by 5:30 and have the entire evening together as a family. When the weather is nice, this means beach dinner picnics or evening bike rides. Life just feels more manageable and we have the gift of time.” — Robyn, Chicago to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

3) What is hard about living in a smaller town?

“I learned I was spoiled growing up in Vegas. Most places are open 24 hours a day, and if I wanted Thai food at 1 a.m., I got it. In Rexburg, I have to plan my Target trips in advance because it’s a 45-minute drive each way.” — Jinny, Las Vegas to Rexburg, Idaho

“We lack the abundance of choices of activities for our son, doctors’ offices, gyms, etc. that we had access to around the city. We’ve had to settle on a few things that might not necessarily be our top picks.” — Alyssa, Boston to Brunswick, Maine

“The lack of diversity. I’m Peruvian-American, and back in D.C., the community was big and inclusive. But in Rochester, I’ve found a lack of a bigger Peruvian community difficult for myself and my family. I often struggle with if my children are ‘Peruvian enough.'” — Michele, Washington, D.C. to Rochester, Minnesota

“I definitely put pressure on myself to recreate a friend community like I had in Chicago. I’m learning to be more gentle with myself and remember that it takes time to feel truly at home.” — Robyn, Chicago to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

4) What do you miss about the big city?

“It can be hard to hear about a fantastic Broadway play or a cool new restaurant opening and know I have to miss out.” — Tovah, NYC to Charlottesville, Virginia

“There was a certain clout that I felt walking around the city and knowing that I belonged there. We still visit often and I feel a little bit like an outsider. We recently took a trip back and when we checked into our hotel the concierge asked where we were visiting from. I said, ‘We live in Maine but we used to live here!’ I don’t know why I felt the need to say that.” — Alyssa, Boston to Brunswick, Maine

“I miss the diversity of ethnic grocers and vibrant cultures.” — Amy, Los Angeles to Bend, Oregon

“The take out is limited. It’s basically pizza.” — Carrie, Chicago to Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

5) What is the community like in the smaller town?

“We moved to Idaho with our three-month-old baby in tow. After an exhausting 12-hour drive, we had a large moving truck to unload, by ourselves, with a baby. This was simply too much for me. I headed to Taco Bell to pick up lunch and figured we’d unload the truck when I got back. I came back 20 minutes later to an empty moving truck! While I was gone, all of our neighbors had come out of their apartments and helped my husband unload the entire truck. One woman even brought us vegetables from her garden.” — Jinny, Las Vegas to Rexburg, Idaho

“Our apartment complex was full of newlyweds and young families. Game nights and shared family dinners happened a few nights a week. There was even a Facebook page where people posted if they were giving away a stroller or if they needed babysitting. I once posted because I needed an onion for dinner and seven people responded offering me onions!” — Jinny, Las Vegas to Rexburg, Idaho

“The first thing I noticed is how nice strangers are. At the local grocery store, people walking by smile, give eye contact and say ‘hi.’ It actually caught me off guard. My ‘hi’ back was always delayed. I’ve been surprised by how easy it has been to make friends.” — Carrie, Chicago to Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin

“Friendly and warm. We moved to Charlottesville exactly one month before neo-Nazis and white supremacists rallied here, traumatizing the town. Afterwards, from other white residents, we would hear things like, ‘That is not Charlottesville, that hatred absolutely does not represent our town.’ But from African Americans, the response was a bit more like, ‘Yes, but…’ The silver lining has been the opportunity to examine the legacy of systemic racism that a large swath of the liberal, white community (including myself) was unaware of or ignoring, that may not have been addressed otherwise. It has been humbling and inspiring to watch this community repair bonds and try to improve living conditions here for everyone. There is much work still to be done, but the people here are fantastic.” — Tovah, NYC to Charlottesville, Virginia

“The community here has amazed me. I found it so difficult to make friends in Seattle. The ‘Seattle freeze’ is very much a thing! I find people here much friendlier. I feel like I’m a part of the community here and I’ve never felt that way before.” — Lauren, Seattle to Santa Fe

“I’ve made some incredibly close friendships, especially with a few women who also commute by ferry to work. On Thursdays, we have what we call ‘boat parties.’ Someone brings candy, and someone brings a can of wine that we all divvy up between our coffee mugs. We laugh about what are kids are up to, we complain about work, we cry about hard things.” — Christina, Seattle to Vashon Island, Washington

“When someone faces a hardship, people come to their aid with meals, babysitting, and assistance. For example, there was a devastating fire at a local farm. The community threw a potluck fundraiser to help the farm rebuild. As we watched a local band play in the Agricultural Hall surrounded by community members from all generations and walks of life, our children ran outside with new friends, and I felt incredibly blessed to be a part of this community.” — Robyn, Chicago to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

“It’s like Simplicity Parenting says — when you have too many toys, you don’t play deeply with any. When you live in a small town, you make deep connections with your community. You know that feeling when you have a local restaurant and the owners know your name? Living in a small town is that feeling, (almost) all the time.” — Michele, Washington, D.C. to Rochester, Minnesota

Where do you live? Do you live in a big city or small town? Have you lived in both? I’d love to hear your thoughts…

P.S. Where do you live, and where do you want to raise kids?

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow.)

  1. E says...

    I was born and raised in Denver and spent about a decade in my twenties living and working all over the world as a private chef. After living in a Denver suburb for another decade, eighteen months ago my husband and I packed up and moved to Colorado’s Western Slope. My city wasn’t my city any longer; it was housing sprawl, traffic and weed everywhere.

    We now own acreage just outside a small town of two thousand people, and we’re starting an organic farm and a farm-to-kitchen cooking school here. We are the people mentioned in many of the comments – we came from somewhere else to live a quiet life in nature, with less sprawl, less traffic and less weed. And yes, we bought a “fancy home” (by local standards) but the cost of living over here isn’t lower at all; in many ways, it’s much higher (utilities in particular).

    Although I love our home and our land, and although I’m looking forward to launching our business, I am desperately lonely. The community here is superficially friendly, but we’re childless by choice, not on social media and don’t attend church – three major factors working against us. I know it takes time to settle in, but finding friends has proved to be much more difficult than I’d anticipated.

    Speaking only from our situation, I can understand why the legacy generations here might resent the influx of wealthy city people. That said, our county is desperately poor and seems oddly committed to remaining so. The only people starting businesses are transplants from elsewhere. We have severe drug problems, higher crime than you might imagine and chronic poverty-related issues. We have no emissions regulations, recycling is non-existent and acknowledging the climate crisis simply isn’t done. We have no zoning, so many houses and trailers are virtually uninhabitable (though still inhabited) and yards and roadsides are covered in broken-down RVs, boats, cars, tires and piles of trash. The natural beauty of our area is stunning, but the human-influenced areas look like one giant rubbish heap.

    New residents like us are happy to contribute to the social fabric by spending money locally and paying higher property taxes and sales taxes, but in every single election these measures are voted down because no one here in this red county wants a “nanny state government.” (In our last local election, measures to benefit the fire department, police department, library and school buses all lost.) We’d gladly pay more for better schools, to retain our police officers and for other community benefits, but the entrenched mentality here is to ignore the fact that strong, safe, vibrant communities require everyone’s participation. I simply don’t understand the deeply conservative, deeply anti-government and anti-tax attitude here. And I didn’t have any idea how challenging this move would be.

    • dale says...

      One thought – once your farm is up and running, you could join WWOOF and have people come stay and work on your farm in exchange for room & board. WWOOFers tend to be liberal college students who want to get their hands dirty between spring and fall semesters, or students taking time off before college or a semester off. Or sometimes you get some fun retirees! Anyways, it could be a nice way to stay where you are and do what you love while simultaneously extending your social network.

      Also, did you read this article? An interesting perspective on some of the shoot-yourself-in-foot political approaches:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/04/opinion/sunday/trump-arkansas.html

    • Heather says...

      Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful comment about life on the Western Slope! We live in Denver and really do love it…but also occasionally wonder about moving to another area of Colorado mostly to be more immersed in nature, especially for our kids. It’s so easy to romanticize that “quiet life” in our heads but I appreciate that you shared some drawbacks that I hadn’t fully considered and clearly merit consideration…a little realism to balance out the romanticism the next time we’re pondering!

  2. Marlena says...

    I’m very lucky where I live – Madison, Wis. If it wasn’t for the very cold winters, many more people would live in this capitol city and college town of 250,000. There are three coffee stores within three blocks of my house, I’m three blocks from the lake, three blocks for a neighborhood market, one block from the bus, and two blocks for the bike path. It’s a relaxed environment with so many free events one couldn’t attend them all in a week.

    • Amy says...

      What neighborhood do you live in? Do you know of any good visitors’ guides to Madison? We’d love to do a weekend trip there with our toddlers. Thanks!

    • Rachel says...

      Hello, fellow Madisonian cupofjo sister! I’m a Madison native and just moved back after 10 years in California. Glad to be back, but it has changed! I dream of a Madison cupofjo meet up :)

  3. alison says...

    I moved back to Milwaukee (where I grew up) after 15 years of being away. First I left for college, and then ended up I spending 10 years in Chicago after graduation. While obviously it’s a fantastic city — I found that I was almost overwhelmed with options and ended up just staying home a lot instead. Especially when your 9-5 becomes an 8-6, plus a commute.

    In Milwaukee, it’s so much easier to take advantage of all the things to do. Concerts for example (my biggest vice!) are cheaper, stuff doesn’t sell out, and you can like… actually park your car in front of where you’re going! Ha! It seems silly, but having an 8 min commute gives you so much of your life back — to use for good!

    Though I agree with Carrie from the feature — I miss all the funky food spots and take out joints, but I live in a neighborhood that’s blessed with some really solid options.

  4. NN says...

    As a non-american, the idea of moving where you would want to and not where your career/job takes you in itself is bafflingand extremely entitled. Growing up, we moved a lot of places due to a transferable job and the idea was to make every place home, not the other way around.
    That said, has anyone who is not raised here (is not American) and is non-white tried moving to a smaller place? Esp. a midwestern city? The culture is such a shock, food habits and routines are so off and also the schools are nowhere as competitive and rated as the ones in cities or affluent suburbs. There are limited places to eat, almost non-existent vegetarian options and ingredients, limited things to do and life is in general rather boring.
    Im not talking about moving to a wealthy suburb away from a city, but moving to a small town itself. I love the energy and spontaneity of a big bustling city. All concerts are a train ride away, so many shows, so many places to try out, the latest shops and products reach you and the jobs! where do I even start? In the rest of the world, kids grow up in bustling cities, making memories, finding new friends in the apartments nearby and in tiny tiny homes. I know so many people who shared a small space with their sibling and everyone just hung out together at home! The notion of gigantic homes and everyone wanting their own rooms with so much stuff is so american. Sure, living tight in a big city is not easy but that lifestyle is a gift in itself. People forget the good stuff and focus only on the bad.
    It sounds so romantic to want to move to this dreamy place, isolated in nature and raise your kids like you were but times have changed, the world and education system are transforming so fast! Why would you deny your kids to grow up in a global fast-paced culture interacting with people from around the world and soaking up so many things and moving to a small community where half the amenities are absent? Or in places that are yet to catch up in terms of diversity with often polarized political, gender and racial views?
    As someone who came to pursue the American dream and is living in a big city (but has also worked in a small midwestern town) with a high-paying job and promising career prospects, I cannot imagine losing all of this. You’d be surprised how unfriendly small towners are to a single non-American girl and her dog.

  5. Laura says...

    Last year my husband I bought a condo in a small city outside of Boston, where we used to live for many years. I SO relate to Alyssa talking about the traffic- Boston has become the #1 worst city to drive in. It’s sooo much easier to go anywhere now, and there’s always parking.

  6. Allegra LaViola says...

    Every time my husband becomes frustrated with the NYC grind and grossness he threatens to move us somewhere nice and small and clean. I always tell him I will only move somewhere that I can walk to a good coffee shop in under 10 mins. “So not America,” he says!

    • Kristin says...

      Oh please–only someone living in NYC would say that! I live in a teeny town of 5,000 people in the Midwest and I can walk to a great coffee shop, yoga co-op, local brewery, pizza place with hand scooped ice cream and our 150 year old gorgeous restored library within 5 minutes of my house. I go in the other direction and I can walk for miles around our beautiful crystal clear lake, which we swim in every night when we get home from work in the summer. There is life outside of the big cities too.

    • Mel says...

      Kristin – I adore living in a small town of 25k in Ohio, but your town sounds even more perfect. Where do you live?

    • Midge says...

      In my small town you can get to about seven good coffee shops with a 10-minute bike ride, with fields, and orchards, and public art, and neighborhoods with old-timey houses. Plus you’ll pass at least one friend on the way and run into a few more once you get there. If you want to take an extra 15 minutes, you can swing by the library, grocery store, and bank on the way back.

    • Allegra LaViola says...

      sounds great. not for me…but maybe for my husband– hah!

    • Natalie says...

      Mel – curious where you live in Ohio? My parents are in Dayton, and we’re thinking of moving up there to be closer to them.

  7. Marnie says...

    So many mixed feelings about this! I grew up in a town of 5K, and now live in a city of about a million.

    There is no personal privacy/anonymity in a truly small town, for better or worse. For better – they unload your moving truck for you and bring you meals when you are sick! For worse – they stop you in a coffee shop and ask, loudly, how you are feeling since your ovarian cyst burst, and whether you had your IUD replaced? (Not kidding, this happened to a friend).

    I live in the city and can walk/bike/transit to work, so I am very lucky. I know my neighbours and we help each other out just like in a small town.

    But 30 min away from my city are smaller towns/villages with loads of charm — which draws city folks looking for slower pace. Unfortunately, as more people move there, the charm diminishes, prices rise, and country roads are clogged with commuters in climate-killing SUVs!

    As a former small-towner, please, for the love of Pete, if you are moving to a smaller community, then work there! (or have a job where you can work from home). Don’t use it as a “bedroom community”.

  8. J says...

    I resonate with a lot of these perspectives/comments. My husband and I moved to a smaller town for work, and while it was technically a choice it wasn’t really given our field/careers. While there are plenty of things we like (short commute! parking! neighborly neighbors! cost of living!), there are also others that have been really challenging. Our small town in the south is very conservative and can feel very cliquey and superficial. It has been very hard to find our people which has left me feeling pretty lonely.

  9. Heather says...

    We moved from Seattle, to the DFW area and now to our precious small town Sandpoint ID. We got tired of the pressures and traffic and love the simpler life. It’s like the frog boiling in a pot effect. You don’t realize how the lines and crowds negatively affect you. In our small town people are aware of trends but it doesn’t consume them bc it takes an hour to drive to them and not a priority. My kids ask for less stuff because they don’t see as much stuff because we don’t have all the big box retailers. Kids birthday parties are old school style with cupcakes and piñata at your home vs spending $300 and feeling the pressure to invite the whole class. Life is lived more simple and with intentional purpose.

    • Joy says...

      I love this! What a great environment to raise your children.

  10. Such a timely post, as we are also daydreaming about moving to smaller town… But! I am sooo nervous about leaving NYC!

  11. Moriah says...

    Hey-o Jinny! I grew up in Rexburg, and I never thought I’d see it mentioned on Cup of Jo. That is so fun! I moved from LA to Salt Lake City a little over a year ago. It was very hard to say goodbye to my friends and the museums, especially. But I love having so much more free time, and I LOVE the cost of living now. I instantly felt rich when I went somewhere where gas was half the price! I’m also grateful that we were able to afford a home in SLC, because that would not have happened in LA.

    • Sarah says...

      Hey fellow Salt Laker! If you love the cost of living now, you would’ve been on cloud nine 5+ years ago! I gotta say, as someone who grew up here it’s hard to see it grow so big and the costs skyrocket. My parents bought an adorable 9th and 9th house for $23,000 in 1974 (adjusts to about $130k today). That same house is estimated at $600k on zillow now. I know that’s *nothing* compared to LA or NY standards, but man, it sucks not to be able to live where you grew up.

  12. Mitra says...

    The freedom to make the choice to live in a small town without any fear is huge, and though it wasn’t intentional I felt a lot of privilege coming from these stories. As a first generation Asian American I am terrified of moving to a small town for the racism, micro aggression, and unwelcome feelings that my family and I would be undeniably subjected to. A community doesn’t have to be obviously racist to make it an uncomfortable environment for POC, and most small towns are overwhelmingly white. It just adds a layer of fear, discomfort, and difficulty to an otherwise simple decision. I wish it wasn’t the case!

    • Alyce says...

      As a black woman, I agree whole heartedly. My (white) husband romanticizes the idea of small town living, which I routinely reject as not a viable option in America. I always get the heeby jeebies on his family’s annual hiking/nature vacation to some rural locale. Nothing has ever happened, but I’m always bracing for it….

    • Renee says...

      I completely agree. I’m white and I don’t even feel like this article was completely honest about many of the realities of small town life. Small towns are not just downsized big cities. They have cultures all their own that can be a major shock for people new to them, or even dangerous for people of color or LGBTQ people. The article also failed to mention the regional differences in small towns. A small town in New England is vastly different from one in Kansas. If you’re considering making a move, make sure you’re going in fully aware of what you’re walking into.

    • Natalie says...

      Thank you for this perspective, Mitra.

    • Kate says...

      As a Jew I wholeheartedly agree. We moved from Philadelphia to suburban Ohio (Cleveland area) two years ago and this is by far the most racist and anti-Semitic place I’ve ever lived (including 11 years in the south). Our small town is charming, with neighbors who mowed our lawn for us when they realized we didn’t have a mower, but also openly say things that are unbelievably ignorant (like using the word ‘colored’ in every day parlance to describe children of color, or asking me where my horns are, since all Jews must have horns growing out of their heads). The local school casting the only child of color in a slave role in the school play. The ‘well-meaning’ person behind me in the grocery check-out line who gives me a lecture on how I am damning my family to hell by raising my children Jewish because she spotted a box of matzo in my cart during passover. The cost of living here is amazing and the family-friendly culture is nice, but I can hardly enjoy it when I fear people learning about who I am. I cannot imagine how much more afraid and uncomfortable I would feel if I were not white.

    • Sequoia says...

      Thank you! These types of stories are always disappointing with the lack of acknowledgement who exactly is allowed to do this! And more importantly who isn’t.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I hear you and am thinking about this. For what it’s worth, a couple of the people interviewed here were women of color — if we do another story like this, we will talk more directly about race and ethnicity. Thank you so much as always for the thoughtful feedback!

  13. SC says...

    This post gave me Big Thoughts and Feelings, but as usual on CoJ, they were unfolded nicely in the comment section! As someone who lives in a big, sprawling city (Los Angeles), I dream about owning real estate and a slower pace of living. But both my husband and I have jobs that have the best earning potential (and any opportunities overall, tbh) in major metro areas, so if we were to move, we’d likely be trading our problems for others. Reading these comments is a wonderful gut check and helpful perspective. We are all just trying to make it work as best we can in a tough, tough world!

    • Steph says...

      Agree x1000 – this LA commute is truly brutal, and buying property in a desirable neighborhood is insanely expensive – but both my fiancee and I have great jobs we love that are both very LA-based. We also LOVE our neighborhood (even if we can’t afford to buy here lol) not to mention being so close to live events, museums, beaches, mountains, desert all within a few hours. Everything is a trade off! We might have to reevaluate after having kids, but trying to take advantage of it all while we can!

  14. Jen M says...

    Born & raised in Los Angeles, same with my husband… while I can see a lot of positives about LA, I think I’m more than ready to move on.

  15. annie says...

    i’m not sure about this. there seems to be a lot of cutesy talk here about so-called ‘small towns’ and the one with which i (a wisconsinite) take issue most is whitefish bay, wi—it’s actually just a rich white suburb within milwaukee county. i’m from a small town (4k people, no cities within an hour’s drive) in WI and it’s cute sometimes and messed up other times (for example, there were 3 people of color total who went to my high school. can’t have been easy). there’s a lot of poverty and racial tension and backwards thinking, as well as truly wonderful communities and that tight-knit feeling some people seem to be drawn to. still, i’m not sure it’s super useful to talk up how picturesque and movie-like these places are, especially moneyed, mostly white suburbs in an area with fairly heavy racial issues like milwaukee. i think a little realism might be useful here to balance out the romanticism. everything isn’t perfect once you move to these small towns. it’s such a misconception and kind of super annoying to see it perpetuated in some of the quotes in this post. i do love the idea of learning about why folks made their choices—just not in the frame of, ‘this town is like a john hughes movie.’ ugh.

    (sorry, cup of jo. i feel negative posting this but can’t help myself. xo.)
    (also, sorry for posting twice–i meant to post as a real comment, not a reply to someone else’s!)

    • Em_c_nola says...

      Yes, I usually think the posts have a pretty balanced opinion but this one seems slated towards the romanticized idea of a small town. I grew up in a very small town and I’m still decompressing from the racism, small-mindedness and lack of choices! Happy to be in a city now.

    • Katherine says...

      I came here to make this exact same comment but Annie said it beautifully already :)

    • Morgan says...

      I agree, unfortunately. Whitefish Bay is a rich suburb with a host of problems. I’m glad Carrie has found happiness there, but I’m writing this from a town of 250 people in Northern Wisconsin where (cw: homophobia) my family putting up a Tammy Baldwin yard sign led to some disappointing discoveries about what our neighbors think about “people like her.” :(

    • Sharon says...

      I agree wholeheartedly. The lack of diversity in all aspects and choices. As married adults who chose not to have children and are not religious, it’s hard to “fit in” to the community in our town. I savor my professional network of colleagues that live outside of our town, and the ability I have to travel and visit other places. Without that community, I would be lost.

      Ultimately, I love my home because of the positives – low cost of living, great weather, no traffic, etc, but the community part -mostly superficial, small minded and conservative – is not a positive.

  16. RS says...

    Would love to see a post on couples who move from their family-friendly residences in smaller cities to smaller places in bigger cities once their kids move out. We currently live in a house in a great midwestern city, but I can see the draw of moving to a high-rise in a large city (such as Chicago or NYC) as an empty nester. I feel like as I age, I’ll want quick jaunts to see the symphony or musicals, lots of good restaurants, I’ll want to forego a car, I’ll want really good medical care within arm’s reach, I won’t want to upkeep that comes with owning a home.

    • NK says...

      My parents did this! They moved from a suburb to an apartment in San Francisco 2 years ago and are absolutely living their best lives – they’re car-less, have a ton of new friends, experience amazing food and enjoy the arts much more than they had before. There are certainly some downsides, and it did take them a few months to fully adjust but the biggest bonus is that my sister and I, their grown kids, who don’t live in S, get to enjoy all the benefits of city life when we visit them!

