Moving From the Big City to a Small Town

By: Mary Middlebrook

Having recently moved from Los Angeles to Durango, Colorado- a mid-sized rural town of 15,000 people with the nearest "large town" being an hour away and the nearest city being 3.5 hours away- I have definitely run into a few bumps. Being prepared for the changes can make all the difference. Here are five major areas of concern you should research prior to making the big move.

Economy: Job opportunities in rural areas can be quite limited. And what jobs are available may be low paying. Get a copy of the classifieds section of the town you're planning to move to. Are there lots of jobs available? What industries are hiring? What is the pay? These are all questions you need to consider. Also, the cost of living in small towns- especially when it comes to shopping- may be more than you're used to, simply due to the shipping costs involved in getting products to out of the way areas. And definitely consider the real estate market as well. If you have to move from your small town, how long can you expect your house to be on the market? Many areas have upwards of a one year average for a home to sell.

Schools: If you have children, your primary concern when considering moving to a rural area should be education. Many rural school districts- such as Durango- have excellent schools, but many don't. It is important to throughly research the performance of the schools before deciding to make your move. Because once you're there, you are generally limited to the public school system, as private options are rarely available.

Travel: Most rural areas will have a small airport that services the region. But if you are a frequent traveler, this can present a few different problems. For someone coming from a larger city, you're probably used to being able to get direct flights to almost anywhere. Not so from rural airports. You will generally have to make at least one connection to get to anywhere. And you will pay a higher price for this inconvienince. For example, a roundtrip ticket from my home in Durango, Colorado to Houston, Texas averages upwards of $600- with a connection. We generally opt to drive 3.5 hours to Albuquerque so we can get a direct flight for $250. Also, fewer airlines service small airports, which means if you have a ton of frequent flyer miles saved up on your favorite airline, you may find that they are unusable.

Shopping: Coming from a large city, you are used to having most anything you want or need at your fingertips. If that is important to you, you definitely want to research the shopping options in the rural area you are planning to move to. Be prepared to have to drive quite a distance to get to a mall or any of the "big box" retail chains. Shopping online is another option for those items that can't be found in your area. And be aware that fresh produce may be an issue. Produce normally has to be trucked in to rural areas, and can be aged and damaged by the time it reaches the local grocery store. I've found that most of the produce in Durango is either over ripe or under ripe, and typically is bruised. Farmer's markets and local merchants that carry regionally grown produce are excellent alternatives and are highly recommended.

Arts & Entertainment: Durango is a college town and a tourist town, so I am fortunate enough to have a decent variety of local entertainment to choose from. We have two small movie theaters, a college with a concert hall that offers cultural arts, a few museums with changing exhibits, and many venues that offer live music from area musicians. If entertainment is important to you, make sure you do a little research and see what is offered in the area you're planning to move to. Depending on the size of the town, there may not even be a movie theater!

Leaving behind the big city for a rural area definitely has its advantages, but you do need to be aware of some of the potential pit falls and prepare yourself and your family. Hopefully this article has given you something to think about before you start packing!

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