I’m a city person. I grew up in a town of 50,000 (not a huge city but not a podunk). I moved to Los Angeles for college and from then on, I stuck to city life. I got addicted to all the amenities. When we moved to a small town, Whidbey Island, Washington, it threw me into a quiet life that I wasn’t used to. But I found a way to adapt, and I greatly enjoyed my experience there in the end. I never thought I’d want to move back, but now that I have so many local friends there, it’s actually an appealing thought. So how did this city girl adapt? And how can you? Here are 9 ways…
Take benefits of living in a small town
- Beautiful scenery. Even if it’s not up to your alley, typically there are many unique features of a remote area. In Anacortes where we lived in Washington, there were gorgeous waterways, mountain views, beaches, and beautiful scenery. We enjoyed many a ferry ride to the San Juan Islands and a whale-watching cruise. After driving cross-country, I can also tell you that while some places seem drab at first, they have a beauty all their own. You may have to search a bit.
- Local produce. Small, rural towns often have amazing produce in the summer. Depending on what part of the country you’re in and what climate, you may have quite the spread available. Once I drove out to a farm stand to pick up some apples for applesauce. No one was even attending it when I got there, and the money was on the honor system. Talk about a small town! It was such a beautiful drive and a fun experience.
- Local restaurants. Eating at local restaurants is another great way to survive the small-town life. Some of the restaurants in Anacortes and surrounding areas remain my favorites from all of our duty stations. The little hole-in-the-wall places are often the best. In Newport, RI during the winter, many of the restaurants seemed to shut down. However, the ones that were open would run dinner specials during the week when business was slow. We could go get a nice dinner with a bottle of wine and only pay the equivalent of one meal out. See if your area has any of these types of deals because they’re worth it!
With a little tasty food and drink, moving to a small town aren’t so bad lol.
It’s not as far as you think
- Be willing to drive to the city. As I did, you will probably be heading into town for the bigger stores at times. In Washington, I had to drive about 25 minutes to get to Costco, Target, Old Navy, and any other chain stores I wanted to visit. Sometimes it seemed like a drag to drive that far. It seemed like a long drive when I was on a highway breezing by farmlands. However, in a big city it’s not uncommon to head somewhere 25 minutes across town. I may have a Target five minutes away here in Virginia, but I often find myself driving for 20-40 minutes “across town” to various stores. Remember that and don’t worry too much if you have to drive a ways to the city… It’s all about perspective, and you’d probably be driving that far in a city too, at least sometimes.
Get to know your state and beyond
- Utilize small airports. Sometimes small towns are close in proximity to a smaller airport than your typical metropolitan international terminal. The Bellingham, WA airport is small, has easy & cheap parking, and is super easy to drop off and pick up passengers from. Even though smaller airports can have higher prices at times, they don’t always. Bellingham has a cheap flight directly to Hawaii. It was cheaper than Sea-Tac and much closer.
- Explore your region and all it offers. When we were stationed in Newport, Rhode Island, we were in was a fairly small town. It had more amenities than Anacortes but still wasn’t metropolitan by any means. We had a blast checking out the New England region including a trip to Vermont for the Ben & Jerry factory. From Washington, we also visited Canada.
Taking the time to go on weekend trips or even a day trip can be a great experience. You may see things you never knew existed!
Experience your community
- Get to know your neighbors. I know neighbors can be hit or miss, but you never know until you meet them. We had amazing neighbors in Washington and I miss them! They were very supportive during deployments and when our daughter was born. Small town people are great and can become friends, also can help a monotonous time turn into a more enjoyable and cheerful time.
- Volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to meet people. The local school district can always use volunteers in a variety of capacities. Other organizations or a visitors center can also use volunteers. You can learn so much about the local area that way, as well as make amazing friendships with locals. Friends can bring different perspectives to your life and give you insight into the culture of your area. It can also give you something meaningful to do if you’re looking for work but unable to find it. It may be an “in” to a job as well.
- Attend local sporting, arts & entertainment events. We like football, so in Anacortes, we braved the chilly weather and headed to a high school football game. Sadly the local team wasn’t very good and they got creamed. But we saw a bunch of friends from church there, and it was fun to be where a lot of the town was on a Friday night. We also attended a few shows & plays as well as some local festivals. It was a lot of fun, and we were spared from parking miles away, paying huge entry fees, and braving huge crowds. Sometimes small towns are really great!
If you’ve moved to a small town duty station and are bummed, take heart! You can survive it and even enjoy it. Just remember these 9 ways and you’ll be golden.