    • You just put into words what I haven’t been able to describe to my husband for years! Thank you!

    • Catherine says...

      This is my dream, too!

    • Shirley says...

      Love this idea!

    • MG says...

      Yes, please! This would be a great read^^^

    • Melinda says...

      My parents just did this. They moved from the suburbs to a high rise in Chicago and they love it. They don’t have to worry about stairs or taking care of a large house or yard as they age. It also gives them more freedom for travelling (they are going to retire in the next year or two). Also then they don’t have drive as much and can go out in the city with ease. I think its a great idea!

  17. txilibrin says...

    I’d like to know HOW to move to a small town… Where do people work? How do they find jobs? Do they take a 1h commute? Are they expected to be paid the same? My husband and I want to move to a small town but I don’t see that working out with our current jobs. I want to slow down SO badly. I would love a follow-up post on these questions, I think that is the HARDEST part to achieve :(

    • Nicole says...

      yes yes yes, more of this please

    • Cat says...

      Having lived my entire life in a small town I can tell you that no, our pay is not the same as in large metro areas but our cost of living is also drastically less than in those metro areas. That evens the playing field a bit. And you are right that there are fewer jobs available in each town, but since we don’t deal with metro traffic a commute is not a big deal. I commute 20 miles and it just takes me about 25 minutes…it’s mostly all an easy drive on the interstate.

    • ETB says...

      Yes, was hoping to hear how and why these people actually moved.

    • Jo says...

      Find the job before you move as they are few. I’ve got a sweet little house but since I don’t drink or like sports a small town doesn’t have much to do. As another person commented, the pay & cost of living even out, however, amazon prime becomes your bff. Restaurants & entertainment is limited as are places to meet people. Raised my children in this little Minnesota town but I’m hungry for new geography, open minds and less time shoveling and mowing lawn.

    • Sal says...

      Moved from SF (only ever lived in Bay Area) to Portland – get a job before you move to a smaller market, for sure. I changed my competitive tech job to a remote one that’s actually for a better company (paid more overall but less over time due to change of market), giving up the fullness of my career trajectory for the freedom of no longer being chained to rent and grime, knowing I could never truly afford a nice life there. I bought a house here. I have a yard for first time since I lived at my parents’ 20 yrs ago plus all the trimmings after a lifetime in crappy tiny apartments. The weather is different but people are so friendly and I can park everywhere. I have a circle of friends I love. So far it’s been a major relief, more than anything. I have felt deeper happiness than I ever felt in my previous bigger city life. This is coming from someone who planned to NEVER leave SF, ever. Put things in place one step at a time and make it happen.

  18. Laura says...

    Love this, however, I have a feeling the article would have quite a different perspective if it shared more voices from the Southeast. My family lives in a mid-sized, rapidly growing, tech-focused city (Huntsville, AL) and if we were to look about 10 min outside of town, we would be facing a very different set of challenges, in the way of religious, racist, and political polarity, which would detract from many of the charming aspects of small town life for us. I long for the community that a simpler life provides, but that comes with a much longer list of downfalls around here. I also second the comment about job opportunities- we are very lucky here in town to have such a wide array of career paths open for us, but we would love to move closer to family to a similar sized city (Chattanooga) and have found that it is not so easy to move, unless we look at the larger markets, because the jobs in our fields just aren’t there. I am sure it would be even worse in a “small town.”

    • El says...

      Yes! I’m from the deep South and thought the same thing.

      Now as I contemplate moving to a college town in Arizona from Albuquerque (a very progressive and racially diverse city in a blue state), I panic at the idea of raising my children in a whiter and more conservative space. Would have liked to have heard more about those dynamics, too.

    • Sophie says...

      El, I’m born and raised in Arizona and while the majority of our state is conservative, there are definitely pockets of more open-minded communities (and they’re growing, thankfully!). I’m guessing the location you’re questioning is either Tempe, Flagstaff, or Tucson (correct me if I’m wrong) — all cities that are more progressive than other areas. (Though Flagstaff and Tucson aren’t quite as diverse.) I live in a historic district in downtown Phoenix and experience all the positives of small-town community that many comments here describe, in addition to the pros of big city living. Arizona is really a wonderful state depending on what you’re looking for. Good luck with your decision!

  19. Frankie Rose says...

    As I read this post I can’t help but think of how the “suburbs” were created by racist policies- money given to white WWII veterans to buy houses- opportunities denied for POC like my grandfather who fought in North Africa. I think of the small pockets of progressive small towns that often white washed and exclude the diversity that many cities provide. I think of the small towns and cities like the blue collar one I grew up in- places that were dying before I was even born due to shifting industries overseas like the steel industry that had employed many people and were the reason that my family had emigrated from Mexico to seek these opportunities. These places aren’t idyllic or sought after by white people who are looking for more space- they are forgotten and ignored. This is a complicated topic and brings up a lot for those of us who have roots in places that don’t feel like home yet are overwhelmed by the cost of living in big cities.

    • Ann says...

      I appreciate this perspective and I feel the same. In the city, my husband and I can blend in and go about our day without too much attention. We’re an interracial couple – I’m Asian and he’s black. . We’ve visited smaller towns and have had multiple experiences of people just staring at us, in restaurants, markets, any public space really. It’s unnerving after a few days so I couldn’t imagine this being a constant way of life for us. I grew up as one of the few Asian kids in my whole school and was counting down the days where I can leave for the big city.

      And I think of places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Paris, and other global big cities where people have raised children and families in close quarters and shared public spaces. It feels this idyllic small town life is a very North American yearning .

  20. Cora says...

    Last year my wife and I moved from Boulder, CO (~108K) to Trinidad, CO (~8k). We liked Boulder – good friends, good jobs, close to family, great food, lots of opportunities to play in nature; but the town felt crowded and expensive (lots of traffic, median home price $875K). This is somewhat hard to articulate, but the energy in Boulder is also competitive and ambitious in a way that I found anxiety producing – pressure to have the best job, the best house, the best car, the best body, the best education, the best vacations, the best hobbies, the best dogs, the best social circle.

    By contrast, Trinidad Traffic is non-existent, and median home prices are $130K. We purchased a historic home (built 1906 with original hardwood floors) with a yard and a garage in Trinidad for less than we paid for our 700sq/ft 1br condo in Boulder (which we purchased through an affordable housing program at below market value). Our combined income is half what we earned in Boulder, but we enjoy a higher quality of life in many ways (we were on the lower end of the economic spectrum in Boulder, and are quite comfortable in Trinidad). Part of the reason we moved was to become foster parents (which we now are) – and we could not afford a home in Boulder with enough space for children (plus our dog really loves having a yard now).

    The not so great parts of living in a small town are minimal – we don’t have a good grocery store (In Boulder we had 12 grocery stores within walking distance of our home at different price points and various ethnic options, plus other options if we chose to drive; in Trinidad we have 1.5 options and the main grocery store doesn’t carry tempeh), and there are only a handful of restaurants (which I kind of like because we eat out less). There are a number of antique shops, but the thrift store scene doesn’t offer the same treasures that you find picking through second-hand items in more affluent communities. Trinidad is rural (good and bad); the closest city (Pueblo, CO) is a three hour round trip drive, so going to the city is usually an entire day affair. Visiting friends and Family in Boulder is an 8 hour round trip drive if traffic is good through Colorado Springs/Denver Metro (you have to time your drive obviously). I might mention that some members of the community struggle with issues like poverty, addiction and homelessness, and there are fewer resources for these families vs. wealthier communities like Boulder – I don’t know that I can speak to how widely these issues impact the community.

    The good parts are the space, the community, and the history (Trinidad has a a rich history which includes miners, Italian mafia, ranchers and farmers, a robust Latino population, and at one time the town was the sex change capital of the nation (world?)*). I also like the easy access to wilderness areas – Trinidad is a short drive to the Cuchara Mountain range, the Spanish Peaks wilderness, the San Luis Valley, and NE New Mexico. This part of Colorado is magical – once my wife and I went on a day hike and discovered a 4WD road (which we decided to follow on a whim after retrieving the Jeep) – and the road went nearly to the top of a 13er (a peak exceeding 13K ft) – surprise!

    *A note on LGBT+ acceptance: Trinidad is not super diverse in this sense, though we have met a few very nice queer people. My wife and I chose Trinidad in part because she is trans and we liked the trans history. Many members of the community who grew up here don’t place the same value on Trinidad’s history with the transgender community that we do. For example, I had a conversation with a colleague who said she was not proud of that part of the town’s history, and I found her reasons somewhat trans-phobic… but she also hired my wife (who does handy-person work) to fix a door at her home, which illustrates that while she may not be a trans ally, she doesn’t dislike/discriminate against trans individuals – I think this is a common attitude, and a dynamic I am still weighing/considering, having lived primarily in very liberal areas before now (culture shock?).

    Unlike many smaller rural communities, Trinidad is relatively stable – Trinidad is the county seat and largest population center in Las Animas County (the largest county in Colorado), so the majority of the county government jobs are located here. There is also a community college which offers employment in academia as well as vocational and degree programs (I find that students who attend the community college bring ethnic and nation-of-origin diversity to the town – the college offers sports scholarships and on-campus housing and is one of the most affordable two-year schools). Trinidad has a robust marijuana industry (I believe it is the town with the highest ratio of dispensaries per capita – much to the chagrin of some citizens) – which offers employment and career paths for some. Trinidad has one state park currently and another in the works – Fishers Peak is the highest point east of I-25 at nearly 10K ft, and the park should open in the next several years. Additionally, Trinidad has a robust local music scene and has put resources into the art community; the town is currently building artist residences and studio space on Main Street. This is a town that has re-invented itself many times, and overall I feel very lucky to be here now for the newest iteration.

    Thus concludes my ethnographic examination of Trinidad, CO through the lens of a new community member (yikes this turned out long!).

    • Neela says...

      An interesting read, though!

    • Angie says...

      I love this. I feel like I know your town now – good and bad.

    • Carol says...

      When our children were young we spend many a summer vacation at Trinidad State Park…it was the perfect 12 hour drive from Dallas…you have summed up the town perfectly ….though I did not know of the LBGTQ history. I have a tender spot in my heart for the town…the people there do struggle. One year we would have a fun coffee place, the next year it was gone. I wish you the best…you are at the doorstep of some amazing places and I cant wait for Fisher’s Peak to open!

    • Devin says...

      This was a wonderful read! I’d love to pick your brain some more! I’m in Lafayette, just outside Boulder, and moved for work from Chicago two years ago.

      My husband and I are not happy here for the exact reasons you outlined so eloquently! I’ve been daydreaming about moving further west, perhaps northwest to see what my feelings are outside of CO.

      Perhaps I need to take a trip to Trinidad and scope it out!! :)

      Warmly,
      Devin

    • Sharlyn says...

      Cora! I loved reading your comment on your new home town. I wish you could do a write up of every small town in America!

  21. Heather says...

    We live in downtown Toronto, but own a country home 1.5 hours away in a charming hamlet of about 400 people. During the week, we live the busy city life. During the weekends, we retreat to the country. I always thought it would be isolating being out in the country on a farm, but it is exactly the opposite. Our neighbours and community on the farm are like one big family, constantly helping one another and dropping by for visits. We don’t even know our neighbours in the city and we’ve lived there for 7 years. Things I miss about the city when I’m in the country? Being close to everything and having food delivery options at our fingertips. Things I miss about the country when I’m in the city? Letting my son run free on our yard, having neighbours over for dinner or drinks spur of the moment (rather than planning weeks in advance). There are pros and cons to both.

  22. Jennifer says...

    Growing up in a small town, I felt a certain sense that i HAD to move a big city one day. That staying in your hometown somehow represented a failure. That life in the city was somehow more meaningful, more romantic, more creative, more cultured. So I went to university in the city and lived there afterwards, and I…. hated it :(

    As a highly sensitive person, the noise,the crowds, the competitiveness, and the lack of friendliness were just too much for me, and my anxiety skyrocketed. I moved back to my hometown and immediately felt a sense of relief. I truly love my town, my community, and being closer to nature.

    Even years later, the biggest struggle I face living in a small town is just the insecurity that I wasn’t able to *make it* in the big city.

    • Mandy says...

      Jennifer – I felt the same way as you. I grew up in a small town in NC and there was this mindset that if you didn’t leave you didn’t succeed at life. I went to college in Charlotte, NC and hated every dang minute of it! So many people, so much traffic… where were they all rushing to? I also hated the lack of nature and couldn’t wait to leave. I am now in a slightly smaller city and still dream of the day I can live in a small town.

      Remember – your worth is not determined by where you live! It takes all types, all towns, all cities to keep this world interesting. There is something for everyone.

  23. Christine says...

    I would love to hear from others here in the comments about how they picked where to move and made it work, especially those who moved from NYC! We live in Brooklyn and we really want more space/want to buy. We’ve looked around in Westchester and in New Jersey and everything is so expensive, particularly once you factor in the crazy taxes and the cost of the public transportation necessary to get to and from the city for jobs plus the need to own car/s. Do people just make it work even though it’s tight? Do they leave their city jobs? Do they suffer through long commutes? I’d really love to know! We desperately want to live somewhere cute and walkable, just like everybody else, so every town we’ve considered is in demand. We also have family in Massachusetts and could work from our companies’ Boston offices, but it doesn’t seem like the finances of it all are that much different there…

    • Jenny T. says...

      By where I could get a job! If I have a tip, though, it’s that college towns can be such a sweet spot between city and small town life, especially ones that are closer to a larger city. College towns attract diverse people with interesting backgrounds and often still offer many of the amenities of city life– good food, schools, and cultural events, albeit on a somewhat smaller scale. We moved from DC to Lawrence, KS, a few years ago and can afford a whole bunch of things we’d never have been able to swing in DC – a wonderful Montessori school for our daughter, a house with things that feel like luxuries after being in a tiny walk-up apartment – a driveway, a yard, a front porch, a dishwasher, a garage, regular coffee dates at the James Beard-nominated bakery a block from our house. Because KU is here, there’s also a natural history museum, an art museum, regular concerts and author talks, but without traffic and huge crowds. Of course there are things I miss about DC, but with Kansas City 45 minutes away, I can still get a Trader Joe’s fix or a flight out for work travel fairly easily.

    • T says...

      I would be interested in this too!

      –from someone who grew up in Rye and could never afford to live there now

    • EC says...

      My husband and I recently moved to Beacon, NY after living in Brooklyn for almost a decade. Pros: originally from the area, so closer to family & friends; much less expensive than NYC; cute walkable town with a lot of cool restaurants, bars, shopping, art galleries, Dia Beacon museum; on the MetroNorth train line; smaller community where people want to make connections and get to know their neighbors. Cons: very long commute to NYC (like, IMO not long-term sustainable if you’re doing it 5 days a week except maybe for a hardy few); yes better than NYC but still very competitive housing market (prices have gone up pretty dramatically from what they were 5-10 years ago); and the increasing gentrification/homogenization of the community. The value in our ability to work from home is hard to overstate, since our jobs are still technically in NYC. For those who don’t have to commute to NYC, there are a lot of entrepreneurs, teachers, healthcare workers, construction/landscaping… basically things that every community needs, though probably with more creatives than usual due to the artsy nature of the community.

    • Jessie says...

      I agree with Jenny T., college towns can be a nice compromise between big city life & small town quaintness. My husband & I lived up & down the Northeast seaboard & a job opportunity came his way & we couldn’t pass it up. We moved to Columbus, OH & I have grown to love this city. Lots of cultural things to do, great restaurants, great arts community.

    • Christine says...

      Thanks for the responses, everyone!

      @Jenny – That’s a great tip about college towns! We’ll have to think on that one. I’m going to look up Lawrence now. Did you guys know anyone in the area or did you just go for it once you got the job offer?!

      @T – love Rye! If only…

      @EC – ha, we love Beacon! My husband’s dad actually grew up in Cold Spring, so he has a ton of family in Cold Spring and Beacon and we visit as often as we can. I’d love to move that far up, but he can’t work remotely (in his current job, that is) and I can only get away with it 1-2 days a week, so we would indeed be commuting a LOT, hence the hestations. Glad to know it has worked out well for you, though.

      @Jess – that’s interesting! I do feel like the Northeast is just… so expensive and hard to make work without being stuck in the rat race. Did you know anyone in Columbus before you moved? We hesitate to be out of driving distance from family, especially once we have kids, but the appeal of living somewhere we can afford more easily and still really enjoy really pulls on us sometimes.

    • A says...

      We moved to CT from New York a few years ago and are actually moving back to a city (Boston! definitely cheaper than NYC! :) this spring. Unless you work right by Grand Central – and even if you do – the commute is endless, as well as really expensive. My husband basically doesn’t see our children during the work week. And without being housebound, you really do need one car/person since it’s impossible to get around locally without one. There are also just…very few things to do. I’ve never seen more workout gyms per capita, but other than that particular activity, there’s nothing resembling what you can find in a city. Add to that the depressing lack of diversity, and despite the bigger parcel of land you may be on, your world just becomes really small. Couldn’t be more excited to get away.

    • Jessie says...

      Christine, we are far from family, which is difficult. Traveling can be long & frustrating, there’s no direct flight to either of our families. We’ve gotten close to some of our neighbors & have a trusted network of babysitters for our child. It took time, but I found a group of friends that I love.
      Cons are even though we have an incredible public school system, the lack of diversity was (& still is) startling. Columbus has a long & terrible history of racism & violence in its police force. There is also a lack of affordable housing.
      So, long story even longer ?- it was a hard transition for me, but I got through it. I wouldn’t have picked C’bus, but we had to move here for a job. It was affordable for us because my husband’s salary here is comparable to what it was in the NE (plus lower cost of living here, but that is going up). We were afforded a great opportunity with our privilege.

    • Jenny T. says...

      @Christine – we didn’t know a soul. But one thing we was to put a call out to people on NextDoor and invited anyone in our neighborhood to come on over for dinner one evening, a la Friday Night Meatballs (which we learned about through CupofJo ages ago!). It was a little scary the first time we did it — would anyone come? (yes!) would it be super awkward? (yes, at first!) — but it was an instant success and we now have a monthly dinner in our neighborhood and rotate who hosts. We really try embrace the idea that sharing a meal with people is more important than stressing about the pile of clutter in the corner. And 3.5 years later, we also have most wonderful, supportive community of people. When my husband was going through a stressful time, they bought him a gift certificate for a massage. When neighbors need help moving something, we’re there with our van.

      http://www.fridaynightmeatballs.com/

    • ML says...

      I moved to Philadelphia after bouncing around NYC and SF for a decade, and love it. You mentioned wanting to stay in driving distance of NY so it might be up your alley. Housing is about 1/3-1/2 the cost, it has a great arts/dance/music scene, the main grid is very compact and walkable, and it’s just generally less cutthroat while big enough to be diverse and interesting. With a high poverty rate it’s not without challenges, but it’s also a city that seems to be embracing progressive values in its new DA, police chief, recent tax policy, councilmembers, etc.

  24. Jen says...

    In 2007 we moved from downtown Vancouver to Sechelt – and hour and a 40 minute ferry away. We did it because we wanted to buy a house – anyone from Vancouver will understand. I also wanted to garden and needed space for hobbies. Done and done. This place is fantastically beautiful, the people are great and I have a fully immersive garden surrounding this house. And a dog!

  25. Sydney L. says...

    This article is very timely in that my husband and I will be moving from a mid- size city to a smaller town in Asheville, NC in a handful of months. After reading through the comments, I’m definitely worried about job opportunities and the prices for housing (especially in Asheville- it has increased over the past few years). Also friends! I’m leaving my friends and family behind and starting over in your thirties is daunting. Excited for the change but also terrified. Any advice? Anyone in Asheville want to be my friend?!

    • Kenzie says...

      I live in NC and visit Asheville… It’s a great small city! There is a lot going on between the great food, art, and outdoor scenes so there’s a good chance you’ll find friends with similar interests (although I still imagine daunting!). I know there is a facebook group for people who have moved from CA to Asheville. Maybe there one for wherever you’re coming from, too?

    • Melissa says...

      Hi Sydney! I live in Asheville (we moved from Chicago about 7 years ago). I have found community building the easy part; there are so many amazing folks here (lots of transplants who are also from larger cities) and the pace of life is just slower and more spacious. Most folks who live here really embrace the outdoors, so there’s lots of afternoon hiking and picnics at the creek. Housing was definitely a bit of a shocker for us and has gotten even more expensive in the past few years, and while we expected to have big salary cuts (my husband and I are both in the social work field), I didn’t expect to be paid half of my Chicago salary! That said, we’re pretty settled now and we wouldn’t trade our life here for the world. Reach out if you have questions or wanna meet up when you get here!

    • Chris says...

      I joined a free peer led fitness group for ladies called FiA (fianation.com) that has a ton of chapters in North Carolina. It was instrumental in helping me make friends after I moved. We have coffee after workouts and do outings monthly

  26. Meghan says...

    While I appreciated reading this piece and all of the interesting comments, I actually felt a little like the oddball out. I was born and raised in Northern Virginia (Fairfax County, to be exact) and have lived in NoVA my entire life, except for my 4 years of undergrad in another part of the state. I have always lived 30 minutes or less driving time from the house I grew up in, and where my parents still live. This area isn’t small town OR big city…it’s practically the dictionary definition of suburbs. But for me, it’s home. My husband also grew up here and we are raising our children here. Due to my husband’s profession, the proximity of grandparents, and strong ties to our church, there’s a good chance we will never move. But unfortunately, this area is transient – many people don’t stay for more than 5-10 years before they move somewhere else to be closer to family and really “put down roots.” This means I’ve had to say goodbye to friends, and will be saying goodbye to more friends soon. But for my family and I, our roots are here.

    • Sarah says...

      I live in Loudoun and feel the same way. Some days I can’t believe I still commute on Rt. 7 LOL- but, there is a reason people move here. Suburb life, space, schools, job security, wineries, proximity to DC culture. I can’t imagine living anywhere without WEGMANS!

    • Mara says...

      I grew up in Fairfax County as well, and you hit the nail on the head about how transient the area is. Most of my HS classmates moved out of the state, which is a bit baffling given all the job prospects. But I can see how the stress and emphasis on politics really gets to people. It certainly is for me, I’ve been working in downtown DC for 15 years now…

  27. Becky says...

    I agree with all of this!! As a fellow Michigan gal half of a two demanding career couple, we relocated from Detroit to Petoskey, Michigan about 3 years ago and haven’t looked back!

  28. Maywyn says...

    From the Boston and New Jersey-New York City metro areas,
    moving to a not too smaller city: Terrain can be an adjustment; driving across town in minutes instead of hours is divine; good hospital nearby a must; smaller city is easier on the spirit, minimal good attitude erosion and/or disruption; and, the community closeness aspects, positive and negative are a factors that can take getting use to. When I researched moving, Burlington, Vermont, not far from where I live, is the best place, despite the snow.

