Country and city

It’s a familiar story for most of us, especially readers and movie-watchers: the city transplant landing in the country. Whether due to a witness-protection mandate (“Did You Hear About The Morgans?”), a mid-life crisis (“City Slickers”) or to avoid the IRS (“For Richer Or Poorer”), sending city folk to live among their country kin is usually a recipe for hilarity.

While I’m not strictly a city girl, I have grown up close to Washington, D.C. — and always feel more metro than country. Some kids in my suburban town drive tractors around the family farm, sure, and you’re likely to spot Southern Maryland’s agricultural roots on a drive through the tri-county corridor. But for the most part? All the country-music-listenin’, yeehaw-shoutin’ camaraderie hasn’t always endeared me to a slower-paced lifestyle. I didn’t relate to it.

I love London. And New York. And San Francisco. I used to feel at ease navigating subway maps and late-night diners, climbing in elevators to the tops of skyscrapers. Soaking up urban landscapes. People-watching in parks. But though I love visiting cities, they’ve started to make me anxious. The busy sidewalks turn chaotic. Waiting in line for restaurants becomes frustrating. The constant din, the close quarters . . . all make me feel claustrophobic and ready to leave, ready to return to shopping centers with plenty of parking and distinctly less freeways.

On the flip side? Every time I visit somewhere rural, out and away, I’m captivated by the open space and fresh air. The puffy clouds on the horizon. The lack of traffic, lack of hurry. Less of a sense of watching the clock, more just enjoying the moment. My whole mindset shifts into something as tranquil as a fishing pond: I’m at peace.

Part of it could be that my country trips feel like miniature vacations. (In fact, Spencer has bemoaned the fact that I declare everything an opportunity to “be on vacation.”) Being in the country means I’m not in Southern Maryland, which means I’m not at work (where there’s work to be done) or home (where there are chores to be done).

It means I’m away. And that alone is relaxing.

I need to find a way to bring a little of that “country” mindset back to the ’burbs with me.

City vs. country — where do you stand? Somewhere in the middle, like me? Did you grow up in one or the other — and are you on the flipside of that atmosphere now?


27 thoughts on “Country and city

  1. I spent the first 18 years of my life on a farm (and by farm, I mean 20 miles from the nearest shopping mall and a good 15 or 20 minute drive to a grocery store). I love going back home and relaxing, but it does get old to have to pack up and take food and drink every time you head out for somewhere. My bottom line, rural is great to visit but I’ll stay in my mid-sized city, thanks!

    • Mid-sized cities most definitely have their advantages. I didn’t know you grew up on a farm, Sandy — how interesting! I don’t know if I could do a 20-minute drive to the grocery store . . . I’m spoiled.

  2. I live in the city but I orginally come from the country. I would love to move back but there are no jobs available. I’m content living in the city for now, but eventually I would like to find something in the middle.

  3. Definitely grew up in the country, but have always felt out-of-place there. Don’t get me wrong, I love the quaintness of main streets, the simplicity of bonfire get-togethers, and seeing the stars at night. But what drives me nuts is the small-mindedness and general dislike of anything considered ‘other’. And by other, I simply mean having three ear piercings or admit to being pro-choice. The city allows me to speak my mind, feel free to be myself, and the opportunity to learn about diverse cultures. If I ever find a small little town that can provide me these services, I might just change my city ways.

    Plus, the conveniences of city living are hard to beat. Restaurants, concerts, opera, parks, zoos, shopping choices, museums…the country ain’t got ’em.

    • I definitely appreciate what you’re saying, Brooke — and why the city would hold so much appeal. And yeah, you really can’t ignore the conveniences! Regardless of where I someday wind up, I’d have to have restaurant choices. I’m way too into eating out.

  4. I love that photo of New York City! Living in the NYC, I have mixed feelings about cities. They inspire me but I also crave quiet and I can often be found searching for abandoned places at the edges of a city just to find that quiet. The country, the open-ness of it, makes me feel at peace. I tell myself that I will live in a rural town eventually because I need that space and that quiet but I don’t know…we’ll see.

    • I’m sure I would be much like you in NYC, Melissa (and if I wind up there, can we be best friends?). The openness of the country makes me feel at peace, too, but the rigors of city life are inspiring, too.

  5. I love visiting cities. I adore visiting the country. When I vacation I do a bit of both. But honestly, I’m such a suburban girl. I crave my convenience.

  6. I’ve never lived in the true country. Suburban areas, yes, but never a truly remote, natural location. I love the visiting the country. I LOVE the energy of cities. Vibrant, alive, electric! I like to try to spend some of my time in both. I find they feed my soul in different ways. The country nourishes me, quietly replenishes my spirit. The city electrifies my soul.

    • I’m much like you, Isadora — and that’s why it’s so great to travel! I love experiencing both . . . and returning home in between.

  7. Oh I am very definitely a city person!!! I love how everyone is always out and on the go. I love how even at night there are still people up and about everywhere. And I also like how anonymous you can be in the city. I think the country actually makes me feel agoraphobic, LOL! Although, my first time in a mountain city the mountains did make me feel claustrophobic.

    • Nothing beats walking around New York City at night. When my sister and I were there in May, I couldn’t believe how many people were walking around Times Square at midnight. Kate and I were nervous about walking back to our hotel after seeing “The Newsies,” but that turned out to be ridiculous. There were approximately a billion other people headed in the same direction we were.

