Which community do you prefer?

Tue, May 13, 2014 - 4:19am

In the spring of 2002 I relocated my family moved from downtown into the country. It was a difficult move. My wife and I stumbled around in a daze for several days coming to terms with the differences. But let me back up a number of years and fill you in on how we got there. I can’t say that I have sage advice for all to follow. What I can do is tell our story, mistakes and all, then explain my reasoning for the move and let you glean what is useful.

My parents drug me kicking and screaming from rural Colorado in 1967 and raised me in Phoenix Arizona—a growing city with a bright future. By age 30 I had come to see the city as too hot, too large, and too everything I had learned to dislike. I chased a job to Albuquerque NM, for a year, made a bunch of money, and then we departed on the “graduate school tour” which led to Syracuse NY, then to Memphis TN, a city not unlike Phoenix in size. By 2000 I had lived in large cities for 33 years.

But a career-job in rural Indiana at a small branch of a large college began to change all that. Ignorantly, we bought a beautiful Victorian mansion right downtown for a mere 65K. We loved the house, but the neighborhood betrayed us. The house showed well with a smiling realtor at 10am, but the neighbors came out to play at 8pm. Music, yelling, swearing—the wafting scent of marijuana from next door—arguments and fights right in the street. We perceived that over 75% of the large homes in a 12 block radius had been partitioned into small crappy apartments and rented to the city’s poor. We couldn't allow our kids to play out front. We holed up inside and began to wonder if we made a mistake. By our second day in that neighborhood, I was certain of it and we started looking around the area for a better place to live. But in the meantime, I restored the home, built the attic into a 3rd floor, and we sold out at a loss two years later as property values plummeted in the city.

Life in the city had its moments. My wife and I enjoy the entertainment—theater, concerts, shopping, the ease of finding employment throughout that period. There is also an anonymity where you can break away from one social group and enter another without even moving, which came in handy on occasion. For those decades, when the economy was stable and jobs were mostly plentiful, we enjoyed the city life and never considered anything different. But the crime and poverty pressing in on us took a toll.

We had become friends with a family that lived several miles outside of town. They lived in a farmhouse on 160 acres and had put in a pond in the midst of a 30 acres of hardwood forest at the edge of their property—their own private resort, with two small cabins and plenty of camping room. Some of our fondest memories are from spending weekends there camping with several other “homeschool families” with 20 or so children entertaining us with impromptu theatrical performances by the light of a bonfire. I wanted a place like that!

So, in the Spring of 2002, we bugged out of the Victorian mansion to seven acres on the edge of town and into a different world. (I found an overhead pick of the place online.) We were city slickers, plopped into the country and learning to deal with all its challenges. It was a prepper's dream, except we were not preppers. I wrote about the flooded barn in an earlier post. But I was completely overwhelmed by the amount of labor required to keep the place mowed, trimmed, and looking presentable. My job as an assistant professor kept me working 60 hours per week as well. After two years, with encroaching weeds and unfinished projects, it was just too much stress. I just wanted a house with a small yard again, so we moved to Dayton Ohio, back into a suburban lifestyle, back to all the entertainment and conveniences the city had to offer. I commuted 45 minutes. We had some large trees in our back yard in Dayton and my daughter would climb to the top of one and sway up there for hours at a time, missing our country home. My son retreated into video games. I think selling that little farm and moving back to a city was the biggest mistake I have ever made, perhaps bigger than missing out on $4 silver.

We began looking for another place in the country. After finding 5 acres with a pond near our old place, we moved again. (Note: moving a family too often is dangerous, even in the same locale.) I took a more laissez-faire approach to the land, letting the forest be a forest and only regulating the immediate area around the house, keeping it trimmed and neat. But the soil quality was horrible for gardening. (As an aside… learn about soil quality if you want to get serious about gardening.) What can I say about the quality of life for you and your children—especially the children? At our country home, my son built forts wit his friends, shooting at things with BB guns and riding his go-cart around the property. My daughter lurked around the forest catching all kinds of critters and keeping a veritable zoo in her bedroom in various terrariums and fish tank. She raised chickens, warding off predators, then insisting on butchering them herself. She fished by the hour in our stocked pond for bass, catfish, crappie, and caught a large snapping turtle one day (that one was scary).

Six years later, health concerns (from too much stress) prompted a successful job search—not easy for an old white guy so I took it as a sign from God. We moved back to Arizona in 2013 to start preparing a self-sufficient life all over again. The largest challenge in leaving the city life for me was changing my way of thinking. After 2008, that became easier. Yet for me, making the move was difficult, required commitment, but has been worth the trade-offs.