  29. Sasha L says...

    Here’s what happens when big city folks move to your small town (Bozeman, Gallatin valley Montana, but also many other small towns in Montana and across the mountain West and pnw).
    Housing has more than tripled in the last decade. A small home in Bozeman is now half a million or more. Since most people moving here bring their jobs with them (a significant portion moving here don’t actually need jobs, they have trust funds – it’s the single biggest source of income in our community), as there are very few high paying jobs here, job generation is stagnant. The jobs you will find, service industry – ski hills, restaurants, bars, and construction, are abundant, but don’t pay enough to make your rent or mortgage. Because of this the service industry is woefully understaffed, to the point of businesses closing and bussing in workers from communities with lower cost of living two hours away. Our local DMV is staffed entirely by folks from Billings, two hours away, they drive in every day. No one here can afford to work there. Wages for restaurant work, maybe $11-15. Childcare wages, $10. Retail, $10-13. Even *good* jobs rarely pay more than $20. Rent for one room in a shared condo might be $800-1000. Even if you are *lucky* like us, and bought a house way back when, the skyrocketing property taxes are a huge burden. We are paying for new infrastructure and schools for all of the newcomers. Our taxes have more than tripled in twenty years (same tiny modest house). Our local government is so tied to the growth that there are absolutely no checks on it. Even our historic district is now full of modern renovations that look like they belong more in southern California. All of our new construction does. Any newer restaurant in town looks like it could be in LA, or Brooklyn, because that’s what appeals to newcomers. The sense of place that really felt special decades ago is rapidly being lost.

    The harder to quantify changes: increased traffic and drive times, the discombobulation of so much new construction that our town is becoming unrecognizable, seeing old friends moving away – searching for that specialness that used to be here, but feels lost now. And searching for a place where they can just get by.

    When you’ve lived in the small town your whole life, these changes feel heart breaking. Of course to new comers, our town still feels small, quaint, friendly, because of course it is, compared to wherever they are fleeing, and they didn’t see our town ten, twenty, thirty years ago.

    Even the recession didn’t stop the boom here. And last year’s terrible winter didn’t slow it either. It’s the sense of inevitability that really depresses many of us. Field by field is gobbled up by new houses that 90% of the old population could never afford. They are like a giant blinking 24 hr billboard for new people to come and fill them up.

    My only advice to those moving to the small towns – your doing so is changing that small town, in big and small and significant ways. The thing you think you may be getting is being lost by the very act of you coming. Why not try to find the sense of community you seek, where you are?

    • Sasha L says...

      Just going to throw this out there, since someone mentioned it below regarding Vashon island and vaccination: Montana has historically had the LOWEST vaccination rates in the whole country. We also have the highest rate of drunk driving deaths, among the highest rates of suicide and alcoholism. Of course, for most of the people who can afford to move to a state with incredibly low income and high cost of living, they are insulated from many of the problems which plague long time poorer residents.

    • Marisa says...

      Because they can’t afford to live where they are.

    • Linds says...

      @ Sasha – We’re seeing similar changes in my North Carolina town. I love that so many people see the beauty here, but I can’t afford to purchase property here now. We’re being eaten alive by transplants and people buying vacation homes. Many of the people moving here are trying to make changes that will turn this area into the very place the left. It’s a different kind of grief, to not be able to preserve a place you love.

    • J says...

      “The thing you think you may be getting is being lost by the very act of you coming. Why not try to find the sense of community you seek, where you are?”

      Thank you, this is wise. And I’m sorry about your loss – it is a loss. This is something that has crossed my mind when I think about tourism and visiting the wonderful places I want to see. Everything has a cost. And a lot of the things we are running from…could we be the change we want to see in our own neighborhoods, here, now?

    • Sasha L says...

      Linds, I feel this so much.

      I didn’t mention but a large part of our growth is driven by millionaires and billionaires and the entire industry around second, third, fourth homes, that are vacant except for a couple weeks a year. They raise real estate prices dramatically, even in tiny, remote towns, they buy up historic ranches and turn them into private hunting grounds, and they aren’t part of our community. Our local airport is now the largest and busiest in the state, and still adding on, all to accommodate the private jets.

      Montana has always relied on devastating extraction for our economy, mining, logging, and now a play ground for the rich. It’s hard to say but I think this is the most soul sucking of all.

    • riye says...

      I moved back to my hometown (mid-sized city) and have noticed the same things noted by Sasha L, Marisa, and Linds. A lot of the beauty that is here for everyone to enjoy is slowly being swallowed up by luxury condos and homes. We’re lucky people are required by law not to block public access to the beach because it would be yet another thing lost to us. I still love being here but I’d be doing a lot better financially if I packed up the cats and boyfriend and moved.

    • Katie C says...

      As someone who grew up in a small town facing similar issues you describe above, I feel you on this. I now live in a big city and surprisingly, we are facing similar problems, only its not with other big city people moving in, its developers. Small neighborhoods in the city are losing their affordability and sense of community because developers are coming in and knocking down smaller homes to make way for bigger apartment complexes that residence can no longer afford. Sky rise apartment buildings are popping up on every corner cramming in more people and drastically changing city at rapid speed. Teachers, firefighters, police officers & service industry workers are vital parts of a city that they no longer can afford to live in. My family would like to stay in this city we love, however its becoming less realistic that we will be able to keep up with the rising costs and have talked about moving back to my small more affordable hometown. The wealthier city-goers are also able to shield themselves from the problems of poorer residents. The well-offs are able to live close to work so they can walk or drive, while everyone else struggles with insanely long commutes on public transportation (hello flu season!). While I know its on a different scale, I feel like families in small towns and big cities are going through many of the same things.

    • Mandy says...

      Thank you for sharing this Sasha. My family is from outside Missoula, and I see my long retired elder relatives struggling to deal with the increased property taxes and worrying about driving with the faster city drivers careening down the highways. When we visited last we went to a small local restaurant where they like to frequent. One aunt told me, “we have to keep coming here so the family can keep it open. Basically everyone working front of house is related.” The other half of the same side of the family is in rural ID. An uncle is selling his house for nearly half a million, and I nearly fell out of my chair.

    • Alyce says...

      This is strikingly similar to the urban gentrification story.

    • Sal says...

      This is how I feel about the whole Bay Area – born and raised and had to leave at 39 because I could not afford to live where I grew up. Watched culture disappear and open spaces, grumpy, overworked people and the rat race have encroached to a point that’s far, far beyond where it was 30 yrs ago. I realize I am part of “the problem” by settling down elsewhere but I’m not sure what the solution is other than being good people everywhere one goes. I truly believe the American dream is in its death throes, that’s for sure.

    • Natalie says...

      “When you’ve lived in the small town your whole life, these changes feel heart breaking. Of course to new comers, our town still feels small, quaint, friendly, because of course it is, compared to wherever they are fleeing, and they didn’t see our town ten, twenty, thirty years ago.”

      Oh my gosh, thank you for voicing so eloquently what I feel about my hometown of Austin, Texas. Living in the midst of such unbridled growth weighs on my heart. Everything has gotten so hard – traffic, property taxes, crowds, even just the general attitudes of people. I will still never forget being screamed at in the parking lot of a popular new restaurant a few years ago by a women who thought I “stole” her spot. I remember thinking, where am I? This isn’t Austin.

      Unfortunately, all of the things that make Austin so wonderful are now virtually inaccessible to any “normal” people. My husband and I both have stable, well-paying jobs and absolutely recognize our privilege, but we feel like we’re barely getting by. Salaries aren’t increasing fast enough, so a lot of the people I work with have second jobs or side hustles to make ends meet.

      On top of all this, our town is experiencing a heartbreaking, confusing, contentious, difficult crisis around our unhoused population, much of which is centered around our neighborhood in South Austin. I feel like so many of the people who move here are only thinking about what Austin can give them, but I see very few conversations about what they’re investing back into the community.

      All that said, we talk frequently about leaving Austin, but after reading these comments, I want to be mindful of not becoming for some small town what all the new transplants have been to Austin. Any ideas? My aging parents live in Ohio, so I’d like to be closer to them, and we have other connections to Tennessee, North Carolina and Alabama, but we don’t really know how to start our research. All we know is that we’d like to move to another college town with a river or some body of water.

      Thank you, Cup of Jo, and to this community, for opening up this discussion. I really value all of these points of view, and it’s given me lots to think about.

  30. A says...

    You know that feeling you get when you leave the city and get to an AirBnB in a remote town, and you step onto the porch and inhale the ocean or forest air and you can feel your whole body relax? That’s how it feels every day when I get home from work in Seattle and walk up the ferry dock to my tiny seaside town (pop ~2,000). It feels like I can exhale the frenetic energy of the city and inhale the silence and slow pace (and occasionally the smell of rotting fish) of rural life. We moved out of the city year ago – for all the reasons – and it’s been one of the best decisions our family has made.

  31. Meghan says...

    I grew up in a small town and have lived in a big city now for 15 years. I won’t move back to a small town again. I enjoyed growing up in a small town and imagined raising my children in a small town – but now that I have them (boys aged 6 and 4) I know the city is better for us. There are more things for us to do, the country isn’t far, I still have family in the small town – plus, my eldest has a few special needs – being in a small town would make it more difficult to get some of his needs met… the city has so much more to offer him in terms of groups, services, schools, therapies, groups for me, other parents going through similar, other kids going through similar, teachers who have had similar kids, pediatricians, etc, etc…

  32. Em says...

    Not to toot my cities own horn but I really do feel like living in Cleveland, OH is a perfect mix. My husband and I lived in Chicago for years and love it there, but could never have afforded the home we have now there, or even to live anywhere near the things that attracted us to Chicago in the first place. We live in an area called Edgewater here and we are 4 blocks from the lake, can ride our bikes to amazing museums and can take public transit to work. We have amazing cool new chefs coming here all of the time because the cost to have a start up restaurant is so small! Not to mention tons of amazing breweries. I personally loved traveling for work to the smaller cities that are really working to make themselves amazing vs. huge cities where amazing things can easily get lost.

    For two artists who love working for local companies & nonprofits, a midsize city on a beautiful lake is perfect for us! :)
    TEAM CLEVELAND <3 ( anyone else? ..Bueller?)

    • MelB says...

      I live in Wooster, and think of Cleveland as our big city option:)

      But I agree with you that a mid-size Midwestern city has a great combo of perks and cost of living. I felt similarly when we lived in Cincinnati 15 years ago. And Midwesterners are generally friendly and hospitable.

    • Eileen says...

      Me, I am team Cleveland! I was reading the article and thinking how lucky we are to have some of the city amenities with the small town charm in our little pocket neighborhoods. Great restaurants, wonderful hospitals, affordable housing-now can we just fix the Market!

    • J says...

      Louisville native here, sounds very similar. I also feel like mid size Midwestern and Southern cities have a lot to offer. On the other hand, I’m nervous of getting gentrified out by a bunch of demanding bigger city people, too. “Oh I lived in New York City for 10 years and you guys are just so friendly and down to earth, so I HAD to settle here and open another $200/month Pilates studio/overpriced hotel.” Please no.

    • Andrea says...

      I have lived in Pittsburgh long enough that I can’t be Team Cleveland ;) but I get you and echo the benefits of rust belt living. Also thumbs up to Cleveland’s awesome public market.

    • Ashley says...

      I LOVED living in Cleveland! It never felt hustled or competitive, but definitely fun and diverse. I loved Westside Market! <3

    • M says...

      Team Cleveland! And also Team St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, St. Paul, Madison, etc. The Midwest has some of the BEST medium-sized cities with a small town feel. I think that’s why everyone in the Midwest is so nice – they’re happier with their day to day life. When I talk to my siblings who both reside in NY, there’s a constant edge/stress looming in our conversations.

      I am CONVINCED there will be a mass migration to the Midwest, especially with global warming/rising coastlines/fires.

      I also echo the sentiment about living in college towns — lots of stuff going on, but not at the big city cost!

  33. Ash says...

    I lived in Manhattan for a long while, then moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, which feels like a small town in all of the bad ways and none of the good ways:

    1. major CAR culture. everyone drives, and it is not very walkable or pedestrian-friendly, even in the so-called “metro” where I live. I don’t have a car, and it is really, really challenging to get around here.

    2. TBH, the food culture is really hard for me after living on the coasts… every restaurant’s veggie section is like “deep-fried brussel sprouts w bacon” …..GAH. I miss delicious food and I miss FLAVOR.

    3. It’s hard to make friends… the people are narrow-minded, conservative, and unfriendly, very much Minnesota Nice, a. k. a. Minnesota Ice

    4. everyone wants to be the same here. it is maddening. I wanted to buy a place here at first but Every. Single. Place. is painted beige and is small, dark, cramped. the aesthetics here are just hardcore Midwest dullsville.

    I would do anything to leave, but my job is really specific, and it’s hard to find comparable positions elsewhere. reading through the comments, it seems like a lot of us are in that situation… locked into a professional situation that doesn’t give us a lot of freedom to relocate.

    • Emily says...

      As someone who used to live right outside of Minneapolis & loved the city, I think you’re overlooking some great things. *So* many lakes, parks, and things to do outdoors right in the city, Minneapolis is super bike-friendly (a way to get around!), and there are actually a lot of great coffee & food options, if you look a little harder! There’s a reason it’s often ranked among the best places to live in the nation :)

    • Kate says...

      Hey, Ash. Sorry to hear you don’t like Minneapolis! I’ve found it to be a really great, inviting place, but I understand it’s not everyone’s cup of tea – especially in February, ha. I lived here for five years before I got a car, so if you need any tips let me know! I think our transit has A LOT of ways it could improve, and it’s probably my chief complaint about the city. I hope your experience gets better, or you’re able to move on to a place you enjoy more soon!

    • Frankie Rose says...

      Moved to Michigan for partner’s job after living in Seattle for 8 years. We miss the city and the coast sooooo much. Midwest dullsville really nails it (originally from a different stats in the Midwest) and we are so ready to leave after a year and half. I feel you.

    • Sara says...

      Ash, I’m sorry to hear that you’re struggling in your new location. I’ve lived in Minnesota multiple times – St. Paul, specifically, and found the public transit system to be easy to navigate and inexpensive. There are also a plethora of international restaurants; Minnesota is full of diverse nationalities with lots of restaurants and flavors to enjoy! Minneapolis has a world-class art museum and a vibrant theater and music culture that is worth checking out for sure. I think if you tap in to that a bit, you may find yourself surprised by the people you meet who do not want to be the same as everyone else.
      Life on the coasts is amazing, but the Midwest also has a lot to offer that I feel like you just haven’t experienced yet. And if it isn’t for you, I think it’s important not to generalize or look down on the people who do choose to live there.

  34. Loren says...

    I have always lived in, and loved, big cities {Chicago, Austin, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Boston, San Francisco} except for the three years I spent at a school in a small town in rural Illinois. Now that I think about it, those were some of the happiest years of my life. Part of it was always knowing people everywhere I went, and part of it was the amazing music culture in that town and at that time.

  35. Kiley says...

    My husband and I left Chicago for my hometown of Columbus, OH shortly after we had our son for many of the reasons listed above, but primarily because we weren’t near any family members. We realized pretty quickly how important it was for our son to grow up near them, and how much it costs to go back and forth between them. We’re missing our friends and the variety of food choices (even though Columbus is pretty great in that regard), but we’re excited for our son to grow up around family!

  36. Grace says...

    This article came at the perfect time! I’m sick of DC and trying to move to Hudson Valley this summer. Does anyone have suggestions for Hudson Valley towns to check out? So far I’m leaning towards Kingston, Saugerties, and Hudson.

    • Marie says...

      I grew up in the Hudson Valley (HV), lived in Boston for 6 years and internationally for 4. Now I live down south. It’s a beautiful area with some serious positives… and some negatives (like everything else in life ?).

      For particular places, it depends on your income, how much you care to drive, and just how small of a town you’re looking for. If you have the luxury of a remote job, that will make a huge difference because commutes in the HV are generally awful.

      I would also check out New Paltz, Rhinebeck, Pawling, and Millerton. There’s also the northwest portion of Connecticut, same feel – typically less isolated than some of our small towns. I would check out Kent, CT and Litchfield, CT.

      Best of luck with your new chapter ?

    • Grace says...

      Thank you so much Marie! I will check those out next time I’m up there.

  37. Emily L says...

    I love this post because I did just this exact thing! In January my husband and I moved from Baltimore, MD (pop 600,000) to Randolph, VT (pop 4,800). I’ve lived in a city my entire life and was ready to be closer to nature, live in a quieter area, etc. My anxiety levels are so much less and I love being able to look out across the landscape but also be able to walk to work. To answer some of the questions/concerns about jobs in small towns – we just got incredibly lucky (well, and spent almost a year working towards this)! We knew we wanted to move to Vermont and assumed we’d be in one of the bigger population centers, but the company I found a job with is headquartered in a small town. Serendipitously, after I accepted the job (2-3 months before our move date) my husband found a posting at the local school district . His salary did go down significantly from working in DC, but his commute was shorted by FOUR HOURS A DAY, and my salary went up a bit. Overall the cost of living is about the same, and we do have everything we could want – a yoga studio, gym, music hall, movie theater, market, restaurants – there’s just less of it. We’re still able to have only one car because we work close together.

    My biggest concern is going to be child care. There’s just so much less of it available in a small town. We haven’t met too many people yet because winter in Vermont isn’t exactly when people are out and about! But it is nice to start seeing the same people when I go to the gym so it’s just going to take time – which it does everywhere!

    I also realize that we’re quite privileged in our situation. There are many people who live in small, rural areas that struggle with access to transportation, hospitals and more.

  38. Sara says...

    Big city to small town can also be relative. My husband and I met after he moved from New York City to Chicago. He always used to tease me for talking with people in the elevator of his high rise apartment building and how that would never happen in New York.

  39. Natasha says...

    I’m glad to see several people commenting about nature. We moved from Los Angeles to Charlottesville, VA, and toward the end of our time in LA the light pollution especially was really getting to me (and though I didn’t know it, the noise pollution too). I wanted my kid to be able to see stars every night, and to connect with the natural world in a way that was just much less possible in a big city.

  40. Marisa says...

    These responses are really interesting, but I wonder if they’d be different if these people lived in smaller cities/towns in the south (other than, say, Santa Fe). I grew up in a small town in Texas (very near Austin) and all I can say is NEVER. AGAIN. The racism, close-mindedness, religious ferocity, gun-loving, big-truck-driving-everywhere culture? No. I’ll be a city kitty forever.

    • CiCi says...

      I grew up in small town Texas too (north of Dallas), but now I live in NYC and have for years. As a person of color who consistently grew up hearing the question “what are you..?”, I still miss the small town vibe and overall appeal. I’m buying a house back there as we speak. What I’ve noticed over the years is that as more individuals started to get active in this small town, especially with local politics, some of these issues you mentioned (because yes, they certainly exist) diminished. And as more individuals like us wanted to move and grow better communities, the greater the impact we imparted. It may certainly never be ‘great’, but I’m super proud of the progress some of these towns are seeing and I think it’s something Texas towns can definitely do — grow. It’s the number one reason I’m ready and excited to be heading back, I think it’s an opportunity to be seen and heard anew (especially after years of feeling pushed and shoved just on my morning commute…).

    • Alison says...

      Thank you for sharing this point of view. I relate big time.

    • Amy says...

      Yes, this unfortunately was my reaction, too. I grew up in a small town in Missouri, and I know my brother-in-law, a gay Mexican man, would not be comfortable and quite possible even be harassed if he visited us there. The same goes for others in our diverse friend group (trans folks, female Muslim friends who wear hijabs, even I get stares from my very subtle arm tattoo!). I wish this were not the case, but when I visit my hometown, I regularly hear the n-word, words like “libtard” and “feminazi”, and see a LOT of guns seemingly everywhere. I literally did not meet a Jewish person or even a Catholic until I left to go to college in Chicago. I know not all small towns are like this, but yeah, I definitely have no dreams of raising my children there!

    • Anna says...

      British girl here who lived three years in a tiny town in South Carolina (we’d call it a village in England… do you have villages in the States or do you always call them towns?). Anyway just wanted to say how much I agree with this comment. The attitudes where we were were so toxic, it made me reluctant even to visit the US again. Even though I know that many places in the US are not like that, of course. Even the incredible wildlife couldn’t make up for it.

    • ann says...

      Eh I think you get a lot of that in the big cities in the south too

  41. Eliot says...

    Tovah, give me tips about living in Charlottesville… please! I moved here in September 2019 to start my PhD and I miss Boston/Cambridge, MA, where I spent the past three years, terribly. Cambridge/Boston never felt big to me because I walked everywhere (didn’t have a car) so I visited the same places on a regular basis and formed relationships with those places and people. No place has ever felt so much like home for me as New England did even though I grew up in Texas.

    Now I feel very isolated in Charlottesville. I’ve been told it’s because there are 2 Charlottesvilles: UVA and not-UVA. That’s made it quite difficult to connect with people that aren’t associated with the university (something I would love to do as, even though I like the school and my friends there, it would be lovely to have relationships not built around academia). Even though I was also a grad student in Cambridge, I didn’t seem to have this issue. Not sure why but I’m pretty blue about it. To be fair, there is one thing I love that Charlottesville has but Cambridge certainly does not: Shenandoah less than 30 minutes away. So lovely when the weather is nice!

    I’ll be in Charlottesville for another 4.5 years so I’m hoping I begin to feel settled and connected with the city soon!

    • Sarah says...

      Charlottesville has incredible music! Join the Oratorio Society!!! It’s an amazing local chorus and the conductor, Michael, and his wife Holly are the coolest. Or reach out to Judy with the Virginia Consort, she is AMAZING. They’re both low-pressure, amateur-friendly groups and are a great way to make friends. Maybe seek out a volunteer position with Charlottesville Opera, they’re always looking for extra hands in the costume shop.

    • Caroline says...

      Hey there! I have loved living in Charlottesville for the past four years and have adored it. I would suggest going out into the city for events like the First Friday art walks – where galleries all over the city (and specifically on the downtown mall) open their doors and have drinks and yummy snacks. A great gallery, Welcome Gallery, on the Mall has co-working days and that is such a great way to meet people and do work in a great art space!

      Go to events like the TomTom Founders Festival (like Charlottesville’s own TED Conference – which has tons of great speakers and events) or go out to events like Prochella – series of porch concerts throughout the city. I would also suggest getting involved with places like the McGuffey Art Center or the Jefferson School and looking at the different community programing they are running. There are also great groups like the Farmhouse in town! I so hope you will grow to love Charlottesville for all the ways it is good, for all the ways it is profoundly imperfect, and for the ways it is trying to be better.

