Friends who moved here from Blacksburg last year have decided to return to live in the university town, buying a house there. Both will continue to work within the Floyd County educational system but will commute here from Montgomery County.
This prompted a conversation with a third friend who shook his head and wondered aloud just why they would give up a slice of heaven in the country to return to the quasi-urban madness of the New River Valley.
As someone born in an urban area (Tampa), raised in mostly-rural areas (Gibsonton, Fla., Farmville, Va., and Floyd County) and who lived most of his adult life in urban settings (St. Louis and Washington, DC), I can understand why some folks just don’t find country life all-that-enticing.
Newspapers and magazines often carry stories about urbanites who escape the city for the tranquility of country life only to return to the city within two years. The Washington Post calls it “reverse urban flight.” During our 23 years in Washington we knew a number of couples who fled the city but quickly returned.
In Arlington, our “yard work” consisted of sweeping off the outdoor carpet on our condominium balcony. It took, at most, about 15 minutes. Tending to our three-and-a-half acre yard in Floyd County takes a weekend and more.
We owned a “garage condo parking space” in the garage under our building and our monthly condo fee paid for upkeep. If there was a problem, we left a note at the front desk and it was taken care of. We now toil endlessly to keep the ruts and potholes out of our 450-foot long, uphill grade of a driveway. It’s a losing battle.
If we didn’t feel like cooking our going out to eat in Northern Virginia, we could pick up the phone and get food delivered from more than 50 nearby restaurants. We could walk to the grocery store, the post office, the bank or nearby shopping areas. We could shop for groceries at 2 a.m. or get a quick bite to eat at one of two nearby diners at 3.
Of course, all these amenities cost a lot more. The cost of living is far higher. Our property taxes for a 1300-square-foot condo were five times what they are for both our home in Floyd County and our farm in Carroll.
Some people find they cannot live without the amenities of the city. So they return. Others adapt and learn to do without, feeling the country lifestyle offsets the losses of other things. Some try to compensate by working to bring the amenities of the city to their rural environments which, of course, destroys a major part of why they and others moved there in the first place. Spend a little time in the traffic around Smith Mountain Lake and you can more easily understand the dangers of trying to merge city amenities with a country lifestyle.
True, we sometimes miss the ability to get Chinese food delivered at midnight but that is easily offset by relaxing in the hot tub and listening to the crescendo of crickets in the woods behind our home. Eventually, we will win the battle of the driveway and, hopefully, victory will come without the need for paving. A plan for new trees to reduce the size of the yard will cut back on some of the mowing.
City life is not for everyone, but neither is life in the country. Each serves those with different needs, different lifestyles and different interests. Our friends are young and still have many life adventures ahead of them. We’ve been there, done that. Now we approach what AARP calls the “twilight of our years” and country life offers a more relaxing environment for that.
Some call it “different strokes for different folks.” We call it choices. We made ours. They made theirs. Neither is necessarily right nor wrong. It is simply a matter of personal preference.