Rural Life: Better or Worse?

I’ve lived in towns with populations as low as 1,300, but I’ve also lived in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and St. Petersburg (Russia).

I’ve liked living just about everywhere I’ve lived, and I’ve especially loved Jamestown, Worthington, Jackson and Minneapolis.

In Minneapolis I lived about half a block from a very low-income, high-crime area; I was held up at alleged gunpoint while I worked at a coffeeshop there once. (I don’t think he actually had a gun, but in those situations you kinda take their word for it.) Cars streamed by on the interstate all day and all night, and it never got dark at night.

In Jackson, we lived in the middle of the residential part of town and at night, it was so quiet it used to give me the creeps. After 11 years of living on a highway, dead silence at night was all too reminiscent of a zombie apocalypse. Of course there wasn’t one.

In Worthington, I lived on a fairly busy street, so you could hear cars every once in a while even at night, and in the summer you could always hear the races at the track, which was nice.

In Jamestown, I live in the downtown area, and there’s a car or two every once in a while even in the dead of night, which makes me feel like I’m not all alone in the world.

Here’s the thing. I’ve liked living in rural areas and small towns. I still like them. I’m living in a pretty big small town at the moment, and it has many massive advantages cities don’t have, like generally not being held at gunpoint and 3-minute commutes, not to mention more affordable housing. And there are still galleries and stores and concerts to attend, too.

There is no doubt, however, that rural areas do have their drawbacks. I’ve read a few interesting articles about some of these lately.

  • We may get less fruits and vegetables.
  • It may be hard to find health care, and really hard to find it close to home. Generally I’ve found health care to be pretty great in rural areas, but it seems to vary an awful lot depending on where you live. My brother and dad did some volunteer work in rural Appalachia and can likely tell all sorts of horror stories.
  • We may have less broadband access. Not everyone cares about this, but if you have a kid, it will mean a lot of staying after school to do homework. Even when I was a kid I had to stay after school to do homework before we got online, and that was back in 1997. It’s a whole lot worse now.

Efforts are being made to ameliorate some of these effects; I consider the rural broadband effort to be akin to the rural electricity movement of the 1930s, in giving rural people the advantages town/city people have had for a long time.

I hope people continue to study these things. And I also hope to continue explaining to city people why it’s great to live in small towns. And vice versa.

2 thoughts on “Rural Life: Better or Worse?

  1. Yeah, but there is nothing like waking up at 6:00 a.m. in the cold, unrelenting darkness of Leningrad (St. Petersburg now) to watch the Babuskas use straw brooms to sweep the snow off the streets in the 0 degree weather. It makes the obnoxious sounds of the snow plows seem much more acceptable…

    Give me small town America any day, where I know everyone and they know me, warts and all for each, over the anonymity afforded the big city dwellers.

  2. I was not in St. Petersburg in the winter, thank goodness. I probably would have died from not seeing the sun all doggone day long.

    I like the anonymity, but mostly because I can’t remember anybody’s names and I always feel guilty about it. I remember their hobbies, their kids’ ages and what they do for a living–just not their names…

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