      Also – there is really great beer here! Get a beer and get outside. There is bounding beauty to be found here, I know it can be hard – but there are a lot of people here (involved with UVA and not!) who want to help you love this place.

    • Tovah says...

      HI, it’s Tovah from the interview here! I absolutely felt that isolation, Eliot, and the separation between “town and gown.” I really miss the walkability of NYC and bumping into people in that way. We have mostly met friends by volunteering at Live Arts theater near the downtown mall. You don’t have to have any theater experience; there are jobs that anyone can do and you meet so many interesting, fun people! I also love to exercise at Posture Studio (also downtown mall) and love the community there.

      I’m excited to see a tiny COJ/Charlottesville contingent here! Any of you are welcome to contact me through instagram @tovahclose if you ever want to get in touch or meet up :)

  42. Jennifer says...

    I think about this all the time. I left my small town (right outside of Cincinnati Ohio) and moved to Memphis TN for a job. Of course, Memphis is not what I’d call a big city by any means but it was bigger than my tiny hometown of 2,000 people. This was after college and pre-marriage, pre-kids.
    Now we’ve built a life here but I yearn to move back – not to my tiny hometown, but somewhere in that area. My entire family is back there, and raising kids and living through the daily grind on our own is starting to become not fun anymore. So I’m interested to hear these stories – why people move back (or to) hometowns, or to be closer to family.

  43. A says...

    This post brought up some hard feelings for me. We moved almost 2 years ago to a smaller more rural community from our state’s vibrant and inclusive capital and it has been HARD. Yes there are cute activities and I don’t have to worry about school waiting lists but people are cold. They have their circles and their families (and their extended families) and it’s really hard to crack into those established routines. I know it takes time—and the quiet pace is nice–I’m just SO ready to not feel like an outsider walking around with three heads.

    • Sasha L says...

      As someone from the smaller rural community, where lots of new people are moving in – it’s hard to see the place you love changing. I find it harder and harder to feel open and friendly to new comers, even though that really is my nature. My grown children won’t be able to live here, because housing has skyrocketed. I worry about paying my tax bill because we are paying for so much new infrastructure, that just doesn’t let up. And many of the new people coming, just don’t share the values of the existing community. Many, here at least, are rich and incredibly privileged, and I don’t find much in common with them at all. Add that to my sense of sadness as I say goodbye to friends, every year, who just can’t afford it here anymore, or can’t live with all the changes.

      The coldness you feel may have some pretty deep and complicated roots.

  44. Ella says...

    I wouldn’t call Vashon Island a small town–it’s definitely part of the greater Seattle metro area (commuter ferries, relatively high real-estate costs, same county as Seattle, etc.). Also worth noting: They’re vaccination rate is 74% when the national target is 95%.

    • Riley says...

      Exactly what I came here to say about Vashon! I live in West Seattle and we won’t even visit with our baby because of the vaccination rate across the water.

    • Andrea says...

      Agreed!

  45. Jody says...

    The trick (for our family) is close proximity to a small city. We’re 15 minutes north of Portland, Maine (hi Alyssa in Brunswick!!) which gives us 2 acres, an excellent school district, neighbors that have become best friends, parades, AND grocery delivery, incredible restaurants, concerts, plays, an airport, etc just a short drive away. My biggest complaint is the lack of diversity but that is a Maine problem not an our town problem.

  46. Hannah says...

    I hate to say it but I found this to be a disappointing piece. I think there are so many of us (moms in particular) who would like a slower pace of life and one which would allow us to spend more time with our families. One major thing that small towns don’t afford is a wide array of jobs. Moving from a big city to a small town is a PRIVILEGE offered to people who can financially afford it. Sure, the cost of living is lower but that’s assuming you can find work in your chosen field. I would have liked to hear this perspective as well as the more community based and cultural changes.

    • LMK says...

      Thanks for your perspective. I actually thought the opposite. I am from a small semi rural area and thought it was a privilege to move to the city ( I lived in Chicago for a time). No one around me could either afford or wanted to do something like that, so I pretty much had to figure it out on my own. If I had stayed in my town I would have been limited to factory work or blue collar positions. (No judgement. But I saw how hard this type of work can be physically firsthand.) So for me the privilege came when I found ways to get out.

    • Katie says...

      I’ve never commented before, but this prompted me to – I just have to say that I totally agree with you. As someone who just moved from a big city to a very small suburb of that city, I found myself feeling sad about this post. I am not finding the time and freedom that the women in this post found because I still work in the city. We have more space in the burbs, but the financial piece is still difficult. I don’t have the opportunity to find a new job in our new, small community because jobs in my field don’t exist in small towns, and certainly don’t pay enough for me to be able to afford to take one. We were blessed to be able to make a move that generally has been really good for our family, but it certainly hasn’t made anything easier. Thanks for this comment. It was helpful for me to see.

    • Chels says...

      Yes! I very much agree with this. This piece felt quite out of touch – nearly all of the “small towns” represented were also very idyllic sort of places, and didn’t really represent what most small towns are actually like.

    • LP says...

      As someone who grew up in a very small town and now lives in a big city, I think both Hannah and LMK are correct! It is hard to get out of a small town even if you want to without a college education and if you’ve been working in a specialized profession in a big city (with a big city salary) it can be hard to find something comparable in a small town.

      I also agree with some other posters here that this is not really representative of “small town”–a lot of the people people who posted here moved to idyllic vacation towns/college towns, etc. that are really the exception rather than the rule. It’s probably more common that small towns without these unique economic drivers are experiencing a lot of economic distress (and sometimes secondary related effects like high levels of drug use) given how our economy has been changing the last 20-30 years.

    • Hannah says...

      Responding to LMK’s note to say that I couldn’t agree more with your follow up! I too am from a semi-rural area in northern Maine and it was a privilege to get out and move to New York City. Had I stayed, my life would have been very different (and similar to what you described.) Now having a family myself, I see the value in a slower upbringing but the idyllic, homey lifestyle that so many of the interviewees described just isn’t possible BECAUSE of the fact that the majority of the work in these smaller towns is factory work or blue collar type positions and those salaries just don’t afford the kind of life everyone is talking about.

      And LP, just a big round of applause to everything you said.

      I appreciate you all for echoing my struggle feelings.

  47. Alex says...

    Checking in from the Milwaukee suburbs (Shorewood, next door to Whitefish Bay)! The quality of life here really is incredible. In Brooklyn we paid $2,600 a month for an 800 square foot fourth floor walkup in Crown Heights. Now we pay $2,100 a month to own an 1,800 sqft craftsman bungalow with some of the best public schools in the state. My commute to work is 15 minutes. Or I can bike on the old rail line that takes me downtown without crossing a single street. That takes 30 minutes. And it’s still a city (~1.5 million metro area) so there are tons of restaurants, theater, music, sports, etc. etc. There’s a beautiful sandy beach five minutes from our house! I could ramble for hours about how glad I am that I don’t have to raise our toddler in NYC.

    • RS says...

      But, would you call Shorewood a small town? It’s an awesome suburb directly north of Milwaukee, but I guess it’s all in the perspective. If one lives in a suburb that is literally a 1/2 mile walk from the City of Milwaukee, then I don’t consider that a small town. Maybe the title of this blog post simply needs to be changed to reflect different people’s definitions of “small towns.” Regardless, Shorewood is fantastic, as is Milwaukee. But, as someone who grew up in a similar suburb in another midwestern city, personally, I don’t consider a first-ring suburb as a small town. These suburbs simply wouldn’t exist as they do in their current state without their close proximity to large cities.

    • Sarah says...

      That sounds so lovely!

    • Becka says...

      and you get to root for the Bucks instead of the Nets or Knicks! yay!

    • Jen says...

      I agree – I’m from Milwaukee and Shorewood/Whitefish Bay are suburbs not small towns. I totally agree with what you’ve said – great schools, great place sto live. With a suburb you have the community feel from being in a distinct area/school district, but also generally resources/diversity of a nearby city….but that access/proximity then doesn’t reflect the SAME experience (the full pros nor challenges) of living in a small town.

    • ali says...

      Shorewood and Whitefish Bay have always been wealthy ‘suburbs’ of
      Milwaukee, not small towns. I think a lot of us would like to move to
      such places as those, Santa Fe, Vashon Island, Martha’s Vineyard etc. but they simply aren’t affordable for so many of us.

    • Clea says...

      Agreed–my partner is from Milwaukee proper, but has family in Shorewood and Whitefish Bay–they are not small towns, they are lovely, affluent suburbs.

    • Nina says...

      I lived in Milwaukee for 8 years, and Whitefish Bay was known as ‘White-folks’ Bay. Not a lot of diversity happening there. Milwaukee has serious segregation issues.

  48. M says...

    We live(d) in San Francisco most of our life, but in 2001 we decided to jump on the bandwagon and buy a house just outside Sacramento, which counts for a small town since they didn’t have a Starbucks nor a Target there. We lived there for 8 years. But considering we were in the city every weekend getting our fix on big city life – we decided to move back. Although sometimes I think I want to move again to a small town, but opt for a week long vacation instead to jar my memory of life really was in a small town for someone from a big city. This is until of course I turn 75 and then the small town is where you’ll find me again-somewhere in Cornwall, UK. :)

  49. Kate says...

    I’d be really interested to hear if big cities in the US are similar to ours in that they have the suburbs which are like little towns in their own right. We live in a big city but our suburb is 40kms from the centre of town so it feels more like its own village. For me it’s ideal because we have access to awesome city amenities but still have monkeys and ducks in our garden and absolute silence at night like the countryside!

    • Maggie says...

      A lot of the Philadelphia suburbs are like this – they have their own main streets and schools and distinct personalities, and have commuter trains that will take you right into Center City. In California, where I grew up, a lot of the suburbs are collections of subdivisions and malls – they have their own perks (often lots of young families and newer homes and decent schools) but definitely don’t feel like small towns.

  50. Molly says...

    I moved from D.C. to the North Shore of MA (Beverly) for a relationship (we’re married and have bought a house now so that worked out!) and at times I definitely miss the buzz of such a fun and diverse city like D.C. – especially the amazing food, free museums and monuments and the lively music scene. BUT living in a quiet (but growing) seaside town has been a literal breath of fresh air. I had forgotten how much a daily connection with nature can effect my mood and overall outlook on life. New Englanders are outside no matter WHAT the weather is and it impacts their perspective on work and life in the best ways.

    • Nicole says...

      @Molly – In Beverly too! So glad to hear you are enjoying it here. It’s not without its flaws (nowhere is!), but a very special place and I am glad to be raising children here.

  51. Amanda W. says...

    I’ve lived in Louisville, KY my whole 40 years. I very much have a love/hate relationship with it. It’s still a very affordable town. I love my little house and garden. It’s in an old neighborhood that is close to a Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park. I can walk to the grocery, to a farmers market, to restaurants (we have a surprisingly diverse restaurant scene for a city this size), to coffee shops, etc. I always say that Louisville is a tiny beacon of blue in a sea of red, especially in the area of town I live in; it’s fairly progressive.

    But the leadership here is such a good ol’ boys club and it shows in the city’s new development. Lots of gentrification happening, and gaudy buildings in the works that only serve the wealthy. Our public transportation is horrible; it’s very much a cars-rule city and traffic is getting worse by the day. And while we have pockets of the city that are tree-covered and beautiful, the city as a whole is not very pretty to look at, thanks to the above leadership who would rather put in parking lots than plant trees. Urban sprawl is still very much a thing here.

    I really, really want to move someplace else. My dream is to move to a small European town, but I have no idea how to even begin. My husband and I work in the healthcare and tech fields, respectively, but we’re not in management or the kinds of positions that seem to allow for easy overseas moves. We don’t have kids, but we do have cats that would need consideration.

    I commend anyone who has made a big move, whether it be moving from a small town to a large one, or vice versa. I would love to see more posts on people of average means who have made moves overseas.

    • Melanie says...

      Also from Louisville, KY! So happy to see other Louisville CoJ readers :)

      I feel like your description of Louisville is very accurate. Great in ways… but still has its frustrations.

    • J says...

      Another Louisvillian here, very accurate description. A great deal of class/wealth divide, but a lot of potential. The city has come a long way since the 80s/90s, though, so I’m hopeful we can correct course at some point and make it a more lovely and fair place to live.

  52. Sarah says...

    I love this! As a Nashville resident, we aren’t quite “big city” compared to Atlanta or Chicago but it certainly feels like it sometimes. My husband and I have definitely contemplated moving to a smaller city or town. I would have loved to hear from more women who moved to small towns in the southeastern U.S. though (Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia) because those have a VERY specific vibe. My husband is half Filipino so we get nervous possible racial tensions in rural, southern communities.

    • Jaime says...

      Hello Sarah, my husband and I live in Birmingham, AL. He’s grew up in Birmingham, and I’m a transplant from the Mid-Atlantic. Birmingham is a great small city due to its natural beauty and nearby trails and parks, food and drink scene, and entertainment. My husband is Vietnamese, and he isn’t treated with the same respect and dignity than I am as a white woman here. Because of this, we don’t see ourselves staying in Birmingham in the long term. I imagine it would be worse in rural Alabama, but I can’t speak from experience. Anyway, best wishes to you as you consider your future and where to live :)

  53. Sarah says...

    Hi Tovah! I live in Charlottesville now and have always had a fascination with the idea of living in NYC. I love hearing from someone who made the reverse move!

    • Tovah says...

      Hi Sarah! It’s been interesting, for sure. I miss a lot of things like walkability and diversity (especially linguistic diversity; I study and teach accents), but there really is so much to love here as well!

  54. Kristin says...

    I love these comments – they definitely highlight that the grass is always greener. My husband and I are from small towns that we were dying to leave as soon as we finished high school. We spent nearly two decades in the city and talked ourselves into loving it but once kids arrived, our souls just settled a bit and we moved to the near-rural suburbs. It immediately felt like a big piece of us we didn’t know was missing was suddenly filled. It’s quiet, our kids can safely ride bikes down our street all day long, people are friendly, and everything is slower. It also feels more permanent – in the city, there’s a lot of transition but in the ‘burbs, it feels like people are there to make a forever home.

    Mind you, we’re still 20 minutes from the city so we have access to everything we might miss if we went truly rural. I don’t think I could do small-town living again, but seeing grass (or snow! we’re in MN) — and not always seeing our neighbors — is something I now realize my soul very much needs.

  55. V says...

    We’ve lived in DC so long that it feels like a small town (I guess, in many ways, it is). That felt stifling in my 20s – I remember visiting friends/my sister in NYC and longing for the diversity of restaurants, bars, people, and general experiences. My then-boyfriend-now-husband and I have always been tied to DC because of our jobs, though, and never made (any) move (we’re also just risk averse people, I think).

    Almost two decades and two kids later, though, the small town feel with big city benefits feels just right. We have a (small) home with a (small yard) and can park on the street outside. Our commutes are manageable, and all conducted via public transit. In the summer, our entire block opens the back gates and the kids run wild/scoot/play ball in the alley while the parents drink wine. We share onions, babysitting nights, and pass around clothes that have been grown out of. At the same time, there are playgrounds, parks, and museums, free pre-k starting at age 3, and my neighbors and co-workers come from different countries, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, etc. Come November, if we can change the very real, deeply permeating toxicity that comes with living in the epicenter of this current political nightmare, this place may actually be exactly where I want to be.

    • LW says...

      Can I ask where you’ve landed in DC? We’ve happily lived in Shaw for years and love our sense of community but have run out of space so are looking for new ideas still in city confines.

  56. Emily says...

    What a wonderful post and conversation. I’m so intrigued by the discussion of “what constitutes a small town?” and I think we all know that’s obviously subjective and there’s no REAL answer. We all have our own individual experiences and they are all valid.

    I grew up in a town of 15k, and now live in a town of 400. To many here, I grew up “in a city”. LOL! Where I live now, we’ve literally never locked our house (I honestly don’t even know where our house key is?!), we all leave our keys in our cars, my kids can go anywhere and I know they’ll be looked out for. We have to plan our meals because we only drive for groceries once a week. It’s certainly not for everyone, but we’re thrilled to be raising our kids here.

    Love hearing all of these perspectives :)

    • Michelle says...

      I hear this. We literally do not have a key to our house, lol. We put new doors on two years ago and never got around to having them keyed. It really throws people who come to stay.

  57. I grew up in a very small, rural town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I returned after college and graduate school in DC because my dad got sick, thinking it was temporary. What I experienced coming home challenged my high school perception of this place as boring, provincial, etc— it was like this place resonated in my blood. It wasn’t just the close-knit community or the joy of reconnecting with my sisters, it was also the beauty of the unspoiled landscape. I didn’t have to drive to a park to experience nature with hundreds of other people. Here, it was just me and a dog walking on an empty beach next to the Bay, feeling like it was all mine and it was so RIGHT. My career as a writer has gone on to be deeply shaped by a sense of place, my relationship with my husband shares a love of the Chesapeake and its people and environment. The small town life is wonderful, but it’s really this visceral connection to the land and water that makes me never question whether leaving the city was right for me.

  58. I grew up in Miami and you could find pockets of “small town”. It was mostly in places little Havana, little Haiti etc.

    Currently I live in Portland. I have for the last 20 years and it’s time to move. It’s become one of the most unfriendly cities I’ve lived in which is sad.

    I love the woman you interviewed talking about her “boat parties” from Vashon to Seattle. I imagine I’ll meet her one day soon.

  59. Jules says...

    As someone who grew up.in the sticks the parking lot comment made me laugh. I live in a more city like area but still smaller now and parking lots make me anxious because of all the cement haha.

  60. We think about this all the time! I have so many follow up questions. The biggest one that looms over my family’s decision to potentially move to a small town is “How has work changed for these people? What were they doing in the big cities in which they lived, and how did that translate to the work they are doing now? Do they feel as fulfilled?”

    For me, someone who works at a company I love, in an industry that feels very much centered around big cities, that is the biggest barrier.

    • Lauren says...

      Agreed!! My biggest question reading this was the potential professional sacrifices

    • Lily says...

      Alex, YES! This is the big issue for my family as well. Both of our careers (which we enjoy, and have good/decent benefits) are based in cities. I suppose I need to start buying lottery tickets.

    • Alison says...

      In my case the job market was less saturated where we moved so I got a shot at a job I likely would never have gotten to do in a larger city. Am I completely overwhelmed? YEP! But on my silver lining days I tell myself how lucky I am to have gotten to try something totally new to me.

    • Rue says...

      I’m in academia, and I move places based only on work. I think either angle kind of stinks. When I move for a new job, I don’t have much say in where I move. There might not be another job offer for years, even if I apply to (literally) every job of this type in the country. The liberating flip side for me has been discovering things I love about places I never would have chosen for myself, and learning how to grow to feel at home in places that didn’t automatically resonate as home right away. I imagine the same might be true for the reverse situation: if you move for the location, you may end up with a satisfying and fulfilling career that you hadn’t been able to imagine when you arrived.

    • Tovah says...

      I don’t mind sharing how jobs were a factor for us (I’m interviewed in the original post). My husband’s job was flexible– when we moved he did communication coaching mostly from home (over Skype etc) and traveled 1-2 times per month to lead trainings in person. So that was easy for him to do from anywhere. As a dialect coach and theater teacher I was less flexible, and leaving the theatrical hub of NYC necessarily meant a downshift for my career. It was a big obstacle for me in the decision making process. I have been fortunate so far in finding local work, including at the university in our new town, and maintaining my individual coaching business using Skype. And honestly, the downshift in cost of living has meant we don’t need to earn as much, so we don’t have to work as much… But it meant downshifting my ambitions as well, in some ways.

  61. Annie says...

    My husband and I live in Toronto and just got news that our landlord is selling our place. Rents have gone up considerably in the last few years, so we’re now looking at 2 bedrooms places for $3000/month that we can start a family in. It’s disheartening. We daydream about moving to a smaller town, but Toronto and Vancouver are our hometowns and where our family, friends and support networks are.

    • Caro says...

      Hi Annie!
      My husband and I and two young boys moved from Toronto to Uxbridge a year and a half ago and we haven’t looked back. We were in a similar predicament in the city.,,.renting a house that was not well cared for by the landlord and we feared eviction daily bc we knew it would benefit him financially to sell the house. There were literally ZERO family friendly, affordable rentals in our neighbourhood and our landlord increased the rent substantially for the new tenants. There were 3 other families in our community that left around the same time as us for similar reasons. It’s a tough go, housing wise in Toronto right now so I feel your pain. Hopefully things improve…things have gotta shift.
      In the meantime, life is swell in the country and the food and diversity and arts/culture of the city are only a drive away and we visit often.

    • Emily says...

      @Caro Hello from a fellow Uxbridge gal! My husband and I just moved to town in October. Glad to hear you are happy with your move! We don’t have kids yet so are finding it a little difficult to meet new people but we love the town. Take care!

  62. Amanda says...

    I grew up mostly in Denver (~3 mil), and then for 6 years my husband and I moved to Durango, in SW Colorado (~20k). We are now back in Denver and feeling the itch to move somewhere smaller – or at least different- again.

    Living in a small town in a somewhat forgotten corner of the state was certainly great in ways. Hiking and other outdoor activities required less of a drive – a few hiking trails started right in town! When we first moved, there was an amazing local community that made it easy to get involved with local farmers and ranchers, and lot of farm-to-table events (sadly, that community really fractured and/or got harder to access the longer we lived there). For a small town, Durango has great restaurants, and we still yearn for a lot of our favorites! Accessing most of the U.S. Southwest (Arizona, southern Utah and New Mexico) was ridiculously easier than from Denver. And I loved going to the grocery store and knowing the people who worked there.

    However, there were also a lot of cons. A lack of diversity and a lot of small minds. Super high housing prices coupled with a very stagnant (and mostly seasonal) job market. Everyday things were way more expensive than the city – like gas and groceries. And a lack of culture – no awesome museums, not a lot of concerts or plays, etc. And for a couple that loves to travel, we either had to pony up an additional $200-300 per plane ticket to reach an international airport, or drive 4 hours to Albuquerque or 6 to Denver!

    Now we’re back in Denver and looking to move again. Not back to Durango – while we loved it, we have closed that chapter of our lives and aren’t really interested in going back. We’re not sure if we want somewhere smaller (my husband is from a town of 6,000 which he says is too small!) or just a different city, but we haven’t been appreciating the way Denver has been growing and changing. Time to shake things up!

    • Chelsea says...