Why not move out of the city?

​Most cities have quite of choice or rural living surrounding them. Even a place like Phoenix AZ has nearby towns and areas where one can live unmolested in the desert in small communities. Memphis, Syracuse, and Dayton all had much closer viable rural areas.

  • Housing is typically cheaper in rural areas.
  • Homes with some land are everywhere.
  • Jobs are not as far as you might think.
  • Entertainment abounds, if you look around.
  • Neighbors are more stable.

But you would have to commute. And choices for shopping and restaurants are limited. Entrepreneurs have it easier than ever with using the internet to promote and transact business. I teach online and my wife oversees her real estate from afar via a manager. We could live about anywhere, but chose the edge of a small this time city so our kids could be close to the social life of the university.

“But Dr J, what about my job? —it is a really good one and I cannot leave!” If it is that good, you might be able to afford an apartment in the city and spend weekends at home a couple of hours away.

“But Dr J, I love the theater & other highbrow events, and my kids attend an elite private school.” Yes, I understand. School is important and my own children suffered at a rural high school where 90% of students had no ambition. Had they told us how bad it was socially, we probably would’ve yanked them out and placed them in a private school in town where I worked.

"But Dr. J, It’s hard to break in to the social community in a new town" Well, not if you join a local church and get involved. Or if you are more athiestical, there are numerous non-profit organizations everywhere with other volunteers lonely for new friends. These organizations always need new-blood in volunteers and board members. In each new town I have lived in, I have found that the locals give you a chance. My wife has already been invited to be a board member for one organization in our new town and we have settled into a new group of friends.

When I was a little kid, we bought a summer house in La Veta Colorado (pictured at right and below).* We were a hippie family in a cowboy town in the 60s. My agnostic dad said years later that we should have joined the local church right away and we would have fit in a lot better.

"But really? leave the city for the country now? Is that wise?" Since we may have another few years (or a decade) of this deteriorating Keynsian economy, making a move would give time to settle in, learn a useful skill, and even prosper. And the sooner you make a decision and act, the sooner you can begin to rebuild a social network, fit into the community, and settle in for whatever comes.

If you stay in the city, I argue here that the risks are greater. If the risks are already approaching your tolerance level, perhaps you should consider a move. Seriously, why stay in the city? In America, I see the free shit army growing with little hope of turning around their lives. I see too many crumbling streets and buildings with too few energetic entrepreneurs starting businesses and rehabilitating. Empty mini-mall and big-mall space is an epidemic. Vacant and under-utilized industrial space is everywhere. There are not enough jobs. If Detroit is simply ahead of the curve, our cities are staring at a bleak future.

For many of you, the move is a no-brainer. For other it would be difficult. But I make my case for the rural life. The burden of proof then rests with those favoring city life. I see it as a question of now or later or really wishing you would’ve while you could’ve. So in the spirit of the peripatetic school, I invite discussion of the pros and cons of leaving the city for a rural or small town life. I know we have many readers out there who rarely post. Please join the discussion and let us hear about your experience and conclusions in this all important matter.

* I really miss this skyline in La Veta. The peaks are called “Wahatoya” in the local native American language—“the breasts of the world.” Seriously, you could get this view from just about anywhere in town. Perhaps I’ll return one day.

About the Author


May 13, 2014 - 4:44am

good post

Thanks Dr Jerome,

A reminder that everyone's story will be different but wherever you go... there you are. Location is important but happiness is paramount. Consider everything and make the compromises you will inevitably need to, and be comfortable with your decision. Nowhere and nothing is perfect. Make the most of wherever you are!

ps. long time, no log-in. Dropped in for first!

May 13, 2014 - 4:58am

Another 2-3 weeks gone, no

Another 2-3 weeks gone, no changes in 3 year old GSR trend channel except that previous horizontal high was briefly surpassed. All things point to continuation of this upwards moving channel, it is solidly established.

May 13, 2014 - 5:31am

Swiss reducing secrecy of banking?

Interesting, probably was already published here:

The Swiss government announced its support on 7 May for an agreement signed with the Organization for Economic Cooperation on the implementation of standards of automatic exchange of information between banks. The signing of this agreement will mean the end of a Swiss tradition stretching back hundreds of years protecting the secrecy of private accounts. It represents a forward move in attacking tax evasion, money laundering, and concealment of valuable assets.

