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No Regrets: 10 Key Things to Consider Before Moving to the Country

by Victoria Gazeley

Modern Homesteading front door.

The country lifestyle is not for everyone.  Every day I commute into my job in the city I hear at least one fellow commuter complaining about the ferry service.  Or about logging on the local mountain.  Or the weather.  Which always leads me to wonder, “What did you think it would be like when you moved somewhere you can only access by ferry/has a long history of logging/where it rains a lot”?

It’s all about preparation.  Knowing what you’re getting into with a rural property.  And being honest with yourself.  Is country living really for you?

Here are a few things to ponder before committing to the rural lifestyle:

  1. Income – What will you do for income? Will you commute to your current job?  Will you work part-time from home?  Will you take this opportunity to finally start your online business?  How much income will you need to live on your rural property full time?  Be honest with yourself.  There’s nothing that will crush your dream faster than realizing you don’t have enough money.  Unless you’re independently wealthy (yay!) – then you can skip to #4.
  2. Commuting – How long will it take you to get to work?  What will the costs be, in time and money?  If you do decide to commute, it will obviously dictate the location of your new property.  I live a 40 minute ferry ride, plus a half hour or more of waiting for the ferry to and from, and another 1.5 hours of riding the bus.   That’s more than 2.5 hours of travel to work in the office for 6 hours (one day a week, but still).  Seems a bit silly, which is why I’ve just left that job and am now working from home full time.  Much better.
  3. Working from Home – If you’ll be working from home, will you have a designated office space?  Is there a reliable high speed internet service available in the area of your rural property?  Will you be easily distracted by all the jobs that need doing around the property?  I speak this one from experience.  It’s so easy to put that writing assignment aside when the wood pile needs re-stacking or the chickens are being chased by the neighbour’s dog.  Working from home requires a high level of discipline, which is even more challenging when you have a property that requires a lot of your time.  All the time…
  4. Water Supply - Does your new property have access to municipal water or does it have its own water supply?  If it has a well or surface water (creek, lake), has the water been tested by a reliable lab?  Were the tests taken recently?  Depending on where you live in the world, both well and municipal water supplies may contain substances you don’t want your family ingesting.  Think pesticide residues.  Rocket fuel.  Arsenic.  Poop.  Substances from previous chemical spills.  Always have well water tested at a reputable lab, and the water supply source confirmed.  Your local municipality or county extension office should have testing resources available, or at least be able to point you in the right direction.  Give them a call.
  5. Emergency Services – Do you have a medical condition that requires regular care?  How far away is a trauma center should you need it?  How long would an ambulance take to get to your house?  Are local doctors taking new patients?  The first time you whack your leg with the firewood axe or the chickens scratch the dickens out of your arms, you’ll want to know that medical help is close by.
  6. Isolation – Are you a person who thrives with lots of people and activity around you?  Or do you enjoy the quiet and are comfortable being a bit isolated?  If you’re someone who likes a lot of noise and activity, you’ll likely find country life a little boring.  And quiet.  And maybe a little scary.  The first year we were in our little cabin in the woods, I didn’t sleep much.  Every noise, every crackle in the dark, my heart was up in my throat.  For no reason at all, of course.  Something to ponder.
  7. Weather and Road Maintenance – Is the road servicing your property maintained by local government or a private contractor?  What is the official priority for road clearing in winter or after storms?  You’ll want to know this.  Our road is quite remote and not a critical route.  If I’d lived here two winters ago, I’d have been locked in the snow for weeks, as the road was lowest on the priority list.  I drive a tiny little car.  Not so smart for the snow, but I’m not willing to impact the environment by driving a truck.  So I keep my fingers crossed – and have good snow tires,.
  8. Electrical Outages – How often does the power go out in the area?  How long does it take to get back running, on average?  Is your new property on a priority trunk?  You can have all sorts of back-up electrical systems in place, but continual power outages are hard on your electronics, and your pocketbook.  Now, if you plan to set up completely off-grid electrical systems, you can obviously ignore this one!  But you’ll still need to know how to fix and maintain your systems, or at least who to call should you need help.
  9. Natural or Industrial Hazards - Does your desired property sit on a floodplain (near a river)?  At the bottom of a hill?  Near a factory or mill?  All of these things will determine the potential for catastrophe.  And your insurance costs (or if insurance would even be available).  So often we hear of properties being wiped out by floods along rivers with an active flood history.  Don’t be one of those people, no matter how gorgeous the property might be.  The flood might only happen once every 100 years, but you don’t want to be there when it does.  Same goes for industrial facilities, present and past.  There are thousands of old industrial sites and spill sites that remain contaminated after decades.  Make sure you do your due diligence with regard to industrial accidents, spills and outfalls around and upstream of your potential new property.
  10. Zoning , Planning & Services – Is there an official community plan in the area?  Are there plans for industrial or residential development nearby?  If the property is serviced by the municipality or county, are there plans for upgrading water or sewer systems?  Is there garbage collection?  Over and over we hear about city people moving to the country and then wanting it to either be just like the city (services), or they don’t want anything to ever change again, ever (development), or they don’t want to pay for changes already in the pipe.  Ask questions first and be comfortable with the answers you get.  Make sure you’re not one of those folk that rural people love to complain about.