      We live in Albuquerque and love visiting Durango, it’s a beautiful town. Although, I can definitely see how it could be a difficult place to live. Maybe you should try Albuquerque, it’s a good blend of the good things you can find in Denver and Durango. ;)

  63. Becky says...

    My family left Boston to move to Portland, Oregon after grad school and we loved PDX for a looong time…until the climate ground me down (it’s beautiful, but the gray and rain were hard to take). Then we had a baby, and the 1hr+ commute to work each way became unbearable. After a brief year back in Boston for work (which affirmed that we are NOT Boston-loving folks), we settled in Madison, WI and couldn’t be happier. Short commutes, bike anywhere, lots of restaurants, parks and family-friendly activities- it’s wonderful.

    I don’t know that Madison qualifies as a “small” town, but it feels like a Golidlocks place for us- not too big, and not too small. We found out that in Madison, we actually get to live the life we wanted in PDX, but couldn’t make happen there. Of course, we miss the West coast and Oregon terribly, but our day-to-day has improved dramatically.

  64. Rue says...

    I move ALL over the place for work. I lived in a small city/medium sized town in the rural Midwest for several years (basically: the “city” for all the surrounding agricultural land, but small by anyone else’s standards).

    I mostly knew folks through work but also had a friend circle of the neighbors in my building (a rambling old house divided into apartments).

    A very young couple lived in the building for a year and then earnestly told me they were moving back home to their tiny agricultural town 40 minutes away, because “the hustle and bustle of big city life” had been fun, but they were ready to settle back down (at ages 20 and 21) and get their own farm going.

    Your small town might just be the hustlin bustlin city for someone else!

  65. Lorraine says...

    When I was 28, pre-kids, I moved from Brooklyn, NY to Portland, OR. OK, Portland isn’t quite a small town but it’s a much smaller city than everything I’d ever known – I grew up in Jersey City, and lived in Manhattan/Brooklyn from age 18 onwards. I adored many things about living in a smaller, more manageable city – where community efforts had great reach unlike in the unwieldy megalopolis of NYC. I didn’t imagine myself moving back east.

    However – I was surprised at how I struggled with the pace of a slower life. It partially had to do with the time in my life – not having kids, being accustomed to a bigger city nightlife. After 5 years, we moved back east. Now that I’m in my early 40s and have two little kids, I think I’m more suited to that slower pace. If we’d moved there now instead of back then I could ‘ve seen us really putting down long-standing roots there.

  66. Alisha says...

    Loved hearing from Michele in Rochester, MN! A few years ago, we moved from Rochester to a small, neighboring town of about 5000 people. Schools were our biggest catalyst, but we also really wanted to give our kids a childhood more similar to our own. Now Rochester is “the city” where we go when we want to have a real date–it’s all perspective, right?!! Welcome to Minnesota, Michele!

  67. Lindsey says...

    I grew up in a small town in Ohio, now live in a rapidly growing urban area (Greenville, SC) and think a lot about moving back. Two things keep me from doing it: worry about career/job opportunities (I’m in my 40’s, my partner in his 50s and I worry about ageism, layoffs and the lack of opportunity to recover). Also, I wonder if I’m moving backwards rather than forwards by doing this. But there are many other things I miss.

    • CB says...

      Hi Lindsey! I’m in Spartanburg, SC and really like it here! You might like the more rural areas surrounding Gville and Spartanburg. :)

  68. J. Elizabeth says...

    My husband and are from NJ but lived in LA for three years. It was the first three years of marriage … no babies, no in-laws dropping by … just time to be together and establish our relationship. We made the big decision to move back east, 10 minutes from where I grew up. And while we both commute into NYC for work, our nights and weekends are small town. Back porch wind chimes, our Christmas card (still) hanging in our local bagel store, and, yes, in-laws dropping by …

    • Christine says...

      Hi J. Elizabeth — would love to hear more about your NJ town, as someone who lives in Brooklyn but is considering buying in NJ and commuting to NYC for work.

  69. Taylor says...

    I live in a small town just outside of Rochester, MN and have lived here my entire life. I have the opposite reaction of this post. When I travel to big cities or meet someone from a big city topics come up like this. “What do you mean you didn’t know everyone in your school let alone your graduating class? You have more than one local library, school, pool, bar, etc? You can go for a walk without getting stopped to chat or waved at/honked at?” I always love hearing how someone grew up differently than me.

    • Katie says...

      I wonder how many people moved to a small town where they did not have family nearby. I found moving from a big city to a place where most folks were born and raised to be much harder to make friends. There was no incentive for the people there to make new friends because they still had all their high school friends and relatives making up their social structure.

  70. Kaylin says...

    I love the sentiment of this post! However, as a Minnesotan, I have to say that Rochester is not a small town. There are more than 100,000 people in the city and 200,000 in the Rochester metro. I’d love to hear more about what it’s like living in towns with a population under 10,000, what typical rural life is like, what farm life is like, etc.

    • Taylor says...

      I giggled at that! I live not to far from Rochester and was surprised that it was being called a small town.

    • Melanie says...

      HAHA I thought the same thing. I was like woah buddy Rochester is pretty big there ya know? (said in a total Minnesota accent to be ironic).

    • Juled says...

      I grew up in a town of less than 100. They call them villages though, not towns. My graduating class had 46. We didnt “farm” but had an enormous garden that my dad would over plant for everyone we knew. The landscape and slow way of life was lovely, but while the people were nice enough sometimes the small town thing can be awful to outsiders.

  71. Alex says...

    I live in Seattle and tbh it’s wearing on me too (and I even grew up here). I have dreamed about moving to a small town, probably an island up here, or somewhere warm… santa Fe sounds nice! But I’ve hesitated because I’m single and I feel like it would be isolating.

  72. B says...

    Grew up in Nashville, went to college in Chicago suburbs, 2 years in New York, back to Nashville and now I live in a tiny Icelandic town of 900 people with my Icelandic husband.

    Pros: 7 min commute, the sense of community, access to amazing nature, good place to raise kids, easy to save money because there are no stores in village besides grocery/gas station/bakery/pharmacy, slower and easier pace of life

    Cons: lower salaries and limited job opportunities, takeout options are only burgers or pizza, lack of diversity, can be hard to make friends with locals (but that’s more a cultural thing), lack of easy access to concerts/theater/movies/bars etc.

    Oh and Iceland is insanely expensive ;)

  73. Amanda says...

    I moved to a small town when I was single, and the dating experience was super different.

    I was previously living in Toronto, and found it hard to make real connections with guys, because oftentimes, both or one of us was talking to other people at the same time. We were so busy keeping our options open, because there were sooo many options for single people in the city, that we forgot to actually create something real while dating. The minute I moved to a smaller town, people were so much more engaged and excited to talk. Because the options are more limited in a town, you really value the interactions you have with other people, and don’t see dates as being disposable interactions. As a person of colour, I was worried that dating would be much harder in a small town because of the lack of diversity, but it was actually the total opposite! People were so genuinely interested in getting to know me, and my culture.

    Two years ago I met my soulmate in that small town, and while we have both just moved to the city for work, we can’t wait to move back to the place we met!

    • Grace says...

      That’s amazing! Thank you for sharing this. I’ve found the exact same problem living in NYC and DC — people are always looking over the horizon for the person that’s “more right” than you. Myself included. That’s a huge reason why I’m moving to a smaller town this year — fingers crossed for a similar experience.

  74. themessyheadedmomma says...

    I had to move out of Santa Fe because the cost of living is too high! It’s so much cheaper in the Big City I just moved to.

    • ali says...

      Hahaha…….having lived there and Taos, believe me, I understand.

  75. S says...

    “There was a certain clout that I felt walking around the city and knowing that I belonged there.”

    THIS IS SO WELL PUT! That’s exactly what it feels like. Hitting me right in the feels…

    • Carol says...

      Same! I lived in London for 8 years and people used to stop me for directions. Last time I visited I didn’t know how to pay for the bus because everything is different now…very humbling. Felt weird to constantly explain to people that I USED to live here…
      Now I live in a small town outside a city where I work so I get the best of both worlds.

  76. Lilian says...

    I moved from Jakarta to Surabaya in Indonesia. Back in Jakarta, on average we spent 3 hours per day in the road because of the traffic jam every morning and afternoon. Not to mention the high living cost there. My family is so happy living in Surabaya now, we get to spend more time with each other, the kids get to do more activities, and they don’t get ill as often as in Jakarta (probably due to the air quality). People are also more relaxed in general. The only thing I miss is my friends, I find it hard to make friends here because they speak in different dialects :(

    • Shanti says...

      Hello from a fellow Indonesian! I’m from Jakarta but currently living in Los Angeles with my husband and 2 boys. Before LA, I lived in various smaller US cities but my heart is in the big cities. More options, great choices of (Asian) food and Asian groceries.

  77. Alice says...

    I grew up in a super small village, close to a small town, in Devon, England. I moved to London 5.5 years ago, and every time I go back to Devon to see my mum, for a day or so I’m like “I miss this! How did I ever leave?!”- and then I need to get somewhere in a hurry, or pick up an unusual ingredient, or want to go somewhere without seeing someone I know, and can’t, I think “Oh, that’s why…”. I always thought I’d like to move back to a small town, but now I’ve got a born-and-bred Londoner as a boyfriend, I don’t think that’ll ever happen!

    All that said, I’ve lived in my small pocket of London for the entire time I’ve been here, and it does actually feel like a small town, I think? I see people I know in the supermarket and the pub, I chat to my neighbours in the street, there’s tons of green space (we’ve got a massive park on the edge of the neighbourhood!), independent cafes, and a farmers market at weekends. Maybe finding your pocket of a big city is the way to get that small-town feeling without actually being in a small town?

    • Michelle says...

      Where are you from? My husband and I are from middle America but we visited Totnes/Dartington once and we are obsessed. We always joke about moving there. :)

  78. Jocelyn says...

    Last year, my boyfriend got transferred to a very small village in southern Germany and I decided to make the leap from Los Angeles to join him! I had to start learning a new language, adapt to a new culture, and meet new people. Now with very few distractions in our small-town life, we have become closer than ever. A move (especially one very much outside of your comfort zone) can be tough, but there is so much good that can come from such change. We are city people at heart and I never would have imagined living anywhere but a metropolis, but life is unpredictable and we’ve embraced this new adventure together. Of course, the convenience of city life is so glorious, but we’ve worked hard to grow where we’re planted. We learned to embrace the elements of life that we never had in a big city, like bumping into people you know everywhere you go (truly everywhere!), becoming a regular at the local restaurant/pub, and having the town’s baker know my food allergies by heart (she’s always telling me which of the daily specials I can have!). It’s been a big move for us to make together in our 20s and sometimes we still can’t believe we did it, but what’s kept us going is not seeing everything we’re missing from our city life but everything we’ve gained from the warmth of this community. Even though small-town life might not be for everyone, I now realize that I had never felt more lonely than when I was surrounded by people and that there’s something so magical about our little village life.

    • Anna says...

      I love your quote to work hard to grow where you’re planted, such a nice reminder!

    • Hannah says...

      What a wonderfully written comment. I’ve also had the feeling of being incredibly lonely when surrounded by people – seeing others seemingly busy and happy just makes the feeling worse. Cheers to you and embracing your adventure!

  79. Madame says...

    Oh my gosh, my personal experience is pretty hard to sum up. My new husband and I bought a home in the country and left Paris when we decided to have children. We wanted to raise our family in a beautiful ( and much larger) home with a big garden and lovely countryside. Although I adore our very beautiful historic manor, and the hundreds of roses, and peaceful views, it is increasingly complicated to find what we need in terms of education for our daughters! Having seen with my older children what a really good Parisian schools look like for bilingual kids, it is just not great right here where we are… Our daughters will absolutely have to go to boarding school in the SUPER near future. We have kept a very small apartment in Paris, and we spend A LOT of time in the city for theater, ballet, concerts and museum (it is only 1h30 by train), and we LOVE visiting, but we are so glad when we come to our little haven of peace. If I had it to do over, I would absolutely have looked more closely at schools.

  80. Lucy says...

    This is so timely – my husband and I have been talking about this a lot lately. We moved from Montreal, QC, to a massive city abroad (20+ million people). It was a career-driven move and only for a few years, so we trying to figure out where to move when our contracts are up. As a Canadian, I am envious of all of the cool smaller cities and communities that exist in the U.S. I find that a lot of small towns in Canada are very white, and if/when we have kids, they will be mixed race. We don’t feel comfortable raising kids in a predominantly white community without any other cultures or diversity of people/food/languages, etc. But we also miss being close to nature and hiking. I have no real answers, except that it’s nice reading about other people’s decisions, as this thought process has been weighing on me lately :)

  81. Emma says...

    I so am looking for small town America, I live in a big city and so miss trees, grass, land, space, flowers (so much), and most of all just *quiet* time to think. I want to find reasonable prices for homes, groceries and a fabric store ……….here is noise, the sounds of cars, cops, fire engines, motorcycles, and sad to say, to much violence, and looking over my shoulder when I go out to the store, always being on alert for the unknown character…..those I will never miss if and when I find small town America.

    • MelB says...

      I love living in Wooster, OH near a large Amish community, and there are tons of opportunities for quilting, fabric stores and fiber arts. We can buy local eggs for $2-3 at our year-round, indoor farmer’s market. The cost of living is amazing. I was once used to the sounds of sirens and traffic, and now I’m used to our small town. Every time I drive through a bigger city and see how stressed people seem, I think “these people don’t know that there’s an easier option out there.”

  82. Helen says...

    I’m a PhD Student in Beijing and it’s almost the same here. Living on campus, I have a 10 min walk to my work place, it’s like a small community. At the same time, I enjoy everything that this big city has to offer, from great restaurants to reading groups (in times before the virus, at least). Even though the fancy restaurant I meet my friend in might be 26 (!) subway stations away. It’s the mixture of the small-community vs. the big city life that I love. I can’t really imagine living in a small town, as I would miss the ‘big city feeling’. Reading all these great experiences above made me wonder though, whether I could be happy in a small town as well.

  83. Wendy says...

    We just moved from Seattle to rural Maine to be closer to family. Aside from missing friends, I miss easy access to pretty much everything, shopping, restaurants, and doctors. We love the wide open spaces rural life offers. We don’t have to pay everywhere we park and we love the community of a small town. With all of the pros and cons of chosing a place to live, it still boils down to seeking balance wherever you are. …but I do find myself aching to swing by Nordstrom and Costco

  84. WMom says...

    My family (husband and three boys) have lived in ‘small towns’ but they are resort areas, I guess you could say. We lived in Hailey, Idaho for a long time, and recently moved to Kauai. Kauai is so amazing in so many ways, but people who move here either love it or feel out of place. People say the island decides, and either welcomes you or rejects you (on a spiritual level)…. I miss access to options of medical care. We had to fly to Oahu to take my son to a pediatric specialist. In Idaho, we had the same problem. I had to drive and hour and a half to see a podiatrist. That is really the ONLY thing I miss about cities.

  85. Maggie says...

    This made me cry: “I came back 20 minutes later to an empty moving truck! While I was gone, all of our neighbors had come out of their apartments and helped my husband unload the entire truck.”

    That’s all you need, really.

  86. TS says...

    My husband and I are both from small towns, went off to college in the “big city”, and then moved back to a small town when we were ready to settle down. We wanted our kids to grow up the way we both did. I think some of the plusses I’m about to mention can be found in the city as well, but my husband and I both struggled to feel at home there.

    The pace of life in our small town is much slower than in the city (or even the suburbs), and that suits us. We like that we can drive five hours to the nearest city, get our fix (new and exciting foods! Museums! Art!), and then go back to our quiet life where traffic isn’t a thing and where there are no billboards, no bright lights, and we don’t lock our cars when running into the grocery store.

    We love our community and have really deep, meaningful friendships for the first time in our lives (neither of us really achieved that in high school or college for some reason). When I was pregnant with our first baby, four of my best friends were pregnant at the same time. We went through that huge life change together and now we’re raising our kids along side one another. I feel so lucky to have their love and support, and am grateful my kids will grow up knowing such good people!

    Being surrounded by nature and feeling connected to the Earth is important to both my husband and me. Our daily rhythm is very tuned into and influenced by the ebb and flow of the seasons. Our kids spend so much time outside each day, and are learning how to be good stewards of the land and not just a drain on the Earth’s resources. The focus here is much less on material possessions, or how much money one makes, and more about just living day to day in an authentic, enjoyable and meaningful way.

    There are downsides, too, of course. It is isolated and insulated here…Sometimes it feels like the world’s problems don’t apply to us, and you have to counteract the “bubble effect” by making a point to stay updated and educated about what’s going on. There’s also very little diversity, so exposing our kids to people and cultures that aren’t just like us is challenging. I know they’re growing up with the impression that whiteness is the “norm”, because that is what they see around them. I think about that constantly and try my best to combat it, but our town is 99% white.

    There’s also fewer options and opportunities for…everything. From daycares and schools to restaurants–many times there’s really just one option and if you don’t like it, tough. We definitely pine for more options sometimes, and wonder if/how our kids will be impacted by certain limitations.

    But, at the end of the day, this just feels like home to us. It’s been ten years now!

    • MelB says...

      I can relate to this in so many ways. I love so much about small town living, especially the sense of belonging. Every time we drive to a larger city (1-2 hrs away), for a split second I get excited about the shopping options, and then I realize that I love the slower pace of life where we are. The limited options for schools and such is an issue, but I also love that all kids end up in the same high school. It helps us all invest in the city schools, even if we choose private schools (Catholic, Montessori, etc) for our kids in elementary school. There’s a sense of being in this community building project together.

  87. Atlanta to LA to Dubai to Doha to Abu Dhabi, back to Dubai! City girl for life here. We constantly run into friends at airports, the grocery store, and even a new fitness class I started this week. Last week we were in a different city and happened upon a triathlon (taking place at the track in the hotel we were staying at). Watching the race, my husband commented, “That looks like Friend’s Kid.” And it was! If you live any place long enough, six degrees of separation easily become one or two in a matter of months or years.

  88. Rachel says...

    I love this article so much! We moved from Chicago to Rochester, MN (hi, Michele!) six years ago and it was complete culture shock for me. It’s so great to know I’m not alone in the way I felt (and can still feel at times) after making such a change!

  89. T.m. says...

    Just a few hours back now from flight moving back to San Francisco from living in Wellington, New Zealand. We are from SF, but this was our third time living there since 2017. Raising three children in SF has become increasing difficult. As Wellington is the capital and second largest city, it has everything you could hope for culturally – great restaurants, museums, art, ethnic diversity, festivals, etc. – and with the added benefit of incredible nature and coastline. Catching up with friends at the grocery store, park, beach, hiking, etc. is organic and without advanced planning. I almost have to same we have more and closer friends in our few years living there than in 20+ years in SF. It takes me 3 minutes to walk my children to school in Wellington but “heaps” more driving through traffic and navigating double parked cars in SF. For us, Wellington is everything we want from a big city, without the headache. We are in the thick of deciding if next time our move to Wellington will be permanent.

    • K says...

      I’m from just ‘over the hill’ from Wellington in the Wairarapa, but have been living in Glasgow, Scotland for the last 16 years. We are now thinking about making the move back to NZ and Wellington would be my choice. Close enough to family, but still in the city.

  90. Mercy says...

    I’m very curious about this too!

  91. Grace says...

    I live in Oakland, CA in a one-bedroom apartment with my husband and toddler. Ever since we had a baby, we fantasize about moving to a small town all the time. The thought of living somewhere affordable, with clean outdoor spaces, and is safe enough to walk around at night sounds so dreamy. Most of all, I fantasize about having my own washer and dryer, ha! It would be amazing not to have laundry be an all-day event.

    But I don’t know where else I could go besides other big cities with diversity like Oakland. Our daughter is mixed-race, and I would love to have her grow up near people who look like both sides of her family. The sense of community we have here is also incredible. On weekends, it’s common for us to have friends milling in and out of our apartment. Those two factors seem priceless. It’s probably worth it to stay, sigh!

  92. Mary Beth says...

    Alyssa — your comment made me smile. I feel the exact same compulsion to say, “we used to live here!’ each time we’re back in DC, since relocating to Cleveland!

    • Jill says...

      Same! I also feel like I need to tell people we meet in our `new town…we “just” moved here from Chicago….even though its been 4 years now! Every time I do it, I think of the face slap emoji ;)

  93. Sue says...

    I live near Zurich, Switzerland but grew up in a small Australian country town. I have just returned after going home to visit (and bury) my father who passed away while I was there. My parents, including my 86 year old mother, have lived there all their lives. I am truly blown away by how this small community of about 1200 people (not to mention the staff at the aged care facility where my father passed away) has rallied around my mother with everything from flowers, home-cooked food, visits, chats on the street, phone calls, cards… You name it, they’ve done it. The love is truly palpable. Hundreds of people attended my 87 year old father’s funeral and it was beautiful. In her final years, I know my mother will never be alone or lonely. This is the essence of small town life.

    • Emma says...

      That is so beautiful and such a wonderful thing to do for your mother…..that made my heart sing with joy, Thank you!

  94. T says...

    I grew up in a New England coastal town, moved to the Bay Area (Marin), and then returned to a different northeastern coastal town in Maine. I don’t have children. What I have found is that I always seems to live in an area where driving is basically a requirement. I have never found myself in a busy urban area or a very small village and I have always wanted more walkability or public transit options! I’ve never lived in suburbia so I don’t know how this has happened to me!

    • Anna says...

      I’m so curious where you live! Bath?

  95. H says...

    Yes, Vashon Island is a small island community but it is not far from Seattle. You can take a quick ferry from West Seattle which is only 5-10 miles from downtown. Perhaps it is the best of both worlds! But I found that move to be a tad deceiving.

    • Caitlin says...

      Ha, totally agree. The San Juan’s sure but Vashon (while great) is not even a stone’s throw. You still have access to all of the benefits of the city.

    • L says...

      Even so, contending with ferry schedules and the physical barrier from the city definitely makes island life more remote than say a 10 minute drive from a city.

      Sincerely,
      A former resident of a different Puget sound island

  96. We just moved to Cincinnati about a year and a half ago and I’m longing for my small town community (we moved from Bloomington, Indiana, the best college town every imho). It has been really hard to make friends or feel connected to the city in any meaningful way. We’ve lived all over (big cities like LA and DC, and other small towns like Chapel Hill and Boone NC) and I have felt connected to all of them immediately. So it’s certainly not for lack of experience with other kinds of cities (and I grew up in a town of 35000 and went to college in a town of 8000!). I’m not sure what the difference is here. Cincy is notorious for being cliquish and hard for outsiders to penetrate. I desperately miss the small(er) town life – easier traffic, less busy grocery stores, more friends, more nature in less time to get there, etc. I miss reasonable housing and utility costs. (Don’t believe the articles that say Cincinnati is cheap. Half the city, the part that’s nicer to live in and walk places, is on par with the likes of DC.) Also the weather here is not great! ?
    It has been nice to walk places and try 60 different breweries. But I could get that same feeling in a much smaller place and be much, much happier. We are hoping to move in the next few years. We’re at the mercy of academia, but hopefully that means we can get back to a real college town. Fingers crossed!