The tradition of secrecy in Switzerland has long been one of the competitive strengths enjoyed by its banks, resulting in the high confidence of customers from all over the world.As a result, Switzerland has been able to attract two trillion dollars of expatriated wealth.Due to their lack of transparency, Swiss banks are often accused of helping tax evasion, and as a result Switzerland is classified as a "tax haven".

Huang Feng, the director of a research center in international criminal law at the Institute of Criminal Law Science Research at Beijing Normal University, says that the disclosure of documents relating to accounts for their international clients by Swiss banks will still be subject to certain legal restrictions. Switzerland will provide legal support and other means to combat money laundering.

Huang said China and Switzerland have signed interim agreements. China will be allowed to work in collaboration on some files and will thereby have access to information on the customers. Huang Feng suggested that the two countries should conclude these legal agreements as quickly as possible to facilitate stable and normative cooperation.

Huang also noted that China is currently working on anti-money laundering operations,with an emphasis on foreign transactions, but these efforts are still limited. He said that hehad already addressed a number of cases involving corrupt officials transferring funds to Switzerland.

He believes that the question whether the agreement can succeed in its role depends on the way in which it is applied by various countries.

Tu Tiebing, assistant professor at the Institute of International Communication at Communication University of China, who has spent a long time in Switzerland, believes that the agreement, if properly and legally implemented, will help China's fight against corruption.
Green Lantern
May 13, 2014 - 7:04am

Dr. J,I always enjoy your

Dr. J,

I always enjoy your writings on lifestyle. We all get to peak into the life and philosophy of others who share some common values. My life and experiences are vastly different.

As most of you know, I live in Gotham, largely the operating base of the evil empire. The banks, the Fed, the United Nations, the pharma cartel and much more..... It is also fertile soil for all that is wrong with government with housing projects dotted around the city that were build during FDR's tenure and some families still imprisoned in the system with no incentive to get out. Truly prisons.

I grew up in a Beach town, about 80 miles east of new york city surrounded by pretty beaches and farm land which has now transitioned into America's second wine country although at a much lower quality than Napa Valley. It had two faces, the small town natives who were born there and will die there, and the extravagantly wealthy, bankers, hollywood types, who came for salt air which was usually accessible by opening up their back door to the Atlantic Ocean without ever leaving their poch estates.

When I was a kid I craved culture which the area sorely lacked. Not just theater and music, which as I get older I take much less advantage of and the commercial broadway productions do not suit my tastes, but enjoy the off off very off broadway productions in small, dingy theaters, of young actors with spark in their eyes and creative writers whose stories to not meet the expectations of the general theater going public.

My career and my wife's career very much are urban jobs without many second options in a rural neighborhood without significant, very significant, drop of income. My wife's career depends on volume, and I worked for an evil Fortune 50 company for 17 years and when I was part of the wholesale lay offs during the peak of the financial crisis, I was able to get some lucrative marketing consulting work with one of the local NBA teams and doing other multi-cultural marketing which only exists in multi-cultural area's.

There is alot wrong with the big city. No disputing it. But there is a vast difference between the ghetto here adjacent to probably the biggest benefactor of quantatative easing then some small mid west city that government policy has left for dead. Some of our neighborhoods in the boroughs adjacent to Manhattan, (Queens, Bronx) have more vibrant neighborhoods, more business's then some entire midwest the cities.

I feel like I am on Mars when I travel to the midwest, Minneapolis, St. Louis or South, Charleston, SC, Memphis, TNetc... and the streets feel isolated even during business hours and the cities close when everybody leaves the office, gets in their car and heads to their cookie cutter houses in the suburbs. It's fine but I feel a bit constrained and out of place.

My family is here in the area, my wife has friends (she comes from a city more populated and dense than any city in the United States and when I take her to the country asks me why people live so far apart and why they get in their cars and drive 50 miles to buy a pair of underwear)

Like I said, it's not perfect and many the problems of living in a big urban center that people talk about here are true. No denying it. Secretly, I am a tree hugger. Grew up digging up the lawn to grow vegetables in the garden by myself when I was in junior high school reading books. Mom and dad didn't have a green thumb and had no desire. I am addicted to large bodies of water, oceans and lakes, and a few days in the midwest and I feel landlocked. I like light houses, seaweed on the beach, and asking the fisherman what they caught.