  8. I grew up in Chicago. Since being married I’ve lived in Forest Park and Oak Park, Illinois — both close-in suburbs of Chicago with easy public transportation to downtown Chicago. I’m a city girl — could not survive in the country — though there is something about country life that intrigues me. I can’t imagine living so far from the nearest neighbor.

  9. I grew up in a city, and then spent too many years living in the suburbs. I love being back in the city now! Even when I’m vacationing, I’m more likely to want to try a city destination (although beaches are my second love).

  10. I love to visit cities and I don’t mind working there either. I could never live there, I need land for a garden, and wildlife a little more exotic than squirrels and sparrows.

    I spent 20 years working in downtown Chicago, which was great. No driving, take the train in, walk everywhere, culture galore, fantastic restaurants … and then go home to my (used to be) peaceful outer suburb, which is now getting a little too built up.

  11. I grew up in the country – like Sandy, we were at least a 20 min drive from the nearest grocery store, and getting to school took longer than that. Although my family didn’t farm, we were surrounded by fields and tractors and cows. As a kid it was nothing short of fantastic. I now live in a bigger city than the one I grew up outside of, and I love it. Oh dear, do I love it. And visiting New York this past June? So amazing! I had people telling me that I would be tired of the noise and busyness by the end of the week. But the only thing I was doing at the end of our trip was figuring out when I could come back.

    Once in a while I’m hit with homesickness for the wide open skies of the prairies, but I am definitely at home in the convenience and activity of the city.

  12. Like you, I love big cities. Wish we lived in one! We are in suburbia and I’ve never really been at home here. Give me someplace I can walk to get coffee, please! That being said, I’ve started taking 45 minute walks on fairly rural paths and I feel so good, so centered when I get back home. There’s something to be said for the stillness.

  13. I’ve found that I’m somewhere in the middle. I grew up in Northern Maryland where you just have to drive a couple miles out of the city center to be in the middle of fields. I always found it a little boring when I actually lived there. I’ve been in DC for the past few years and am getting ready to move to suburbia, but a noisier, busier suburbia than where I grew up. Living in the city is okay but you never really feel like you can get away….

  14. As a city boy, I have often wondered about this topic at length. Having spent my first 52 years in New Orleans, my wife and I moved to “the country” back in 2003. We were seeking land for our gardens and my wife’s collection of animals. She is an animal lover of mega proportions. We also considered that moving more to the north, we could avoid the nearly annual evacuations brought on by incipient hurricanes. Unfortunately, two years later, Katrina proved us right.

    In any event, here we are in the countryside, some 60 miles from the Big Easy, and 30 miles from the nearest suburb. I have to agree with some of your correspondents, it can be a lonely situation. The peace, quiet, and relative safety are balanced with inconvenience, lack of community support (i.e. no newspaper or pizza delivery), high gasoline bills, and that “other” factor mentioned by Brooke. It reminded me of my Dad, who retired to the country to please Mom back in the 70’s, and often told me how different “country folk” are. His way of putting it was that “they didn’t know how to do business!” This is certainly still true today, whether it is actual business or personal relations we are referring to. Country folk do balance this though, with their outward friendliness and willingness to help. So, there is good and bad in any situation.

    On the plus side, both my wife and myself have, after 10 years of commuting, recently found decent jobs in our small town, just 10 miles away. So, for today, we have incomes, two cars that mostly work, a nice house to live in, and plenty of land for our enterprises. I am just one year from Social Security, and with the grace of Providence, we look forward to a nice retirement. Thanks for allowing me this opportunity to reflect.

    Jerry Laiche

  15. I think I’m firmly in the middle. I grew up in Indianapolis, lived in London for awhile, fell in love with New York, Budapest, Paris, Seattle, San Francisco, Portland and Vienna, so I do love big cities. But my parents live on a farm and raise chickens and have a lovely garden. I love to go camping and just enjoy the outdoors. I’m some strange hybrid of a country/city mouse and I think that’s ok.

  16. The smallest place I have ever lived in (Canberra, Australia) had a population of about 150,000 and even that was too small town’ish for me. The biggest was Jakarta which was over 10 million with really poor public transport, bad pollution etc. I quite enjoyed it though. In contrast, my husband’s family live in a tiny, isolated community of about 2,000. We often spend our first week holidaying there fantasising about how nice it would be to live there full time and the second week getting annoyed at how you just have to pick your nose and the whole community knows about it in about 20 minutes. We are now in the outer suburbs of Sydney (a city of about 4 million) which is a nice happy medium, ie, fresh air, community etc but still part of a big city. Having kids make you appreciate the boring a bit more, I think.

  17. I have lived in San Jose, California my entire life. My city is the former capital of California and larger both in area and population than our famous neighbor to the north, San Francisco, however, it is far less famous (unless you are a hockey fan). While I do love driving the 50 miles to SF and experiencing the allure of a world-class city, I love coming home to my condo in downtown San Jose. I love the ability to own a car without the added expense of additional storage fees or potential parking tickets. I love the fact that supermarkets and shopping malls have real parking lots and that there are still places where empty fields exist in my city. The population has steadily increased from about 650K in 1980 (right before I was born) to about 970K today. While that\’s a highly dense population, given the size of the city, it never feels oppressive. I have thought about moving to a denser city (SF or New York City) and I have also entertained the notion of moving to smaller places. Neither truly appeal. I think I\’m happiest in cities, and even more so, cities that have suburban feel. I think my only other possible destinations would be Seattle or Vancouver, because I truly love the Pacific Northwest, also.

Comments are closed.