    If anyone a) lives in Cincinnati and wants to hang out and/or b) has tips for feeling like you belong somewhere you don’t…do let me know❤️

    • Laureen Ellison says...

      Ah, Maria, I feel your pain. I’ve lived in Denver, DC, NYC and, now, Amsterdam but my family moved to Cincinnati right before my freshman year of high school and my parents still live there. You’re not imagining it–it’s really hard to break in and the city’s infrastructure doesn’t make it easy for spontaneous connection.

      I love the Forever35 podcast and they have a few episodes about making new friends when you’re older or move to a new city that might be worth checking out. I’ve also used the Forever35 facebook group as a way to find & connect with women when I moved to Amsterdam.

    • K. says...

      Maria I live in Northern Kentucky (right across the bridge) yes, to everything you said. It is extremely hard to make friends in this area, very cliquish, and if you are not a huge consumer of alcohol there is little to do. I moved here from a small town and I miss it. If you want that small town feel move across the bridge. There is a warmth in Northern Kentucky that is hard to find in Cincinnati. I too have lived in many different states and towns and by far Cincinnati area has been most difficult to love.

    • Emily says...

      As a Cincinnati native and DC resident, this is so interesting to read! I always assumed Cincinnati was way friendlier and cheaper, but I suppose I have the benefit of knowing many people from childhood and growing up in the less desirable (read: more affordable) side of the city.

      *A lot* of Cincinnati folks stay in Cincinnati, particularly on the “west side,” so I can see how it is difficult to break into friend groups that have existed since childhood. The “east side” is younger, newer, and more diverse, but also more expensive. I’ve always loved the central parts of the city–College Hill, Northside, and Clifton–for building community and finding my people, but those neighborhoods are rapidly changing :/

      This group popped up after I left: https://www.womenofcincy.org/. Might be of interest to you?

    • A. says...

      My 70 something year old mother recently moved back to Cincinnati after 50 years in Manhattan. Although she still has some family and friends in Cincinnati, I think she has found the adjustment more difficult than she anticipated. I think you’re right that Cincinnati is a little cliquish (one of the reasons my father left in the 1950s and never looked back). A lot of people have roots that go back generations and there’s a whole Cincinnati culture that i think is difficult for outsiders to penetrate.

    • Maria says...

      Thank you everyone who has commented on this – I really appreciate it and also feel somewhat better? (validated?) that it isn’t just my imagination, ha!

      @Laureen – I keep meaning to check out that podcast and you have reminded me to just do it already! I have joined a running group, hiking group, a meet up group, and become a regular in the city parks, our library, and art museums and…nothing. Literally, no connections to anyone. Ha! I will listen to them and see what they say! Thank you!

      @K – nearly everything we like here is really in NKY. It is so validating to hear you say that and your suggestion to move is spot on. We have been looking at Bellevue, Dayton, Newport, Covington, and Ludlow now for several months to see if we can move to one of those neighborhoods (or others that we might not know about yet). I am much happier when we’re across the bridge!

      @Emily – thank you so much for that website! And for your analysis – it seems to follow what I’ve been experiencing. Thanks for your insights!

      @A – thank you for your response! I’m sorry to hear it’s been harder for your mom, too. There is a lot of culture I am learning and don’t know if I’ll ever really understand. It’s a much bigger learning curve than the culture of other places I’ve lived, for sure.

  97. Angie says...

    I grew up in a town of 500, went to college in a town of 25,000, first job in Omaha (pop. 400,000), and then moved to Vegas. I never found my community, my true home, until I moved to Los Angeles. One divorce later and I find myself back in Omaha. Living in the LA made me hyper aware of the connectedness of humanity and of my place in the world. Leaving has resulted in an extended period of mourning, which I know sounds dramatic, but we truly left part of who we are there with our dearest friends and hobbies. I suppose I have to fully let that go before I can find a new “me” here. Ultimately, the decision to move was the right one, but one for which I’ll suffer forever.

  98. Natalie says...

    I live in Auburn Maine and when I visit Brunswick it feels like a cultural haven haha! I grew up in Vancouver BC and Toronto and I so miss the city. I loved being able to take public transportation, walk and cycle to events and restaurants…we are so car dependent where we live now. There are things I love about small town Maine (affordability and space and kind neighbours) but I crave the energy of a city. Trying hard to focus on the things I will miss if we ever move (the local farm which has a cafe on Thursdays, a forest playgroup run by an army of volunteer parents, the community of volunteers trying to welcome and clothe and support new Mainers, many who are asylum seekers, the nearness to beaches, the endless road trip opportunities: 5 hours to Montreal! 5 hours to Quebec City! 6 hours to NYC :) has helped me settle in.

  99. Magdalena says...

    We moved from San Francisco to a small town in Georgia when our first son was born. Now with two boys under ten I could not image living in a big city again. It’s truly a blessing to watch them grow wild and free!

  100. Cheryl says...

    Such a well-timed post. I recently realized that, minus two short stints abroad and home immediately after college, I’ve been living in NYC for 20 years. And after two decades, I am ready to go.

    Here, I’ve fallen in and out of love, married and had a child, lost a parent, been promoted and fired and gone out on my own professionally, and seen wonder and tragedy in my beloved city. I mourn the closing of a local haunts I hadn’t had a chance to visit in years, love bickering over the best dim sum or worst subway station, and shake my head at new luxury high rises.

    But my heart and soul long for fresh air and space between myself and my neighbors, and the monotony of a single main drag of shops and restaurants (plus maybe an awesome Target). I want to be ten minutes from a woodland hike, not a cool bar. I will miss watching my boy joyously waving at subway trains and having the library and grocery a three minute walk away. But small town life, a car (oy), and finding a new niche is calling… but I’ll definitely still crave my Thai soup spot.

    • Emma D says...

      Echoing what lots of others have said about perspective. It’s so true that if you lived – but especially if you grew up – in NYC, everywhere else feels like a small town.

      I moved from NYC to DC and my life improved so much, so quickly. I couldn’t believe it.

      I went from 45 mins/hour on a crowded train with a transfer to a 5 min bike ride to work. Here in DC, my friends all live 10-15 mins from me
      whereas in NYC I had friends who I saw twice a year because they lived in a different part of town which took ages and schlepping to get to. DC is so walkable (and now scootable!!) and clean. I never realized how dirty NYC is until I left. DC grocery stores have….parking lots – I KNOW, RIGHT?! And there is street parking in front of my apartment. Other than the cost of living being insurmountable, it’s a dream here!

      Soon, my husband and I will make our next move, and it will be to somewhere even smaller. The great outdoors are calling to us. It’s hard finding jobs for two people in the same small town, though! We’re working on that.

      My SIL, on the other hand, grew up in Brooklyn, and other than 4 years in college, has never left NYC. She still doesn’t know how to drive. She loves it so much though!! To me, she really embodies that smug sense many NYers have that NYC is the center of universe. I feel very fortunate to have found out it isn’t! As you say: Good for her, not for me!

    • catie says...

      I moved from Nyc back to my hometown of Frederick, MD (1 hr from DC). Amazing town with thriving downtown scene. 15 min drive from hiking trails. Free concerts all summer long. I walk my son to the library 2x a week or more. Plenty of cultural activities. I grew up here with 30k people and now there are about 60k. Still feels small because there are a lot of neighborhoods and small businesses. We’d love to have you!

    • Emma says...

      Cheryl, you should come on out to the Lake Hopatcong / Roxbury area of North Jersey! There’s so much accessible nature out here but still pleeeeenty of civilization, shopping, and surprisingly good restaurants– and the houses area reasonably priced and the taxes aren’t outrageous. The library system and parks dept. are fantastic. I’ve found this community to be so diverse and inclusive, as well.
      Plus, if you do end up missing NYC, it’s only a 45 minute drive or 1.25 hour train ride. :)

    • Tovah says...

      This sounds an awful lot like us! My husband had just clocked 20 NYC years when we moved, and I had been there for 9. Come check out Charlottesville; we’d love to have you! (There is hiking everywhere, an annual Truck Touch my boys adore, and there are actually TWO great Thai places!)

  101. Anonymous, of course says...

    I can’t imagine enjoying living in a truly small town. It would bother me to have no anonymity at all, to run into someone everywhere I went. I love people, but I need some personal space.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’m the opposite! I get such a buzz from bumping into people.

    • CB says...

      I just moved to a small town in Western Mass from a big city in the Southeast and loss of anonymity is really tough to get used to! On the upside, it has made me more spontaneous and I am trying to appreciate it. And, in the winter, I do really appreciate seeing other people

    • LaReesa says...

      I live in a smaller town where I frequently run into people I know. Sometimes I like it but TBH sometimes I also turn away really quickly and run to a different aisle in the grocery store to avoid talking to someone (even someone I like ??)

    • Traci Barr Segal says...

      That’s how I feel in the small Northern California town that I have been living in for the last ten years. I call it 2 degrees of separation. Everyone knows someone you know. Sometimes, I crave being anonymous, like my years living in San Francisco. Thank goodness for internet shopping, because goods and services are very limited. We are an hour and a half from the nearest large city (Santa Rosa). My husband built a beautiful house here, and visually the surroundings are lovely, but still it’s a one trick town. I feel like others live here and I’m still an observer.

    • Kelly says...

      haha, yes, my personal worst nightmare is to run into someone everywhere I go!

  102. RS says...

    Funny what is considered a small town. Whitefish Bay (mentioned several times in this post) is an affluent suburb that is a 12-minute drive from downtown Milwaukee. I’m not sure many in the area would refer to it as a small town as it’s really a nice bedroom community just outside of Milwaukee, a first ring suburb that many young families move to because its schools are typically ranked high in Wisconsin.

    • Shannon says...

      I am going to rant a bit and I know the original comment didn’t meant it this way necessarily. That, to me, is the definition of a small town, after years of living in NYC. We live in a tiny (800-sq-ft) apartment and pay $6,000 a month. Our life costs a lot of money. Affluent – sure. I know how lucky we are. But to move to a place like Whitefish Bay, and pay less on a mortgage for a house and have more tome and a slower pace, is appealing. I hate it when I see affluent described as a negative. An affluent small town is a nice place to be. As if people who have money are terrible people. We work so hard. We travel and have the ability to give and show our children a diverse world, and yet we are “poor” compared to so many New Yorkers. I don’t know if we’ll ever leave New York, but this is definitely a small town to me. An easier way of life.

    • Callie McBride says...

      I’m a born-and-bred Whitefish Bayer, who moved to New York for 8 years, and just came back. I can confirm, it absolutely has that small-town charm. Growing up, once school got out our parents wouldn’t know where we were for hours on end, and this is because we were either riding bikes with abandon, holed up at the library, or at a friend’s house down the block. Super simple, easy livin’.

      Also, I used to spend $45 a pop for hot yoga in Manhattan- I now pay $8 for an equally excellent class here in WFB. You cannot beat that!

  103. A says...

    So timely! We’re 4 months out from our NYC—>Florida move. I’m so excited to live in a house with two toilets and a garage and a yard for the kids. And to be surrounded by beautiful beaches instead of dirty, gray concrete and brick. And to not feel rushed and stressed ALL THE TIME. 12 years in New York is enough. It was fun in my 20s when I was single. But with a partner and 2 little kids everything feels 15% harder than it needs to be. Just basic daily stuff like grocery shopping and parking the car and don’t get me started on schools!!! We applied to 11 PUBLIC PreK programs this year. ELEVEN!! That’s insane!!! I am so ready for a simpler, relaxed beach lifestyle.

  104. MB says...

    I love this feed. My husband and I used to live in the center of Cincinnati, and we moved to a midwestern town of 25,000 eleven years ago. It’s not for everyone, but I love the connected feeling of living in a small town. It truly feels like Stars Hollow. At stop lights, you have to be polite to other drivers because there’s a good chance you know them. A good friend died in a car accident five years ago, leaving behind her husband and three young children. People I didn’t know offered sympathy in random places (library, grocery store line, etc) because they knew we were friends. A patient’s mother (I’m a pediatrician) brought a gift card for our widowed friend to her daughter’s appointment “because I knew you were friends and could get it to him.” The cost of living is amazing.

    I think it’s easier to live here because there’s a small liberal arts college and the agriculture research institution of a big ten school. Those places bring lots of outsiders, so it’s easy to make friends with other outsiders.
    It’s easy to make friends because you run into the same people all over the place. If I’m ever feeling lonely, I know I’ll run into friends at our grocery store or our local indoor farmers market. I love the sense of belonging and caring for one another.

    • lex says...

      are you in Wooster, Ohio, by chance?

    • Mara says...

      MB, I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I was going to ask if you’re in Wooster too. I’m a Wooster alum and can’t help but think of a particular passing that rocked the whole community.

    • MB says...

      Mara- Professor Schultz, I’m chemistry, was a very close friend of mine . We were running buddies and I’m a godparent to her youngest. Is that who you’re talking about?

    • MB says...

      And Lex- yes! Are you familiar with Wooster?

    • Mara says...

      Yes, she’s who I was thinking of. What a horrible, tragic accident and situation for her surviving family. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • MB says...

      Mara – what was your major? We live a few blocks from the college, and our youngest attends preschool there. Where are you now?

  105. Sherri Birt says...

    My husband, two kids and I moved from Vancouver, BC to Perth, Western Australia almost two years ago. Before we were living in one of the most expensive housing markets in the world, forcing us to live further out in cookie-cutter suburbia, away from where we worked and where a lot of the action was. Now, we live 5 mins from the city and 5 minutes from where we work. No more 2 hour commutes in the rain!
    Perth is pretty much sunny 24/7 with stunning beaches. It is one of the world’s most isolated cities and I do miss weekend trips down to Seattle and cheap flights to Vegas and other fun cities in North America.
    On the plus side, Perth is very close to Bali, Indonesia, which we take advantage of often. While Perth isn’t THAT much cheaper than Vancouver, in the long run, I think we’ve made the right decision for our little family.

    • Julie says...

      I understand your missing weekend trips to Seattle, however I’m confident a few weekend trips to the Margaret River might be a pleasant distraction.

  106. Really cool conversation! The one element not covered is walkability. I moved from Boston to Providence to Warren, RI — a tiny working waterfront village with this compact downtown area. It’s a small town by every definition, except that we have the same quality of life as my city friends. We even lived here for five years, with a baby and a small business, with no car (although we informally car-shared with a neighbor). The key is that all our necessities are within a mile walk: food, pharmacy, restaurants, beach, shopping, library, even the DMV. Small walkable communities are the wave of the future. The bus takes us right into the city so we don’t miss out on “culture” like theater and hip restaurants. (My fanatical appreciation for small walkable communities eventually found me featured in a Boston Globe article, with a photo of me wearing my newborn, calling Warren the “Brooklyn of Providence”… Groan!)

    • Gill F. says...

      Yes I love this point! I like smaller towns but can’t stand being tied to a car so I’ve stayed in cities because the ease is just so nice

    • Katie, this warms my heart because my husband is from Swansea, Ma and we lived in nearby Warren for a little over a year right out of college! We left shortly thereafter to move to Los Angeles where we’ve been ever since, but we still talk about Warren all the time, and actually have considered moving back to start a family :)

    • Helen says...

      So true! For me, to be able to live a car-free life is so important for the life quality of a place.

    • Amy says...

      It’s not your fault, Katie. Everywhere gets called the Brooklyn of somewhere else these days. I live in a 20k-person community that is pretty walkable and has like three nice bars, and it’s called Brooklyn Allllllll the time. I love where I live, but it is NOTHING like Brooklyn.

    • Ellen says...

      My husband has epilepsy and doesn’t drive. Since it’s extremely important to us that he be able to be fully independent, living in a city where we could live car-free was a top priority for us. (We’re in Minneapolis. It’s actually unusual here not to have a car, but–by living near a convenient bus line–we’ve been able to do it!)

    • Tovah says...

      Walkability is definitely an important issue! A really tough part of my transition away from NYC was re-learning how to drive and adapting to the hassle of carseats, DMVs, gas, etc. Bus service is a joke here, but it is fairly bike-able if you get the right weather and you can handle some serious Blue Ridge hills.

  107. Caroline says...

    My fiancé and I are moving from DC to Charleston this summer and while Charleston obviously isn’t a small town, it’s going to offer a much slower paced, relaxed lifestyle that we both are reallyyy looking forward to. I can’t think of much I’ll miss here that Charleston doesn’t offer as well – nearly all my friends have moved over the last couple years too.. 10 years in a transient city will do that!

    • Caitlin L. says...

      My husband and I did the same thing this year! After 14 years in NYC we moved to … Boston. It to me still felt like the change we needed even though it is still a city. Our neighborhood, Jamaica Plain, feels like a bustly community driven small town (there are almost no chains in the entire neighborhood!). It was definitely a step in the right direction for us and I feel like here we get the best of both worlds.

    • L says...

      Also a JP resident and feel the same way, Caitlin! Smaller town feel in the city with great food options, abundant green space, and lots of community events. Highly recommend it anyone looking for a bit more breathing room without moving to the burbs.

    • kellyn says...

      @Caitlin L. We live in Roslindale — hello, neighbor :)

  108. Diana says...

    After living my entire life in Brooklyn and deciding I needed a change, and that it was way too expensive to continue living there, I found myself in Santa Fe, NM, and am never looking back. Its got mountains, museums, plenty of culture, great food, and community. Also as a very late in life driver, I LOVE driving, thought most of the time it only takes me 10 min to get anywhere.

    • Jill says...

      My husband and I got VERY lucky. Both of our jobs were willing to transfer us and we now both work 100% from home. For some, it might be too much togetherness but we LOVE it. It can get weird when we realize we haven’t left the house in a few days but with our bigger home, we have tons of natural light and lots of space so never feel stir crazy.

  109. Lauren says...

    I would be curious about how people made the moves to smaller towns work financially. Yes cost of living is lower but employment opportunities are also a lot more limited. Work remotely? Transferrable job?

    • Mercy says...

      I’m very curious about this too!

    • Anna says...

      Yes, I would be curious about this too. Did they feel like they were giving up opportunity?

    • mj says...

      I always wonder that as well!

    • TS says...

      Self-employed for 10 years and now work remotely for a company that started out as a client of mine and then hired me full-time. Our town has just over 2,000 people in it and the next closest “big town” has about 8,000 people in it with a college and a big hospital that employ a lot of people. Tourism is also a big industry here.

    • Suzy says...

      Great question/comment!

    • Sam says...

      I’m very curious about this as well for people who aren’t freelance/remote and who have career aspirations in industries typically tied to cities like tech, finance, fashion, etc.

    • Alex says...

      I live in Whitefish Bay (one of the “small towns” mentioned in the article). The truth is (as another commenter mentioned) it’s an inner ring suburb of a midsize city, so not really what most people have in mind when they hear small town. Milwaukee metro area is ~1.6 million people. The upside is that there are good job opportunities, depending on what industry you work in. I got a job offer here and that’s why we ended up here. The commute downtown is like 15 minutes. 20 if there’s traffic. As a former Brooklynite with a toddler I am very happy here!

  110. I just moved from Charlottesville to New Haven, but I plan to move back (or close by) in a few years. I loved reading Tovah’s responses.

  111. Rachel says...

    Um, has anyone else had trouble making friends in a small town? It’s been been four years since we left NYC…

    • Annie says...

      Yes! It’s been a couple of years since we’ve moved from LA and our social network has definitely been lacking. It’s hard to make and maintain relationships, especially with busy work schedules and kids/dogs in tow!

    • Johanna says...

      I live in a big city (London) but I have several colleagues who commute in from small towns in the countryside, and also know several parents who relocated.

      My perception is that the warm friendliness described in many of these experiences varies widely. Some of my colleagues love their little towns, but I can think of at least three who are desperately lonely and describe the social circle as impossible to break into unless you’re very homogenous with the rest of the populace.

      It seems like small, tight-knit communities waver more to extremes. If they’re welcoming, you’re going to feel very included, because you’ll run into people everywhere! On the other hand, if they’re not so warm to you, then you’ll feel really isolated, because they’re the only people you ever run into.

    • Amy says...

      It’s awkward sometimes, but you just HAVE to be outgoing. I moved back to Maine from Brooklyn, then bought a house in a small community and felt really isolated for about a minute. Then I started meeting likeminded people and introducing them to each other and setting up group hangs. I’ve been called “aggressively friendly,” but I sure do have a ton of friends now!

    • Shannon says...

      Yes, me! I am baffled by all the “easy to make friends” comments. I actually moved back to my hometown after living in Chicago for 8 years and I’ve not really made any new friends since. People live here because their whole families are here and friends that they’ve had since they were kids so it’s very hard to break in. We drive absolutely everywhere, which makes me feel less connected. I feel much more anonymous and isolated here than I did in Chicago. Maybe I’m doing it wrong?! Lol

    • Chelsea says...

      I agree with Amy, you have to embrace the awkwardness and put yourself out there.

      Meeting new friends as an adult can feel like dating. It’s scary asking a new friend to meet for coffee or walking up to another mom at a park and striking up a conversation, or inviting your neighbors over. Then after the first hang out you wonder how soon to text or call. But if you don’t try, you can’t get upset at the fact that you don’t have friends. Too often we put it all on the people that already live in our new towns to make the first move, but they are often nervous as well or it might just not cross their minds that you are lonely. So as hard as it may seem, step out of your comfort zone. You might get rejected, but you also might find your new best friend.

    • Jessica says...

      My suggestion: Volunteer.
      Find a local organization dealing with something you like: art, music, pets, children, books, running, etc., and volunteer 1x a week, 1x a month, or whenever.
      You will connect with other people who like the same things you do, so you will already have one thing in common.
      ( I just read an article that said national volunteer rates have been dropping precipitously since 2014, so there are a ton of organizations looking for help.)

  112. Anonymous says...

    I think it depends how you do big city living. I live in Sydney, the most densely populated city in Australia (5.2 million residents – for context, that’s twice as many as Chicago and about 7 times as many inhabitants as Washington D.C., albeit over a larger area).