There are a lot of questions you need to ask yourself before changing your lifestyle so dramatically, but these 10 will help you get some clarity around whether or not a life in the country is for you.  If it is, the rewards are fantastic.  If not, then you’ve saved yourself years of headache and heartache.  Either way, congratulations!

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Revised on January 30, 2012

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous October 29, 2010 at 3:34 am

A must read for anyone entertaining the idea of country living…you remove the romantic fantasy and provide the cold hard facts that MUST be considered! Great service Victoria!

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Victoria Gazeley November 1, 2010 at 1:45 am

Yes, it doesn’t take long for the ‘romance’ to go out of it… ;o) But it’s still pretty great!

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Victoria Gazeley November 1, 2010 at 1:45 am

Yes, it doesn’t take long for the ‘romance’ to go out of it… ;o) But it’s still pretty great!

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drscott October 29, 2010 at 4:23 am

OK Victoria, you’ve got my attention. I am intrigued with the whole idea of homesteading. Being a city boy my entire life, it’s something very foreign to me and maybe why it intrigues me so. Having two teenage girls, I fantasize living in Montana and homeschooling them.

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Victoria Gazeley October 30, 2010 at 10:01 am

I think it’s an almost primal thing for so many of us, that longing to ‘return to the land’, so to speak. Maybe we all have farming in our blood, or are just interested in living a less ‘technical’ and noisy life. Whatever it is, I’m loving it… most days! ;o)

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Victoria Gazeley November 1, 2010 at 1:46 am

It is pretty great. Difficult at times, and often frustrating, but SO worth it. I have dreams of homeschooling as well – we’ll be looking into that in a couple of years. Maybe we’ll be hearing from you from Montana one of these days!

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Anonymous October 30, 2010 at 3:03 am

Nos. 9 & 10 are two that I never would’ve considered on my own. I love keeping this information “just in case” we should ever decide to go for homesteading. Very practical. Thanks!

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Victoria Gazeley October 30, 2010 at 10:00 am

Yes, those are the two I’d say most people don’t consider. But they’re the ones with the potential to seriously disrupt your life! So happy you found the information useful. It actually applies in more urban areas as well (at least the zoning part).

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Victoria Gazeley November 1, 2010 at 1:47 am

They are ones I wouldn’t have really considered a few years ago. But so important! Nothing worse than finding out that your dream property is going to be neighbours to a chemical plant or something crazy!

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rosemis October 31, 2010 at 12:55 am

Very valuable points to consider Victoria. Everyone that is considering a move to the “wilderness” needs to read this. Thank you !!

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Victoria Gazeley November 1, 2010 at 1:47 am

Thanks so much, Rose!

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Susan McKenzie October 31, 2010 at 4:31 am

This is a very thorough and detailed article! Most of the people I know who live in very rural areas would never live in a big city… and at the same time I’ve often heard from city-dwellers who fantasize living in Montana or Wyoming. Victoria, you hit the nail on the head about the distractions… I often miss days of working in my home office due to wild cows, wild winds, frozen water troughs, or just neighbors coming to the door! It really does take a lot of discipline, more than I realized when I started! I love your writing, Victory – and thanks for sharing!

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Victoria Gazeley November 1, 2010 at 1:49 am

Aren’t the constant distractions crazy! You can’t really ignore frozen pipes or a tree fallen on your roof… Would love to hear the story of the wild cows… I assume that comes from experience??? ;o)

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Three Headed Chef April 11, 2013 at 9:22 am

Nice site, good information. Thanks! We, too, made the big move to the country about 15 years ago. I never knew how much I would love it after all these years. No looking back, and no regrets.

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Victoria Gazeley April 15, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Thanks so much for stopping by! We won’t be going back either… ;)

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Victoria Gazeley May 26, 2013 at 11:13 am

Great to hear! Us neither, though there are ‘some days’… ;)

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Alissa Hurley Benavidez June 26, 2013 at 8:39 pm

So glad to find your site! We’ve decided to take the leap and are moving to the country near Ottawa in August. Looking forward to learning from your experience!

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Victoria Gazeley October 29, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Fabulous! I hope your move went well! If we can assist with any information sharing, just let us know… :)

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