What people don't see beyond the tall buildings and concrete is one of the most amazing estuaries in the country albeit some of the water ways polluted. The beaches on Long Island are some of the best I've ever visited and the only thing that Florida or Mexico have as an advantage is turquoise and warmer waters. Nothing better than a day at the beach in the winter walking along the edge talking to the seagulls and getting at cup of hot chowder.

Ultimately, yes, I desire purple mountains majesty, fruited plains, and pristine rivers and having battle with the trout.

In the absence of living in the ideal setting, I manage to get by, by taking advantage of what is good.

I don't shop at chain supermarkets, and no problem getting fresh, farm picked food any day of the week with plenty of non gmo, organic food available for consumption. Of course, when it's in season we drive out to the berry, peach farms and pick our own. But let me tell you, it's hard work bending down picking berries in the hot sun.

I spend morning to night on the weekends in a private part of one of three world class gardens playing my flutes and talking to the flowers.

30 minutes from world class beaches, and if I have to, I have been known to go to a city beach, all with a bit more splendor than the lake Beach in Chicago. I stack more than gold and silver and always looking for the perfect shell. Never know when shells will be money again

Sometimes the river calls me. Everybody is too busy to just watch the boats come in and out of the harbor. People's stress affords me plenty of quiet time and space.

And if we are in the hiking mood, there is no dirth of entrances to the Adirondack Trail within a 45 minute drive.

When I can't get to Chili or Bolivia (love their music) I can find a professional world class ensemble in the park or even on my ride home. I am on a first name basis with most of the musicians who love my interest in their music and culture and spend time with me talking about their music, letting me try their instruments, and exchanging playing tips. and wondering how a gringo like me knows so much about their culture and music

My wife is Chinese and I speak some so taking her to have real authentic hunan stews, or dim sum that is made freshly in the morning is a real treat. Chinese markets have their own farms and under sell most American markets and their produce is fresher with a wider variety than any market I know of in the city or the suburbs. (hate urban sprawl more than I do the inner city)

Of course, I never pass up a chance for a good time, colorful outfits and pretty ladies. My spanish is getting a bit better.

Two native american pow wows every year and closet full of useless nick naks but some nice shirts.

I recently moved out of apartment living into a house in a quiet neighborhood. It's not the Green grass of kentucky, and probably people who live in the country who asked me how much I pay would go Oh my God but that's how life is on the corner of High Inflation and Urban Way.

Suffice to say while projects exist everywhere, I manage to be able to navigate my way around them. I am city speelunkerer so I know the in's and out's of the streets, where is safe and where not to tread. I keep an eye on trends including gang grafitti, look at the ground to look for the presence of little baggies and very cognizant of my surroundings.

TF Metals fan
May 13, 2014 - 7:04am

Sounds familiar

My wife and I share a love for the country. But for the past 20 years w had been living in Amsterdam. So we bought a lovely house in the country. And we came across similar pitfalls as you described. Fortunately we still had our apartment in the city. So after four year of enjoyment but also hard work (garden!) we sold the place and moved back. Still we long or a bit of space, open air and grass. But what to do as a next step? Your article certainly gives food to our own discussion.


Mr. Fix
May 13, 2014 - 7:35am

Thank you for your article Dr. Jerome,

I have definitely given this a lot of thought over the years, particularly over the last couple, and I have come to the conclusion that there is no place on earth that I would rather live, and for that I am grateful.


May 13, 2014 - 8:20am

I know this article has been posted elsewhere, but read it again


I won't re-post the article, except for the the awesome picture, which is always worth posting:

The article starts out by discussing the need of money for fulfilling the coincidence of wants. Nice basic concept for the masses.

The really interesting thing about the article is that there is then a seamless transition to discussing saving strategies in silver and gold of present day "Jen".

The article places a very subtle emphasis of the need for investing or saving in silver and gold TODAY, and is masked as an esoteric story on the history of money.

All this in Forbes - the hotbed of conspiracy nutjob cults.

I guess the awakening continues.

May 13, 2014 - 8:42am


GL, thanks for your post!

We visited New York a couple of years ago and just spent our days wandering around the city. It was quite different from any other American city where I have lived. the old buildings were generally in good repair and in some neighborhoods were as lovely as the day they were built. We really liked it, especially all the street vendors and street entertainers, and I thought I could live there. My daughter wanted to move there immediately. At no time did we feel the city was unsafe.

May 13, 2014 - 8:52am

I love Chicago...

But im going to move to rural Wisconsin here soon enough. Timely article for me personally...

May 13, 2014 - 9:12am

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