    We live within 3km of the city centre, but many of the comments about small town living resonated with my lifestyle. We’re in a unique situation because I’m doing a PhD and we rent a house owned by the college, just a block away from my office where I go to study every day. Many of the students live locally in college-owned housing so we have a natural microcommunity in the middle of the city. We have a neighbourhood facebook group for sharing stuff and a weekly fruit and veg co-op held on the college green. There might be countless restaurants and coffee shops in the city, but we all go to that one coffee shop down the block and that one grocery store across the street so I’m constantly running into people I know. The gym, church, library, doctor, pharmacy, health food store, cinema etc etc are all within a 15 minute walk of home, and we don’t have a car, so don’t have to deal with long commutes and bad traffic.

    Sometimes I feel like we don’t make enough of living in the big city because we rarely leave the neighbourhood, but this way I think we get the best of both worlds. I get the simplicity of being home 5 minutes after I finish work and the spontaneity of popping next door for a coffee with the neighbours on a weekday morning, or posting in our facebook chat that our house is open on a Friday afternoon and knowing people will turn up. I can also walk 10 minutes to go to the movies or seven different gelati shops or go buy a book at 11pm from that bookstore that is ALWAYS OPEN.

    I know not everybody gets the opportunities I have, but I’ve created this lifestyle in a couple of big cities now and the key has been to live small – be content in a small inexpensive apartment, car-free, stick to your neighbourhood, create connections locally – and have friends who also live nearby and share the same mindset. If we lived further from the city centre in a more expensive place, had to drive everywhere, and didn’t have friends close by I don’t think it would work for us.

    • Bea says...

      Same here. We live in Rome, Italy (3 million people, give or take), and the key to relaxed and efficient living is doing everything in our neighborhood. We are lucky enough to be self-employed and work from home/small office not too far from home, and having the children in the neighborhood schools from kindergarten onwards (they are in middle schol now)means that we have a significant social circle of neighbours. So we pop into people we know all the time, shop at local shops, etc.
      Best of both worlds (and only way to survive in a big citiy!)

  113. I’m originally from a small town called Danville, Va. I loved growing up in a small town where I can still call my favorite restaurant for takeout and they remember my order and ask about my family. I live in Charlotte, NC now. It’s a nice city but there are so many people now and the cost of living is surging. My husband and I have a 19 month old and I pray that we can raise him somewhere smaller with the sense of community that I had growing up. My husband is a head football coach so I’m hoping a move for a job will make my dreams come true one day!

  114. Erin says...

    I grew up right next to Whitefish Bay! So sweet to hear it described in such a lovely way, it really does have that charming small town feel.

    • Mackenzie says...

      I grew up there/in Shorewood and Carrie’s comments are making me even more desperate to move back! I’m currently in LA and I always tell my husband how lovely the 4th of July is there.

  115. Kate says...

    To Carrie I have family in WI including some in WFB right by Klode Park. There are actually good takeout options outside of WFB— I don’t love the food options right in downtown. I miss North Star on Oakland but have you checked out Cafe 1505 in Mequon for breakfast or lunch? It’s awesome (and healthy) and they have a good selection—it’s in the strip mall with Erik of Norway. My family also says they built a new public market in Mequon that is excellent.

    Benjis is good for breakfast and so is Blues Egg. And do they still have Taco Tuesday at Bell Air? Man, I crave Bell Air. Yes they are in Shorewood but close enough to WFB. I’m sure you know all these options but I have always had good takeout when I have gone to visit and not just pizza!

    There are tons of great food options in and around Milwaukee!

    • Carrie says...

      Hi Kate, I’m two blocks from Klode Park. Thanks for the suggestions. My husband and I are going to Mequon Public Market tonight!

    • Kate says...

      Have fun, Carrie! Super jealous. Next time I’m in WI I want to try out the public market. I do miss Wisconsin. My husband and I have thought about moving there, but it is difficult finding jobs. Have the best time!

  116. Erin says...

    We moved 3 years ago from San Diego to Eagle Idaho (just outside Boise) and couldn’t love it more. Living in a small town that’s close to a mid-size city is so great. Just the experience of moving to a new city has been so much fun. Purging unnecessary stuff prior to the move, selecting a different style home, getting to experience 4 different seasons, making new friends, trying all the new restaurants etc… I just love the excitement of living somewhere new.

    • Hannah says...

      Erin! I live in Eagle, too! New friends :) Scrolling through the comments, I just KNEW someone was going to mention the Boise metro area because it’s growing so fast. I think we picked a good area because Eagle will always feel small town because of the layout and proximity to the foothills and BLM land. And for those who don’t know, Boise is the BEST small city that is getting cooler and more diverse all the time. I’m so glad you’re loving it here! See you around town, neighbor!

  117. hali says...

    Related question for New Yorkers!
    Hi! My husband and I love New York but haven’t spent a lot of time there. He’s talked about moving to New York since we were teenagers I’ve always nodded along- it would be so cool! It would also be insane! I’ve vocalized my reluctance but always been pretty much on board, if the opportunity arises. We both grew up in Orange County and went to school in LA. Culturally, we are very west coast people. We currently live in a quiet suburban beach town.

    The idea of one day moving to New York is quickly becoming a pretty likely scenario. My husband’s most plausible matches for residency in radiology are in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The timing would fall dead out of step with my desire to have a child as soon as possible (another topic, but also making a baby is taking forever.) This would mean moving to New York with a baby (I mean, finger’s crossed…) and no family within at least a 3-6 thousand miles in either direction. My husband would be in residency which is like a job and a half. I know nobody there. I’d be 30. We’d likely only be able to afford a tiny cupboard of an apartment.

    Does anyone move to New York reluctantly? I LOVE a city, and New York is the citiest city! But I also get a very funny feeling when talking to people who live in New York: they all sound like they’re sticking it out. I’m scared!! Does moving to New York City require some cocktail of gumption, tenacity, and big dreams? Can you just casually move there and survive?

    If we go, we’re stuck there for 4-6 years. It would definitely enrich our lives, expand our perspective, and we might make a lifelong home on that side of the world. But I’m also anticipating life shaking culture shock. I could easily push for options he finds less desirable, but I find more realistic: Atlanta, Texas, Oregon all seem less intimidating to me. We’re going in June for a week and I know we’ll talk the whole time about how fun it will be to move there… but I would love an insider’s perspective.

    • K says...

      Hey there!

      Saw no one had responded and thought I’d chime in with some advice.

      Does anyone move to NYC reluctantly? I’m sure they do. I’ve lived in NYC for the better part of nearly 18 years, with a 2.5 year break to live abroad––and I was VERY reluctant to move back to NYC after our time overseas. But that’s sort of a different issue.

      I get why you’d be reluctant based on the predominant NYC narrative: everyone is hustling, it’s brutal, if you can make it there, etc. I don’t feel like everyone I know in New York feels that way at all. You do need gumption, but you don’t need to want to be, I don’t know, Gordon Gekko or anything.

      I’m not going to sugarcoat the kid thing: NYC is much, much harder with kids than without them, although I don’t know that any big city would be all that different. I don’t think that really applies to infants, but wrangling a toddler on the subway is no easy feat, sure. And the school thing is rough although our family isn’t quite there yet. For me, at the moment, it’s worth it––my hometown is basically a soulless bastion of privilege and homogeneity, and I was one of those suburban children who desperately envied the cool girls at summer camp from Manhattan. I want for my kids what I didn’t get.

      Tl;dr version: it’s definitely doable, you won’t have to sharpen your fangs or anything, and it sounds like this is probably the only chance you’ll have to do it, so I say give it a whirl.

    • Sarah says...

      I found that having a little baby in Manhattan was actually pretty fun (but being far away from family help is tough, so I suggest considering that.) There are lots and lots of kids activities in the city, but you can also do wonderful things like put your baby in a carrier and walk around the Met or MoMA, or push your stroller all around Central Park. It also took me forever to make a baby, and NYC also has lots of great distractions from that and ways to enjoy your life your life as a young couple. Good luck!

    • Natalie says...

      Hi! I lived there for four years (but without a baby!) I feel like there are at least as many pros as cons in NYC. The cons may be bigger than they are other places but the pros are bigger too! (Like, sometimes it’s hard to get on a bright, loud train late at night when you could just hop in your car if you lived somewhere else, but on the flip side, public transit can take you anywhere and you can read a book while doing so! You’ll have a smaller living space, but there will probably be a great neighborhood park down the street where you can host summer get togethers!) The experience of living there was so fun and worth it for me, even though I think it does take some tenacity and grit and getting used to. I also think having a baby there seems perfect. So much fun stuff to do with them, but you won’t have to navigate schools yet. I don’t have any experience with residency or living far from family with a baby, so I can’t weigh in on that! :) Good luck with your decision!

    • Suzy says...

      Ooh! I’ve been here for just about 20 years and love it… but many people come and go fairly quickly. Like anything, it is not for everyone. It is wonderful (not everyone agrees on this point, of course) but tough (I think most people agree on this!). It is big, busy, competitive, and expensive. Also, I have two littles, with one grandparent nearby, and that is hard enough. At this point, I kind of can’t imagine having no family nearby. On the flip side, motherhood can be surprisingly isolating, but here you can always trot out to a playground or a cafe with baby- I find people pretty friendly, by and large! I can’t imagine being in a place that required driving everywhere etc. Anyway- if you’re up for it, give it a shot, either you’ll love it, or you can change course! Curious what other comments people share with you! Good luck to you!

    • Leah says...

      Hi! My husband and I are not natural New Yorker type people, and of all our friends that moved here around the same time, we are shocked that we’ve stayed here for over a decade and everyone else has left. We now have two kids, live in Brooklyn, and have navigated the public school system etc. The thing about living in NYC is that there are a million ways to do it, and there’s a whole community of people that have figured out parent hacks. If you want to have a more beautiful suburban experience with a car and a driveway, you can move to Ditmas Park, if you want to live in a typical family friendly Brooklyn walkable hood you can live in cobble hill, etc (there are hundreds of ways to live here). For me, convenience has been paramount to my happiness so we moved to a small neighborhood that’s a bit less “cutesy” but where we can have a car and know our neighbors well (that’s Windsor Terrace). For us, commute time was a huge consideration as well as time with the kids is invaluable. We also have no family nearby and have learned how to solve problems you normally would ask family for help with…everyone here is mostly in the same boat so we all ask friends and they point us in the right direction!

    • SG says...

      I live in DC now with my husband and 2 kids but we lived in NYC for 5 years in our late 20s. I transferred there with my job, knowing next to nothing about NYC, but just knowing that I would regret it if I didn’t live there at least once in my life. We loved it and you learn quickly! However, we ended up moving closer to family once we were looking to have kids bc of the cost of living and other factors. Keep in mind that the neighborhoods in NYC all feel VERY different. We lived on the upper west side where there were lots of young families and we were 2 blocks from the park, which was perfect for our dog. I imagine some other neighborhoods may not be as kid friendly, however, I’ve read as a whole the city is much more child friendly these days (we lived there over 12 years ago). However, as a therapist, I would recommend focusing on the NOW- you may or may not be with a child, so how do you feel about living in the city NOW? Would you regret it if you didn’t do it? What are your husband’s thoughts? I think that no matter where you move, it will all work itself out. But if you have a desire to move to the city, I would encourage you to do it! You could go through pros and cons indefinitely, but at the end of the day, there is nothing like NYC and even to this day, I treasure those memories and friends we made while living there.

    • Anna says...

      I don’t feel like I’m sticking it out by living in New York. It is the citiest city and the buzz I get from walking to work past Gramercy Square Park and up Park Ave is the best – like, I can’t believe I live here! A lot of people have long commutes, it is expensive, and often the work pressures are intense (I’m a lawyer and I work a lot more hours here than I would if I lived in Minnesota, for example) so yeah, sometimes that can feel like a lot. I also find the winters really really tough, but I am not a winter person. But then, spring arrives and you feel like you live in the best place in the world!!

      I’m also 7 months pregnant and we’re having our baby here without any family support nearby. We have friends who have done it too. It can be tough sometimes, but people do it. And I’ve found people in NY very open to making friends because so many people are transplants too.

    • Kim says...

      Hi there. Not a New Yorker, but someone who moved from Southern California to a Mid Western (read WINTER/SNOW/BLECH) city and then had a baby. Once you have kids somewhere it makes moving away from that place harder because they are attached to that place. We would entertain moving back almost every year but realize now we should have done it when she was still very young, like before starting elementary school, because by that time you feel like you’re really uprooting them. Our baby is now thinking of colleges in So Cal and believe me we will be following along!! I would just really consider how you feel about cold weather because as I learned, I am not a fan. Whenever we go back to visit our home away from home I cry when we have to leave again. Our daughter is a total fish…LOVES the beach, the mountains not so much, so I feel like we raised her in the wrong place….of course that could be me projecting. So I guess I am saying to consider not just the city, but the climate and how that affects lifestyle and culture and accessibility and ease of living. xoxo

    • Anna says...

      Hi, New Yorker of 15 years w two under-four kids here. Kids make everything more difficult, particularly bc I’m a ten minute walk from the nearest subway. However, in many ways, I think living in the city with kids can be LESS isolating, socially. There’s enough population density that there are always new moms nearby. I found many new moms in my neighborhood on my local FB group. I’m a homebody, and if I were a stay at home mom, in the suburbs, with small kids I would likely never see anyone and never leave the house. The city makes it easy for me to get adult human interaction.

      But your point about being far from family is a major one, so definitely a point to consider, especially if you won’t be able to hire help. And daycare costs, especially for infants, are RIDICULOUS. Right now, for two kids, I pay more a year than I did to go to fancy east-cost liberal arts school 15 years ago.

      As for the griping about sticking it out– there’s some truth to it, but it’s also just a way many residents have of talking about living here. Complaining about NYC is part of the NYC experience. Doesn’t mean there’s more to complain ABOUT. Best of luck!

    • Hali says...

      woah!! replies!!
      Thank you for sharing such considerate advice and perspective. New Yorkers are so GOOD. These responses gave me swells of hope and excitement. Now I’m fully on board! It would be scary and difficult but no matter what it would be pretty epic. We could do it for sure. Thanks so much, I mean it! So kind!

    • Mandy says...

      Hi Hali,
      My husband and I moved here almost 4 years ago, with no jobs or friends or family- just the desire to change our lives and try this NYC thing while we were young (well, about to turn 30). Griping about NYC is kind of part of being a New Yorker, but I think of it as the verbal tax we pay to make up for how lucky we are to live in such an amazing place. There’s good and bad anywhere you want to live, but the one thing that is consistent about any New Yorker is this- if you want to live here, you make it work. However you do it might not be ideal, but there’s basically no such thing as ideal here. I struggled for a the first few years until I found a job that offered me enough flexibility to start joining some organizations and make friends.
      We’re currently having the big baby discussion and moving soon to a new place that will hopefully have more space to accommodate said hypothetical future baby. I can promise you I’ve been overthinking how to make a child work with no family around either (and it doesn’t help when that’s all you know- I grew up in the suburbs and my friends who are moms all tell me I’m insane), but another CoJ reader once pointed out- there are millions of people here, with a million kids. And surely out of those millions of people, not everyone has their own parents around to help. And we just continue to make it work. You will too. If you’d like a friendly voice of reason or a new friend once you get here, let me know- I’ll figure out a way for us to connect.

    • kelly says...

      I live in Chicago, but here is the advice I give to new parents considering city life:
      city life with babies/toddlers/infants is pretty easy! their worlds are so small and if you choose a child-friendly neighborhood, there will be lots of activities and friends within walking distance…live in a stroller-friendly building in a kid-friendly neighborhood and the world is your oyster!
      life gets a little harder when you need to pick a school (unless you live in a neighborhood where public school is the default option), but in my experience there’s a school for everyone and it all works out!
      life in the city with middle school kids is much harder…they need to get around to their activities, they’re too young to ride public transit solo, too young for a lot of freedoms in the city that they’d be allowed in suburbs or small towns..they end up with friends all over the city (which was kind of the point of living here! but a pain for playdates!). FWIW as you think of your NYC decision (i say go for it!).

  118. Daphne says...

    We moved from the San Francisco Bay Area back to Corvallis, Oregon (where I had grown up and where we’d met over 20 years ago) after becoming increasingly disheartened by what it took to live in the Bay Area (with expense, commutes, overwhelm and the constant bizarre bubble of the tech world around us). We haven’t regretted it a single bit, although now, after nearly 4 years, we are missing a few things like the diversity, some of the food/shopping availability, and of course our good friends who still live there. But we can visit! Living in a much smaller community means, for us, a simpler life with more time to spend with friends, family, and nature. I go back to the Bay Area for work occasionally and am always surprised by my visceral stress response the minute the plane touches down. And my relief when I go home.

  119. Madeleine says...

    So interesting! I live in a city (by Canadian standards, let’s be honest – it’d still be considered small by lots of people’s standards) and my sister lives in a rural small town several hours away. She moved there for the access to nature – her house is literally in the forest. However, she spends sooo much time in her car, driving to work, to get groceries, to kids’ activities. Ironically, I live in the heart of the city and I am outside (walking) way more than she is. I barely drive at all. My commute is a 15 minute walk through a local park. Sure, I have no yard, but there is tons of public green space that I actually have time to use. So, it’s an interesting comparison. The other thing I will say about my sister’s experience is that there are two types of people who live in her area: progressive liberal young families hoping to raise their children outdoors, and very politically conservative neighbours who drive huge gas guzzling trucks all over the hills. It’s a real trick for her, to get on with folks who choose to live in this rural small town but for radically different reasons.

  120. Jan says...

    Moved back to northern MN, an hour south of Canada, last November, from Phoenix. Obviously two extremes! Appreciate both, I love being home wherever it is.

  121. Sadie says...

    I moved to a small town after living in big cities for years and the thing I miss the most is the anonymity of a big city. I can’t go anywhere without running into someone I know. Honestly it’s exhausting!

  122. Marisa says...

    I would love to hear from anyone who has done this as a single person, especially if you’re over 35!

    • Clare says...

      THIS!

    • Ani says...

      Me too!! I think about this all the time…

    • B says...

      I wasn’t over 35, but I was around 32 when I moved from Las Vegas, Nevada to Reno, Nevada, about 500 miles north. Reno isn’t called The Biggest Little City In The World for nothing. It has a small town feel (tons of cute shops, bars, restaurants, places to get coffee, mom & pop shops) with all the amenities of a bigger city (Costco, grocery shopping nearby, an international airport). I live in San Diego now and feel anonymous. It’s crowded and expensive and big and it’s always sunny (I get SAD in the spring and summer vs. fall and winter). The sense of community isn’t as strong as in Reno.

      I have a long term plan to move back by the time in turn 40 in August 2022. I will hopefully end up at Lake Tahoe, but will take Reno, as Tahoe’s just thirty-ish minutes over the hill.

    • Mary says...

      Totally agree! I’m 36, single, and have been dreaming about this SO much lately!

    • EB says...

      I’m partnered but unmarried, 44 years old. We have our own homes about two miles apart (he bought his, I rent). Moved from Portland, Oregon to Eugene, Oregon. I love being in a smaller, more affordable place but have definitely struggled with making new friends. Not sure if that’s unique to smaller communities though or just one of the challenges of being middle-aged. That said, I’ve been here four years now and am finally starting to find my community…

    • Julie says...

      I’m 41, single, no kids, I’ve moved a lot from big city (dc) to Charlottesville to small town Virginia (with ex partner) to small town wisconsin, and now back to “big town” in Cambridge england. I’m currently thinking of moving to small town Vermont (Montpelier) bc my company has a job there. In Cambridge it’s the longest I’ve lived somewhere (3 years) and I’ve finally settled and made friends. I’m nervous about starting over , and especially nervous about the cold! I’ve looked at housing options there and look quite limited. All I want is to be able to afford to have a garden and space for having animals, like a small farm. anyone in Montpelier?

  123. Interesting post, but I’m still not sure how I would feel. We are contemplating a move from NYC to a small town in Northern Spain. There is definitely the excitement of a new country, becoming totally fluent in another language and all that gorgeous nature. Not to mention ALL the animals we would have. But it’s hard to say how much I would miss the museums and the Pakistani baker, Mexican grocer, Thai restaurant and German cafe in my neighborhood.
    I’m looking forward to finding out….you have to take chances in order to have a full life!

  124. Chrsitine says...

    Love this post, but had to laugh at what is considered a small town. ? My husband and I met when we were both living in DC and eventually moved to a small, rural town of 400 in the interior of Alaska. Now, any place with a population large enough to support a Safeway seems big.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Haha that’s true!

    • Laurie says...

      Felt the same. Whitefish Bay is basically a suburb of Milwaukee (8 min from downtown), city of 1/2 a million.

    • Jodi says...

      Haha, agreed Christine! I live on a small island off the coast of WA with a population of 800. No Safeway out here!

  125. Catherine says...

    We bought our first home in a smallish city (50,000 people) on the outskirts of Austin, TX and lived there for 13 years. It was great before we had kids, because we both worked in Austin and basically came home to sleep and hang out on weekends. I became a SAHM after we had our children, and my world got much smaller. As Austin has grown, the traffic made it difficult to go a lot of places in town, and after a few years, I began to dislike the city where we lived. I felt really suffocated, and the small town view of many residents was beginning to affect our children and their school.

    It took a while, but I finally convinced my husband that we needed to spread our wings a little, and though I really wanted to move into Austin proper, we actually moved a bit further out to Round Rock. I had never considered living here before because of its conservative reputation, but that has changed a lot in recent years. We were fortunate to find a lovely house with excellent schools, and our children are thriving here.

    It’s been a great compromise because Round Rock is bigger than where we were before and has a much stronger sense of community. Once our boys are grown and out of the house, I’d still love a small house or apartment in Austin. I realized that I like the slower pace of the suburbs, but need to be connected to a larger city.

    • Rachel says...

      If you want to have it both ways, move to New Orleans. <3

  126. Meagan says...

    I moved a lot growing up, but mostly lived in small towns. I now live in what I consider a big city, where the high school I teach in has more students than the population of the town in lived in in high school. After four years, I’m still dumbfounded when I ask my students about so and so and they’re like “Miss, I don’t know who that is.” Additionally, when they come to me repeatedly with problems with certain people, I’m like “dude! You could literally meet a new friend EVERY DAY for the rest of high school and still never meet everyone! Why keep going back to that toxic person?!” I always tell people my school friends were more like my siblings, because we were all each other had. We couldn’t get mad and find new friends, because there were only a few of us! We did everything together, our houses/parents/siblings were pretty much shared, and no matter where we were, we knew we would be loved and disciplined, even if it wasn’t our own biological family. I miss the sense of community of my small towns, too. Growing up, the whole town came out for all the sporting events and church events. If I got in trouble at school, my parents knew before I made it to the office. If I had a flat or needed ANYTHING, there was always someone to help. Here though, I don’t know as many people, and it scares me that something could happen to me and it could take a while for someone to know. Community is what we crave as human beings, and I personally think it trumps everything. Would it be more convenient if target were just 10 minutes away? Absolutely! But would I rather see my entire community at the football games on Friday night? Absolutely.

