Three years ago, I moved to a small town of 300 people near the Yukon-BC border. Since then, I’ve de facto become a rural real estate agent and lifestyle counsellor to my extended network of friends, many of whom are now contemplating ditching their city digs in favour of full-time cottage living. Here’s the advice I give them:
1. It can take time to make friends. It took me a year to make real social inroads. Newcomers tend to be transitory, and locals are sometimes cautious about investing in friendships, knowing their new pal might evaporate with the spring thaw. However, the vast majority of townspeople are warm, welcoming and will go out of their way to make you feel at home. Keep taking part and reaching out, and your small-town social calendar will soon be jam-packed with games nights and bonfires.
2. Be flexible. When I first moved to a small town, it drove me crazy how long it would take to go downtown and pick up the mail. I would inevitably get into several conversations which ate up half the morning. Gradually, I came to realize that those small social interactions are important to becoming part of a place. Budget extra time to accomplish errands and be flexible—nothing is instantaneous in a small town!
3. Don’t bring the big city with you. With satellite internet and cellphone service, it’s easy to get distracted and slip back into your big city ways. Try to keep in mind why you moved to the country in the first place. Was it the hiking opportunities, watching the sunset from the dock, creating more quality time with your family? Whatever your reason, spend time doing it every day.
4. Don’t be an island. For part-timers, the cottage is an escape from commitments and social obligations, but when you live in a remote place full time, building a community becomes fundamental to everyday life. We’re constantly lending tools, ploughing neighbouring driveways, and borrowing baking ingredients. A great way to start is to join your town’s community Facebook page where members buy, sell, and trade goods and services.
5. Road-test rural life. Think you’re ready to move to the country? I always recommend spending at least six months trialing small town life before making any major investments in real estate or renovations. If you still love a place after a full winter, you’re probably cut out for small town living!