Since moving away from the city to a rural place 9 hours away, Kori and I have had one conversation more times than we can count:
Every city person: I wish I could do what you did. I hate the city.
Us: Yeah totally. You know, you could leave if you wanted to.
Every city person: Oh I want to! Maybe I’ll just save up and leave one day.
Now here’s the thing city person. WE BELIEVE IN YOU! You are fully 100% capable of leaving the city if that is really what you want. AND – there are a couple things we want you to know:
First of all, almost no one we know worked really hard in the city, saved up and then came here to live some idyllic life in the country. No one does that. At least no one we know. So our advice would be to just let that idea go right now.
Second of all, it’s important to understand that the city is an energy draining, psychically clogging, dream crushing, collective amnesia producing succubus and if you think staying there will somehow magically get you out of the city: you are delusional.
Perhaps we are a wee bit biased, but that’s honestly what we believe. That’s our experience and it became abundantly clear that the city was that way to us, especially once we had left and could compare it to country life. But we’re witchy-sensey-big feelings types whose priorities were growing food and making magic and harvesting medicine, which lend themselves more easily to our lifestyle out here.
Phew.. ok. Now that that’s out of the way. Let’s talk about the list.
This list was compiled from what we have observed from living in a rural place (Andi for the past year, Kori for the past 4). It will look different for places that are not the place where we live – and that’s ok. It’s an inspiration guide and a set of observations, not a personal road map. Also this list is drawn from an unceded British Columbian context and many of the links click through to Kootenay specific, BC or Canadian resources. That doesn’t mean similar programs don’t exist outside BC or even outside Canada.
Most people who live out here have employed at least a few (if not many) of these strategies to get where they are today. We’re not saying we agree with all of these strategies, but people do use them. Many of these strategies (like anything in life) are made easier by having more privilege. And we recognize that many of these options will prove helpful and accessible to some people and totally unhelpful to others. That being said, we think there is something on this list for everyone. And we know people who have done all of these options. Plus if you have some ideas we didn’t think of, you can feel free to email them to Andi and they can add them to the list.
Ok here we go..
The List, aka: How to get free from the succubus
1.) Selling your stuff: Look around you. Do you need all the objects you live with? Would you be able to put them all in a car and move them? Even if you could, do you want to? Is your car appropriate for rural living? You may have a lot of stuff you don’t actually need for country life. If so you can sell or trade these things and use the money as cushion when you move away.
2.) Throwing a party: Lots of people throw moving parties. Sometimes they use the party as a way to sell their stuff (see above). Sometimes they auction things off (like dates with their willing friends). Sometimes the party requires a paid ticket to get in, with the proceeds going to the person who is leaving. In almost every option it’s a nice way to say goodbye to all your city friends, without having to make individual plans with lots of busy city people. Either way, if you like to party, this option might be for you.
3.) Inheritances: Many people who own land out here are able to do so because they got an inheritance. If this happens to you, consider this: what do you want this money to go to? You could spend it on a tourist trip. People do that. You could also look into “investing” and lend your money to horrible corporations you would never normally support. But then again, you could also make a down payment on a piece of property. Where we live the cost of a whole property is often similar to the cost of a down payment in the city.
Read that sentence again. And memorize it. Treat it like mantra.
And also read this article, that talks about rewilding and buying land for super cheap in small towns. Living in a city can create the impression that buying property is totally out of reach for most people, because in the city often it is. In rural communities, that’s not necessarily the case.
4.) Accident settlement: This option functions similarly to the one above.
5.) Parental support: Do your parents (or other family members – biological, adopted or chosen) have money? Will they give some of it to you to follow your dreams? Are you assuming they won’t without having actually asked them? Maybe it’s worth it to at least try asking. Also, once you move away, if you are leaving the city they live in, they may come to miss you. They may also come to see your new life and be jealous, or proud of you, or both. Some people’s parents even come and live in the place their kid(s) moved to. It’s more common than you might think. The point is they may seem un-supportive now, but that might change once you actually make the leap. Asking for help is an important skill and one we often avoid to our detriment.