  127. Kelly says...

    I have the best of both worlds living in a university town. We have people from all over the world come for the university so my kids grew up in a really diverse atmosphere. At the same time, we never lock our front door, our kids were able to walk or ride bikes to school and on to campus to take advantage of all the university has to offer. Highly recommend college town living!

    • Audrey says...

      Agreed, Kelly! My family lives in Boulder, Colorado (Home of CU) and it has the charm and size of a smalltown and with large-town amenities and culture.

    • Aly says...

      Moved to a small town from a bigger city and it’s not all that cracked up to be (IMO). Lack of job opportunities, lack of restaurants and places open on Sundays, running into people when you just want to get some groceries. The list goes on. (Unfortunately, my other half is not interested in moving.)

  128. Calla says...

    Does anyone have experience moving to a small city as a single person? I’ve always lived in mid to large cities and find it suits me but am generally very adaptable. But the one reason I could never consider moving to a small town or a rural area is I feel like it would be more isolating as a single person. Most people I know who have moved out of cities have done so with a partner or a family.

    • Grace says...

      I was living in NYC, then moved to Dunedin, a town of 120,000 in New Zealand. I was 26, single and didn’t know a soul in New Zealand.

      I found that it WAS isolating for a short period of time. Everyone had either grown up together or gone to college together. They all had their friends already and it felt like I would never meet anyone in the market for friendship.

      But… once I made one friend, I made ALL the friends. Becoming friends with literally one person in a small town meant that I was now connected to pretty much everyone else. I suddenly had these built-in social groups that had been thriving and growing for years, and I felt like the town opened up to me. After less than a year of living in Dunedin, I couldn’t walk through town without running into someone I knew. It was really magical.

      YMMV, obviously, but I personally have found it much harder to make close friends in large cities (I live in DC now). I can’t wait to get back to a small town.

  129. Em says...

    Love this! I just left NYC after 19 years for Denver, Colorado.
    People on the sidewalk say hello and smile! I’m still a bit awkward about it I must say.
    The city was like the LCD Soundsystem song “NY I love you but you bring me down” Our lease was coming up, and within 30 days we moved across country with our 13 year old dog, and all of our stuff in a U-haul.
    I needed this change in my life, and I’m happy that I did.

    • Christina says...

      Welcome to Denver, Em! I’m glad you’re liking it so far!

    • Lauren says...

      I wouldn’t consider Denver a small town! I’m a Denver resident and mining the comments for ideas of small towns in the west that might be a good alternative to Denver, which has really grown and I don’t see it as all positive even though it’s home!

    • Katherine Jones says...

      Lauren, I’m with you.

      Lived in Denver for a year and a half since my partner’s job brought him out here and really struggling. I don’t find it a very friendly city and it just seems like sprawl and traffic. But coming from a larger city, I can get where Denver seems small. Just not for me.

      Would love to move back to something smaller and with more of a community feel.

  130. Annie K. says...

    This reminds me of one of the great, unsettling parts of life that I have to talk myself into being okay with every goddamn day of my life: There may not be a right answer.

    I’m a small town girl in a big city. The idea of raising big city kids (mine are still teeny) is very confusing, My partner and I fantasize about a return “home,” but our home has changed to become very fancy and almost unrecognizable, not to mention unaffordable, and to settle anywhere else “small town” feels like…why? We’re not rooted there. He commutes to work on bike and I’m about to start my own small business that counts on having a lot of people around. I just don’t know. I miss the stars. I miss the smell of fresh air and slow moving. I hate feeling like I’m rushing everywhere, even though I’m not. (I think a phenomenon of just actually living in a place with so many people makes everything feel kind of hurrying along.) But, as many have already expressed, I love that I can go to a playgroup with my kids and have the playgroup look like a UN summit. I just hate trade-offs. But I’m working on it. Every goddamn day.

  131. Kat Rogers says...

    After we retired, we moved to small towns in the East, we lived on an island etc….but came back to the big city after 10 years where our grocery store is 2 blocks away, we can walk to see an opera, we can go to a myriad of restaurants, our doctors are 2 mins away and we rarely use a car. We love it ! We have nice people in the building we live in. For us, it is ideal…..we also have a amazing walking path system along the river. Perfect ! Big city it is !

  132. Sarah says...

    I live in a mid-size city (shout-out to Sacramento, CA!) and we absolutely love it.

    It’s small enough that we were able to buy an affordable house (six years ago before everyone else discovered how awesome Sacramento is…), we run into people we know all the time, we’re close with our neighbors, and have plenty of space in the backyard for a garden, etc. On the flipside, we have great restaurants and cultural institutions. We’re also driving distance to the coast, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, beautiful wine country, rural beauty, and farmland. There are downsides, of course, but it’s a good mix of upsides that works for us.

    • B says...

      Yes! I love Northern California. My aunt and uncle used to live in Folsom and that area is so quaint, but has all the things you could need.

    • Ellen says...

      Sacramento is so wonderful, and getting more wonderful all the time!

    • Jill Palumbo says...

      It’s interesting to read this. I lived in Sacramento all my life and when it came to retire, I couldn’t afford to live there anymore. Even an apartment was crazy expensive. The traffic had increased to the point it took me sometimes an hour to get to work (20 miles). I moved to a small town in Washington, bought a house on the beach for less than my rent on a crappy apartment in Sacramento. I do miss the warmer weather and the endless shopping opportunities, but I love the small town atmosphere. There are almost no stoplights, everyone knows each other and it’s ultra casual. Luckily, it’s not to far to visit my son and grandkids.

  133. Ellen says...

    Jo, would you really leave NYC? Your boys are such great city kids! We always wonder what could have been if we’d stayed in SF with our kids. After nine city years, we bought out of SF , during the first wave of rent spikes that accompanied the dotcom bubble in 2000. Many friends were already leaving the city with their new babies. Our co-op preschool friends who were staying were already strategizing kindergarten which seemed perilous. My husband was commuting 1 – 2 hours a day to a construction job in Silicon Valley, and I desperately wanted a garden. We were able to buy a place 1.5 hours from the city, in Davis where my husband had done undergrad. We had a toddler and another on the way when we bought our little fixer upper, and moved a year later on September 1 of 2001.
    Of course the whole world has changed, and SF is not the same city at all now. But back then it was a huge adjustment leaving the Mission district with it’s diversity, parks full of children, and wonderful shops of ALL sorts. I missed the bustle of those parks so much and was shocked at how empty the parks were here during the weekdays. Suburban kids play in their backyards. Shocker. We settled in, the town was/is charming and easy. I got my garden space.
    18 years later our little town has been a refuge for many a Bay Area transplant. Rents are high and our sweet downtown has been primarily transformed into a food court with 4(?) retail venues remaining. We do enjoy some amazing food though! The schools and activities for kids have been great, my inlaws moved here and that was wonderful for all of us. We launched a business which has done well. Davis has been so great for our family. But … with the little ones in (and now almost out of – college that happened so fast!) I would love to move to Sacramento and be part of that rapidly emerging city scene. Of course, then I would miss my little town!

    • Suzy says...

      I wonder about this too! Jo, if you ever made the move, how do you think your kids would like small town living? My kids are littler than yours, and I already feel like they’d flip if we tried to leave Brooklyn ?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Hmm good question! I think they’d love it actually and that’s a big part of why we’d make the move. I’d want to go to a place that’s small, friendly and walkable and whenever we have visited place like that in the past they’ve loved it. I guess you never know until you try though!

    • AMK says...

      Ellen, I also live in Davis! We moved here two years ago from the Bay Area and it was the BEST decision we have made. I can’t imagine living in the Bay Area anymore. There, I was commuting three hours a day, getting paid really well but we were some how still living kinda paycheck to paycheck. My husband had the opportunity to transfer to the Sacramento office and actually makes substantially more than when he worked in the Bay Area (I haven’t been so lucky, salary-wise here in Davis though). The most important thing to keep in mind when moving from a big city to a small city is that you really are moving to a small city. Amenities and conveniences will be less…however, what is gained, cannot be measured. Davis isn’t a culinary hub but, on the flip side, I’ve had the change to improve my cooking skills. For a small town, Davis has a lot going on given how deep university roots in the community. It is excited tracking the different fruit and vegetable seasons (we are surrounded by family-owned farms) – a concept I never even thought about when we lived in the Bay. I am always so excited by sunflower season (it is breathtaking!!!) and learning more about bats and bees, etc. AND this area is perfect for those who live remotely but need access to an airport. The Sacramento Airport is soooo easy and wonderful! We really lucked out with our home and community but also know that it takes people some time to adjust.

  134. liz says...

    Love this post!

    As a native NYer, DC feels like my small town! lol

    • Ari says...

      LOL SAMMMEEEE

    • Mercy says...

      I feel you! Fellow native NY-er here (and really haven’t lived anywhere else!), and wanting to try living in DC for a “change of pace” haha

  135. Loren says...

    LONG COMMENT AHEAD!!!
    We moved from San Francisco to Bloomington, MN 4 years ago. We lived in the Bay Area for 15 years – met and married and started our family there. I told people our move was like joining the Witness Protection Program. We went from a 3 bedroom 3rd floor (no elevator of course) flat in the city to a 4 bedroom house in the suburbs (with deer, turkeys, and foxes in our yard!!). Some days I miss San Francisco terribly – this past week I was reminiscing about hearing the fog horn of all things! The ocean, the weather in general (last year it got down to 26 below), the culture, the diversity, the FOOD and COFFEE. We also were a block from the elementary school. And across the street was an ice cream shop! And the best hair stylist I’ve had was TWO BLOCKS down.
    But we have really made a home here in MN. We met our neighbors within days (fresh cut peonies!), all of my husband’s family is here so we get to celebrate holidays and other special occasions all together now. My mom lives with us and she moved with us and much prefers MN to SF. And I totally agree about parking lots! Game changer. And having a garage instead of finding street parking – that alone would take 20 minutes. And what has been most surprisingly amazing is that our town is diverse (25 different languages spoken in the homes of the school our kids go to), there’s a Trader Joe’s, AND there’s a legit coffee scene in the Twin Cities – not in our town, but at least within a half-hour drive.
    The winter makes us appreciate the warmth of the summer. And of course the lakes make the summers awesome.
    While I sometimes marvel that we made that big a move – a career change for my husband that we had no idea would turn out as amazingly as it has, it’s been such a gift. I still hate that our daughter – who was 2.5 when we moved – doesn’t have any SF memories. And that we can’t just scoot over to the beach or take a day trip to Muir Woods. But I wouldn’t change a thing – heck, I even found a new career that brings me ultimate joy and uses all of my education!

    • Michaela says...

      The sound of the fog horn is so beautiful! I love it too!

    • Summerwheat says...

      We are considering making the move from the Bay Area to MN, because family is there, and we want to give our growing kids the freedom that they don’t have in the Bay Area. We can purchase a nice house for way less in MN than here, and schools are better, too. The winters though …. we will see. Thank you for your comment.

  136. Elizabeth says...

    I moved from Memphis back to my small hometown in rural Oklahoma 12 years ago with my four year old daughter in tow. My parents were getting older and I was a single parent, so moving “home” meant that we could help each other out.
    I chose a house in the older part of town, where my daughter could attend a more diverse neighborhood school, and we quickly got into a lot of community activities.
    It’s sometimes frustrating to live in an area where most of the residents have profoundly different political views than I, but the benefits definitely outweigh that.
    Friendly folks, great neighbors, friends for life who have supported us, a good educational environment where my now-16 year old is more than just a number or a grade point average; that’s important to us.

    This is a good town to be from.

  137. M says...

    What timing! In a few months my husband and I will be moving from San Diego to San Luis Obispo for his job. I’m totally happy and sad at the same time but this post got me even more excited to make the change. Especially for my husband who’s commute will be cut down by 40 min!

    • Calla says...

      SLO is so lovely! As is the central coast in general, I hope you love it!

    • H says...

      SLO will be such a wonderful change of pace! It’s gorgeous and the best mix of Northern and Southern California. You’ll love it, I hope!

    • Ashley says...

      I grew up in SLO (a slocal)! Currently living in SF and have been here for 8 years but am longing to move back to Slo so badly – I hope you love it.

  138. Trina says...

    I grew up in a small town and, by the time I was a senior in high school, was restless and impatient to move to a big metro area—not to a big city proper, but close enough to where I could easily enjoy all the cultural amenities of a metropolis (arts, restaurants, etc.). Having lived in a small Bay Area suburb for nearly two decades now, though, I’ve been fantasizing about moving back to a smaller town when I retire—albeit one with *some* cultural opportunities (a smaller symphony, a modest art museum, a university) and not so small that people are all up in my biz. I would say that’s one drawback of life in a small-town, or indeed any small community: that everyone knows you (or thinks they do) and that gossip can accompany that, as opposed to enjoying a degree of anonymity in the city. The safety and security of a small town does make it a great place to grow up (we could play outside for hours, riding our bikes through the country backroads, going fishing down at the river, etc.), but for a kid-then-teenager wanting to learn and grow and see the world, it could be confining, even stifling, until you fledged for the big city. I guess it depends largely on life stage.

  139. Anneka says...

    I loved this, Jo! I often dream of small-town living and can’t wait for the day when I can have chickens, dogs and space for my (one-day) children to run around. I never lived in the city before I moved to Australia, having grown up on military bases, so it’s been an adjustment. It’s nice to have a pizza place open at midnight, but I can’t wait for the days of small-town living!

  140. Ro says...

    I just did the opposite! After years of living in a small, quaint town, I upped and moved to a big city. It’s been amazing for so many reasons, but the thing that really gets me is that I no longer need a car. It’s refreshing to bound out my front door and get coffee or grocery shop without having to drive for 30 minutes, first. If I’m feeling bored at night, it’s easy to meet some of my new friends at a bar, or to simply wander around and see what I see. I took a yoga class the other night, and only had to walk one block to get there. In my old town, life was a lot of waiting in traffic or driving down
    highways, just to get somewhere mundane. This feels like a much better fit for me!

  141. Emma says...

    These are interesting! I grew up in a small town in CT and now live in DC. I wouldn’t trade the diversity my kids are exposed to here compared to where I grew up (I’m white). We are the minorities at our local grocery store, and the diversity of culture, food, etc here is a big plus. Traffic is terrible but my husband and I also work from home, so no commute. Everyone values different things and that’s ok.

    • Great point, Emma — was scrolling to see if someone else would make it :)

      I grew up north of NYC in a very white area and now live in Boston….can’t imagine willingly moving back to where I came from (much to my mother’s dismay).

      And I feel a real urgency to drive as little as possible…walkability/bike-ability is key for me. I also like the idea of sharing resources. I live in a two-family with a small yard, but with a great big park down the street for the neighborhood. It’s easier to make more environmentally considerate choices in a city. This is where we’re planning to stay (or another city in a slightly warmer climate!).

  142. We recently moved from Paris back to Richmond, VA. It’s been fairly depressing for us – we miss the art, culture, language, public transit, food, everything! But we’re closer to family, and both have jobs and don’t need to worry about visas, and it’s much cheaper. There are always pros and cons to anywhere you live.

    • Meredith says...

      Lol, Richmond, VA was my big city experience compared to the town I grew up in that has less than 5,000 people. Funny how the perspective is so different. RVA felt like a cultural hub compared to southern Virginia!

    • Di says...

      I feel your pain! After living in London for 15 years (!), we recently moved to Raleigh, NC to be closer to family. We miss so much about London: the great restaurants, public transport, how easy it was to make friends, drinking outdoors! But overall, we are appreciating the slower pace of life as well as the lower cost of living; it means we can spend less commuting and more time together as a family.

    • If you think art, culture, and food are lacking in Richmond, please explore the city more!

      VMFA is world class, and the new ICA does a better job bringing in diverse artists’ voices than any museum or gallery I’ve visited in Paris. See an independent film at Criterion (built in the old Iron Foundry) or at the annual French film festival. Spend a Friday night popping into the galleries on Broad Street or taking a class at the Visual Arts Center. When it gets warmer, explore Maymont and Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, and watch the sunset over the skyline from Libby Hill Park.

      Have dinner at Dutch & Company, L’Opposum, Quirk, En Su Boca, Can Can, or Amuse. Try an oat milk matcha at Blanchard’s. Spend a Saturday afternoon sampling craft beers at the dozens of breweries in Scott’s Addition. Try the pastries at Sub Rosa, Whisk, or Idle Hands.

      Richmond has so much to offer! The creative community here is absolutely thriving–unlike New York and Paris, artists (who aren’t independently wealthy) can afford to live and create here.

  143. AJ says...

    This is so interesting. I have often pondered this too… I grew up in a small coastal village but now London is home. There are things I really admire and love about small town life when I go back to visit. But there’s so much I adore about living in the big city – the buzz, the culture, the fact it’s familiar yet new all the time, the endless exploring, and a real biggie, the diversity of people, arts, food, everything, but mainly people.

    • The buzz! I was trying to put my finger on that but couldn’t think of a good word.

    • Ro says...

      “the fact it’s familiar yet new all the time” is a great way to put it!

    • Jessica says...

      I’ve never commented before, but OMG feels like such insane timing to read this blog post as my family plans to move from London to Oxford in a month! Looking forward to a slower pace of life, but I will miss that London buzz!!!

  144. Leah says...

    This post comes at such a perfect time! My husband and I (and our one year old) moved from San Francisco to a little small beach town on the Central Coast of California one year ago. We’re just now moving out of the honeymoon phase of the move and starting to realize what life is really like here. Like the women who you interviewed said, we miss diversity and culture and easy, walk-able food options. Also, our son starting having some health issues right after our move that required a specialist and there are none in our area so we’ve had to travel for decent medical care (which is a real concern as my husband and I age). It’s been hard to make friends, both my husband and I have lived in cities for all of our adult lives. We now live in a small town surrounded by small towns and you can really feel that. Most people grew up here and haven’t travelled much. It’s a fantastic place to raise a small child, but we’re wondering what his experience will be once he’s in school. There’s always pros and cons (obviously), but I don’t regret the move. We were able to buy a house, it’s gorgeous here and we’re creating a really sweet life for our son. We can always go visit the city :)

    • Ashley says...

      I grew up in Slo and currently live in San Francisco. Been here for 8 years and want to move back to the central coast so badly but I do worry about the things you mention like making friends and also diversity. What I do love about Slo is you can visit SF or LA easily and I have friends in both cities.

    • Kim says...

      I went to Cal Poly and wish I had never left SLO. That whole area is just magic!

  145. Alix says...

    We moved from a large city (Sydney) to a much smaller one (Hobart) and couldn’t be happier. My commute has gone from 2+ hours each day to working from home with a view of the ocean. We are friends with all our neighbours, always bump into people we know wherever we are and everyone is just a bit nicer. It’s not so competitive, people here seem to enjoy their life rather than having to work all the time to pay for a life. Sydney’s great but Hobart works for us.

    • Anneka says...

      Alix, you make me want to make the move south to Tassie!

    • We did the same thing. Love living in Tassie, love the feeling of community, love having long summer evenings together as a family, instead of sitting in traffic. Have met so many genuine, good people, and our kids have access to natural spaces so easily. Cheap entertainment, and also the most wholesome.

  146. Charlotte K says...

    When you leave NYC everywhere is a small town!
    I loved grad school in Bloomington Indiana because there was one of everything really good, all the musical acts got there, you saw people you knew at everything. Fantastic libraries, coffee, Farmers market, etc. College towns are a great alternative to the city.

    • Maria says...

      Bloomington really is the best. We had to move away a year and a half ago for jobs (academic life) and I have missed it literally every single day.

      Did you stay after grad school or head elsewhere?

    • Charlotte K says...

      Maria I worked there for a few years after school but eventually headed back to Boston where I was from. Bloomington has become expensive now in housing, otherwise I’d consider retiring there.

  147. Colleen S says...

    I grew up in Poway, CA. Its motto is: The City in the Country. For sixteen years, it was my home and though is been elsewhere, I couldn’t imagine anything else. The summer I turned 17, we moved to a small town in northern New Hampshire. The culture shock was real. Smoking was still allowed in restaurants, the biggest store in town at the time was a Walmart and the only chain restaurants were McDonald’s and Burger King. For the first year, I was miserable. But over the next seven years, I grew to like the slower pace of life, the 4 distinct seasons (although spring is technically two weeks because most of the season is ugly because of melting snow), and the quiet. I live in Northern California now, and I’m missing the quiet slowness of a small town. I love all the conveniences I have, but I miss the lack of having to get somewhere fast and always be busy.

  148. Lolligator says...

    I moved from Vancouver BC to a small East Coast town. The biggest adjustments were the lack of access to great Asian restaurants and grocery stores, not to mention no longer being surrounded by lots of people who look like me. The lack of walkability, bikeability and public transit were also hard for me—I hate having to drive most places. Small town life wasn’t a good fit. We’ve since moved to a nearby small city with a lower cost of living and ok walking/biking options, which have helped a little. It’s a pretty good place, but it’s far from family and there aren’t a lot of employment opportunities. I definitely would move back to a big city close to family, if a financially feasible option came along (unlikely, unfortunately).

  149. Claire says...

    I actually LOL’d while picturing WFB, WI as a “small town” considering it borders the City of Milwaukee. Perhaps a quick drive down Oakland Avenue to Thai Kitchen would eliminate the rut of take-out pizza. Word of caution, you’ll have to park on the street!

    • RS says...

      I commented before I read your comment. I LOL’d as well, haha! And, I LOL’d at your comment too. Street parking just might be necessary to get good Thai food, but I bet that the strangers of Milwaukee would still be really nice when encountered. They might even make eye contact while handing over the bag of Thai food.

    • Hilary says...

      Ha well please don’t forget the square mile of Shorewood between WFB and Milwaukee as you drive down Oakland.

    • annie says...

      aah guys, sorry, i meant to post this as an actual comment. claire, i laughed out loud too! :)

  150. Dagny says...

    As someone who has moved their family from Seattle to the Seattle-burbs and back to Seattle I find this quite interesting! Personally, our decision this past summer to move back near the core of the city (northwest Seattle) was driven by similar goals: stronger sense of community, faster commute (ONE HOUR LESS EACH WAY), less decision fatigue. It now takes me 14 minutes to commute to work near downtown no matter what time of day and we run into our neighbors when we’re at the grocery store, at our local Friday night pizza place, or walking home from the farmers market on Friday evenings.

    • We did the same thing! Seattle, Bellvue, now back in Seattle (Bryant). Love walking places again, love being in the city. I am totally discouraged by the house prices, etc.