For many people, small towns seem like a place where folks used to be from. And it is undeniable that metropolitan areas are growing because they have a lot of exciting activities. But seriously, this is America, and just an hour or two of driving can get you to see all that stuff.
And what you gain by living away from the big city more than makes up for the travel you make once a month (or year, or decade depending on how much you really care to see that stuff). There’s things you can get in a small town that you’ll be able to do in a city, such as…
1) Pay Off Your Student Loans
Yes, you can pay loans in a city, but that little thing called “cost of living” is rather expensive. In the six years I lived in the city I learned the best deal you’ll get for rent is when you live with way more of your buddies than is logical and don’t mind hearing gunshots and fistfights occurring in the alley behind you.
In a small town, housing is more affordable. Yes, availability can sometimes be an issue, but right now in Tyndall if you wanted a decent three bedroom house you would have no problem buying one for under $50,000. For less than a new pickup, you can have a home, a yard, a garage and mortgage payment. And actually have money to make your student loan payment!
It’s not just housing. Pretty much everything from the mechanic’s shop to the garbage service charges less in a small town than in the city. Okay, depending on your job you might get paid a little less (maybe, don’t count on it because it can go the other way too), but if you look at your net income after basic expenses you’ll have to get paid pretty good to make up the difference. Which means you can actually have a life and not stress about paying those stupid loans. Speaking of having a life, small towns actually have advantages there too.
2) Small Town Celebrations are Awesome
Ever wished you could just walk down the street and have people hand you free hot dogs and beer? Want a spectacular fireworks show that you can get so close to the concussions of the explosions feel like a Wyoming wind hitting your face? You want an authentic cultural experience complete with traditional Czech dancing? All of that you’d get if you lived in a small town in Bon Homme County.
When you don’t have enormous organized events sponsored by multinational corporations, instead you have communities that get together to make fun happen. Old traditions run deep, with roots that stretch back to the other side of the pond many times. And if you want to be involved with the events (even lighting the fireworks) you are more than welcome to lend a hand. Just ask one of your neighbors, who you might have met at the local bar, where…
3) Local Bars/Cafes are Basically all Like Cheers, Where Everybody Knows Your Name
You walk in, the people behind the bar and at the bar tell you hello by name. Not because they are paid to, but because they freaking know you. Go the the cafe downtown, and they’ll have your favorite meal whipped up and at your table before you even ask.
It’s pretty great to go to a place where the food doesn’t come from a random person, but from a friend. And if you have a calving call and have to run out the door real quick before you can pay, it’s ok, because they know you’ll square up when you’re in next time, because…
4) There is Little Crime
If there is a murder anywhere in the state of South Dakota, it is the top news story for the week. If there is a robbery, people are shocked. I’m not saying that things don’t get stolen ever (thanks a lot meth/heroin), but it says a lot that if you lock the doors to your house when you leave for work you are in the minority of people in a small town.
There’s probably a lot of reasons for this, but two big ones stick out in my mind. One is because everybody knows everybody, if there is a person snooping around your house when you’re not home the neighbor is likely to notice. Two, rural people are adamant about personal property rights, which leads to the fact that in a small town…
5) Your Castle is Your Castle
There are no homeowners associations. Town ordinances are very basic, like “Please don’t build a personal sewage treatment plant in your backyard.” As long as you aren’t going out of your way to really tick off the whole neighborhood, people don’t care what you do with your house.
Want to paint your house pink with polka dots? Grab a can of paint and have at it. Want a pirate ship in your backyard? Avast ye scallywag, hoist the Jolly Roger! Buy the empty lot next door, dig it into a small pond, and sail the Black Pearl to ye heart’s content. Just call the digger’s hotline first so you don’t electrocute yourself in the process.
But really, your ideas don’t have to be crazy to enjoy the freedom to do what you want with your place in a small town. We built a run for our dog and put up a carport for the vet pickup. It required a building permit. The permit literally cost $1. I simply walked into the city office and told them this is what I wanted to do. They said, “That’s cool, just make sure it’s at least X feet away from the center of the alley so we can push the snow in the winter. That will be $1.”
Remembering back to when I lived in the city, you couldn’t even go to any office and get that kind of treatment. It’s not that the urban people were mean, it’s just that they saw so many different people per day. It probably comes down to the basic aspect of living in a small town, which is…
6) You are a Person, Not a Number
Simply put, there’s less people, so you know each other better. Obviously there’s good and bad to this, but it also means that relationships with people become less superficial. When you go to the grocery store, the cashier asks how your dog is taking the weather. The guy at the gas station talks with you about your kids that go to school together. And so on and so forth. When it comes down to it, in a small town you matter.
So start up that Mellencamp album and cruise your way into Small Town America. No, it isn’t New York or Chicago, but isn’t that the beauty of it?