6.) Staying with family or in a family Home: Some people have rural family members. Some people have families with cabins in rural places. If this is you, have you considered asking if you can live with them, or in the places they own?
7.) Cost sharing: Often it’s easier to make the rural leap when you do it with someone else. Can you ride share? Did you know there is a queer ride share group on facebook? It’s called QUEER North America Ride Share. Can you find a place to rent with someone else? Or do you know someone who already lives rurally who could use an extra pair of hands and perhaps also some rental income? (hint: if you know us, then yes, you do). Teamwork is awesome. You don’t need to buy a property to get out of the city. You can also check out Young Agrarians for land linking partnerships and opportunities.
8.) Going into debt: Can you get a line of credit? Or a loan? Maybe those small business start up costs, that truck, that vanagon, those moving costs are within reach, if you acquire some debt. Heck most people who buy properties need mortgages, that’s a kind of debt. And what do you do with that debt once you have it? That’s really up to you. Some people take out lots of debt and then declare bankruptcy. Some people studiously pay it off and then have great credit. Some people do a mix of both and pray for financial collapse to get them off the hook.
9.) Debt consolidation: Is your reason for staying in the city that you already have loads of debt and you “just need to pay it off first”? Our question to you is, do you really need to pay it off? Lots of people declare bankruptcy and bail on their debt loads. We don’t talk about money very openly in our culture and this has been bred into us so we don’t hear about how other people have said ‘fuck it’ to following financial rules. More people choose this option than you might realize. Also, if you don’t want to just bail on your debt load, you could consider seeing a credit counselor. Sometimes they can help lower your debt load and make it into more manageable monthly payments. Plus if your main reason for not wanting to bail on your debt is that you someday want to own land, we recommend you read this article about purchasing affordable property rurally and consider that there are already loads of property title holders who want folks to join them on the land. Not being able to get a mortgage doesn’t need to stop you from living rurally.
10.) Getting a grant: Do you do grant based work? Can you take your grant money and go elsewhere to finish your project? Have you looked into grants that are available in the places you want to move to? There are tonnes of grants where we live and we had no idea they existed until we moved here.
11.) Speak to a career counselor: The career counselors where we live are awesome. It’s worth googling if such people exist in the places you want to move to and then talking to them. They can be really helpful and often know of jobs, financing options and special programs you might not be able to find on your own. This website will connect you with free resources in BC.
12.) Incentive programs: Where we live, if you have an EI attachment you can use your EI money to go into a small business development program called Community Futures. Lots of rural places have money to encourage and retain small business growth. In our community, there are also paid skill training courses that will help you upgrade your resume and forestry programs that will pay you to learn forestry skills. That being said, you need to check in with yourself regarding whether you want to do this kind of work, especially if it runs counter to indigenous land struggles in the area.
13.) Employment insurance: This is one of the most common ways people we know have made the leap from urban to rural living. You can ask your employer to list you as laid off when you leave your job, or you can sometimes write yourself out of a job. You just need to know what the requirements are and get all your ducks in a row so you can meet them. There are advocates (like career counselors) who can help you with this transition. If you work the kind of job where you pay into EI you might as well cash in. If you’ve been working for a long time you could potentially have a couple years of living expenses to fall back on.
14. ) Medical leave: This option is very similar to EI, but is for when you are are injured or sick. This can include a mental health crisis, like burn-out. It’s worth talking to your doctor about and at least exploring what your options are. In many cases your medical condition doesn’t need to be caused by your work – that’s what worksafe is for and often the benefits (at least in BC) are not as good with worksafe as they are for medical leave.
15.) Parental leave: This is also related to EI but is specifically for new parents. These benefits can be split between 2 parents and you can be eligible for them even if you adopt.
16.) Social assistance: This is the program also known as welfare. It can be a good option for folks who haven’t paid into EI. Getting onto social assistance can feel very daunting. This is done on purpose to discourage people from seeking benefits. Getting onto assistance and staying on it can sometimes require being near a government office. It’s wise to look up where the nearest office is to where you are planning to move.
17.) Disability benefits: The Person with a Disability (PWD) Status is a life-long designation. It offers more money than welfare and the benefits don’t end unless your financial situation changes. These benefits can apply to physical and mental “disabilities” as well as to episodic health challenges. In order to apply for PWD benefits you first need to go on Social Assistance.The application also involves working with a doctor and another approved assessor- you can get these folks on your side while you are still in the early stages. The process of getting these benefits can feel incredibly dis-empowering and run completely counter to radical approaches to wellness, inclusion and critical perspectives on our ableist culture- but if you can access them, they can be a big help.
18.) Seasonal work: This work can include mushroom picking, fruit gathering, tree planting or forestry work. Many people use this kind of seasonal work to save money, get in shape and then go on EI.
19.) Illicit cash work: This type of work can include sex work, selling drugs or trimming. All of which are fairly common in many rural communities, especially in BC.
20.) Flee the law and go underground: This can include things like draft dodging, running from charges or warrants, crossing a border “illegally”, or seeking refuge after intensely illegal activism. Some people also do this because they just don’t want the state to know they exist. This is much easier to do in places that have less close circuit cameras and a lower density of law enforcement officers. There is definitely overlap between this strategy and the one above.
21.) Working online: Working online allows for you to be wherever the heck you want, as long as you have internet connection (which, by the way is worth researching before you move somewhere – some places have horrible internet and some places don’t have it at all). Some types of online work include camming, selling things online, or telecommuting. Some urban jobs will even work out arrangements with you where you can do your work from home on the condition that you are available over skype or in person at regular intervals. Andi reads tarot cards online from home, for example. And they’d love to give you a reading.
22.) WOOFing: World Wide Organic Farms, or WOOFing is a global network of organic farms looking to trade room, board and skills training in exchange for labour. Some people WOOF for full seasons, some for only a couple weeks. It’s very flexible and rewarding way to take your first steps into rural living, especially if you have never farmed before and want to learn how. You can also check out Young Agrarians for land linking partnerships and opportunities.
23.) Farming internships: This is kind of like WOOFing, but it’s a more intense commitment. Often these internships require full season commitments and commonly they pay a small stipend or a percentage of market income. Often, but not always, farming interns are better integrated into communities than WOOFers, especially if they are committing to a full season. Young Agrarians posts many upcoming internships.
24.) Apprenticeships: Many local rural businesses are seeking apprentices. Some of these opportunities are linked to formal education in trades, but some are family business or things like herbal apothecaries that are not as deeply ingrained in institutional structures. Many of these positions are paid, some are not, and some are a mix of both where they require volunteer hours before paid work is offered.
25.) School: Many rural areas have great schools that have smaller class sizes, lower tuition costs and lower costs of living. It’s an urban myth that you can only get a valuable education in cities. Plus there are many free online options for education that don’t necessarily give you a certificate at the end, but will give you the knowledge you are looking for. And, in our opinion, living rurally offers a vast amount of learning in tangible, practical life skills, that formal academic education never could.
26.) Finishing your degree online: When Andi moved out here they thought their degree could never be finished (they didn’t particularly care at the time), but low and behold when they emailed an advisor they found out they could finish their degree online. There are many online learning programs in lots of areas of study. Most schools allow for some credits in your degree to come from places other than the school you are getting your degree from. It’s worth checking out if you can finish a portion of your education online.
27.) Having/getting a trade ticket: Many certifications are good across Canada and even if your certification is not you can still offer your services in trade, under the table, or openly as a non-certified person (all of which are way more common out here than you might imagine). Many people do their trade apprenticeships in the places they hope to eventually live in, in order to grow a community there before they finish training. Where we live there is a Women in Trades program. If you are a woman who is thinking about learning a trade, these programs are worth looking into.
28.) Travelling: Lots of people who live rurally showed up in a place while wandering aimlessly and never left. Why not go wandering and see where you end up?
29.) Purchasing or building mobile housing: Many people build, renovate or purchase homes like refurbished school busses, trailers or tiny homes. In our experience the budget for these projects are usually between $1000 and $15,000 dollars. These housing options can be parked almost anywhere and pad/space/hookup rental is often cheaper than a room or cabin. Plus these options can allow you to live on the road while you search for your ideal spot.
30.) Getting on the festival circuit: Many music and counter-culture festivals take place in rural settings and while most of the paying guests are from out of town, often the people who actually throw and staff the parties live locally. Festival circuits can offer employment and community connections. They also are typically rich with reality bending experiences and substances that can help people dream bigger than the city will usually allow them to. You don’t need to be a DJ to work a festival. A wide range of skills are needed to throw parties. This can include food vendors, dancers, set-up and take down and folks who do harm reduction, like us. Some of these positions are paid and almost all offer free tickets for labour.
31.) Learning rural money making skills: One of our biggest learnings when we moved rurally was learning to approach money making from a different perspective. We needed to learn that, at least where we live, most people have 3 to 5 income streams (we learned this in a job training workshop FYI – SCIENCE says it’s true). In the city we were used to having one or maybe two jobs, so this one took some time for us to wrap our heads and life goals around. It took us time to see that the things we do as homesteaders (gardening, making herbal medicine, canning, tending to animals) all produce tradeable and sellable products. And one of the best parts of living in the country after having grown up in the city is that there are tonnes of people in the city who want access to things like food and medicine where they know where it comes from. Many things can be mailed back to the city and often people coming to visit will take things back to the city for you. We also bring large amounts of items for trade when we go back to the city. Generally people are happy to see us, trade very generously with us and everyone feels good about these exchanges. Skill trades are a big part of rural money making as well. Rural living requires skilled labour. Can you fix cars, run a chain saw (did you know there is a women’s with saws training? – Andi took it, it’s awesome), creatively fix DIY plumbing or electrical? All these things will help you make friends and money or trade currency when you move to the country.
32.) Selling things at markets: Many people who live rurally often sell their wares at local markets. This can include things like food, medicine, art or other creative products. Many towns that are surrounded by rural areas have lively and well attended markets. Often people who live in these towns have expendable income and appreciate purchasing things from local farmers and artisans. Busking can also be a money maker for rural folks when they visit markets.
33.) Getting to know locals: We can not emphasize the importance of this point enough. When Kori first moved here their partner started volunteering at the local senior’s events. We still have relationships with folks here – folks who have been here for longer than we have been alive – as a result of that volunteer work. Locals know way more than you do about making it work in the country and are often happy to share knowledge, stories and resources. Plus they are often involved in important community initiatives and sometimes make amazing food they will trade with you – or just give to you because they like you and want to support the new generation of folks learning to live rurally. Sometimes they can also help you get jobs and find places to live. Plus in our experience older country women are some of the wisest and fiercest people we know. You don’t want to miss out on opportunities to hear their stories.
Another layer of this work is learning about the territory you plan to live on and what nations have been there ancestrally and perhaps still live on the territory today. If possible we would encourage you to seek out information related to protocol as well as gaining free prior and informed consent about you moving there. Many indigenous nations are engaged in active land struggles. It’s important to find out how you can act in solidarity with the indigenous people whose land you plan to move to.
Where we live there is a rich history of indigenous resistance, draft-dodging, racialized violence and resilience and various streams of counter culture, religious groups fleeing persecution and class struggle. There is much to learn about the history of any place you come to live and you and your community will benefit from you engaging with this learning.
34.) Getting onto local facebook and online groups: Some rural places have very active facebook groups. These groups can be amazing resources for sourcing things like free stuff, building supplies, animals or having your questions answered. These pages are also great for trade or building community connections when you have too much of something (Kori is allergic to apples and we have 13 apple trees, for example). Don’t be discouraged if you’re new rural community seems to have the internet activity of 1992. When these things change they often change quickly and having city internet skills can help keep you connected.
35.) Reading bulletin boards: Many rural places have one gas station and one store and often they are the same place. When this is the case the bulletin boards outside these places are major hubs for communication. Bulletin boards often have listings like job offerings, classes, things for sale, firewood and places to live. They are a great way to get in touch with locals, especially if online resources are less active or non-existent.
36.) Making posters: Because bulletin boards are so rich for community engagement, making posters to put on them can often yield the results you’re looking for. We know many people who have found homes, jobs and things they needed by making appealing, clear or even cute and funny hand drawn posters. You want your poster to stick out so it’s gets noticed amongst all the others.
37.) Work a rural customer service job: Is there a help wanted sign at the gas station? Or the restaurant? This might not be your preferred line of work, but it will allow you to meet locals and build relationships as you get paid.
38.) Local newsletters, radio stations and newspapers: Many of us are used to corporate media control to such a degree that we forget that some places still have community driven media. The publications in rural places are great sources for local news as well job opportunities and other community connections. Things like community radio and publications like the Country Grind offer folks access to unique information, ideas and art they otherwise might not have access to. Some small towns also have monthly newsletters, that list community events and important information.
39.) Volunteering: This is a great way to meet locals and also find out about job opportunities that might not be publicly posted (which is the case with many jobs). Plus in our experience (and maybe this is different in other rural communities) you are less likely to get a job at a place where the people doing hiring don’t know you and your quality of work, especially in the non-profit sector.
40.) Hitch hiking: If your town has a culture of hitchhiking and it’s generally understood as a safe thing to do, this can be a great way to meet locals, get your needs met and questions answered, similarly to the points listed above. Plus it’s a free mode of transportation.
41.) AA meetings: Again, this a good way to meet locals, connect with a sober community and also find things like housing and places to work. Many of our friends have found jobs through being part of AA.
42.) Joining a church: This is similar to the things listed above, but it connects you to spiritual community. One of the local churches in our community even reached out to the trans community here as they were working towards becoming an affirming congregation.
43.) Connect with local queer communities: There is a widely pervading view that queers need to leave rural places in order to find queer community. While this may be true in some places, in our community we have found that to just not be the case. And there is evidence that this hasn’t necessarily been true over time, either. Where we live there is a Pride March, LGBTQ youth meet up groups, Radical Faerie Coffee Meet up, Gender Outlaws meetings and a local paid trans advocate. And again, local facebook pages, websites like fetlife or okcupid, and posters are very useful for finding people in these communities. Much like exists in urban spaces there also queer folks throwing parties at their houses or on the land they live on. Here there is a queer land project that throws metal shows and at our house we have more of a womp womp electronic grindy make out vibe. Queer organizing in small places is still very grassroots and people powered.
Related to this are kink and poly communities that exist in rural spaces. A part of Kori’s work in the world is supporting such things and debunking the idea that such connections can only be found in big cities. Look for munches, dungeon parties and couples, individuals and groups that might be willing to invite you in for a date or playtime.
44.) Connect with local activist communities: Again, we feel there is a pervading view that when you move to the country you give up your activism, but we have found this to just not be true. There are incredible spaces where we live like The Nelson Women’s Center, which is one of the oldest women’s centers in Canada. There is also radical reproductive justice work happening here and lots of food security and anti-pipeline activism as well. Plus, as witchy types, we have found we are pretty surrounded by folks who are engaged in magical work and we see rural spaces as very rich for opportunities to organize magical community.
45.) Shacking up with locals: We’re not advising you to take advantage of people, but many people do end up living with, falling in love with, or building families with people who already live in the places they move to or are visiting.
46.) House sitting: Lots of people in the country get house sitting gigs where they end up living rurally rent free in exchange for taking care of animals, watching over gardens, or just keeping an eye on a house while the usual people who live there go away for a while. Again, knowing locals is very helpful for this. Posters can be helpful for this also.
47.) Trade: Many rural communities have rich trade based relationships. This means you will be able to live with less money than you needed in the city, because much of your life style can be paid for in labour, or goods you produce while living off the land. You can also develop a rich line of trade between your rural home base and your city connections. Often city folks will value rural trade items more highly than rural folks because of their decreased access to such items. Plus many city people may want to support you, especially if they miss you and can see that you seem happier and more fulfilled, having had left the city.
48.) Adjusting your standards: Do you expect to have running water, an indoor toilet and internet access? How negotiable are these things? We have all of them, but many rural folks don’t. Many rural places require that you build or install these things if you want access to them. This is part of why rent is so much cheaper rurally. That being said, many places do have these things but it can sometimes be harder to find a place to live at first if you are unwilling to part with these “necessities”. Also, keep in mind, many of the places we live in, in cities, are equally decrepit (though often in different ways) but we pay way more money to live there.
49.) Re-evaluate security: Many of us have grown up understanding security to mean a paycheque, a job – maybe even a house, a car, insurance. But what kind of security do these things really offer? Are we, in the words of metric, just buying this car to drive to work and driving to work to pay for this car? Yes it’s possible you will have less financial security living rurally, but you might also have access to the clearest water you’ve ever drank (ours is ph perfect and makes you gayer) and a deeper connection to your food than the city ever could offer. When Andi recently quit their job a big part of what made that feel possible for them was a freezer full of meat we raised ourselves. Plus our chickens started laying eggs right after Andi sent their resignation letter. Sometimes you gotta let something go to get something back. Sacrifice is a necessary part of any life change.
50.) Re-evaluating city life: Are you really that financially secure in the city anyways? The city we left to come here has progressively higher and higher rents (almost everyone Andi knows has been renovicted) paired with a steadily decreasing quality of life. If this isn’t the case, then why does the conversation at the start of this blog happen to us with literally every urban person we talk to. After reading this piece a friend of ours who used to live here sent along this note:
“I want to add that taking care of the self in an environment you aren’t suited for can have some major $ costs. when i was living in the city I had roughly $450/wk spending money past groceries and rent and making payments on my student loans, and trying to cope with the city, (late night pizza delivery, buying clothes and stuff i didn’t really need, alcohol, etc, I somehow, week after week, would empty my account. and i still wasn’t happy or healthy. coming to the valley, I was happily living on $75/wk, and often collecting some savings. During that time I was the happiest and healthiest I have ever felt. So city living can really feel like a deep dark hole of no escape financially, but very good to know that by making the move, your self care costs can go way way down.”
51.) Re-evaluating your urban life goals: Is your current career path getting you any closer to your dreams? Will you really get a job with the degree you’re pursuing, or at the end of your unpaid internship? Even if you did, do you actually want that job? Is paying off that debt going to set you free? Will those people come with you if you wait long enough? Maybe all these things are true for you, but maybe they aren’t. It’s worth at least asking yourself before you spend any more time feeling miserable in a place that you hate. Or you know, you could drop some acid (or other psychedelic) and see how you feel when you come out the other side. And of course, you can always come to Andi for a tarot card reading.
52.) Just doing it: This is the key ingredient. Lots of people plan and plan for years and never make it here. It’s the people who at some point just did it that make it. We recognize that making this leap can be far more challenging for some people than it is for others. It is not our desire to erase or ignore that reality. We wrote this because as people who’ve made the leap we are able to see all the pathways, options and opportunities that exist outside the city, that when we lived in the city, we just couldn’t see. We wrote this to inspire you with possibilities and have new pathways be lit up for you.
And when you’re ready to make the jump, we would really love to have you.
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