Santa Fe may have good air quality, but it also has the ever-so-tempting Frito Pie…
We had a lot of great feedback from yesterday’s article on whether living in the city or the country is healthier.
It seems many of you have lived in both settings and have had some unique experiences that helped you decide where you really wanted to be.
Today, I’m going to continue on to address cost of living, transportation, mental health, pollution, more health considerations, and preparedness (disaster and economic fallout considerations.)
1. Cost of Living.
When we decided to move to Berkeley instead of Denver, we instantly added about $500-700 a month on to our rent.
We weren’t thrilled about it, but we knew that was a fact of coming to the Bay Area.
Some places are just more expensive than others.
In the city, rents are higher. The cost of food is higher. Restaurants are more expensive. Farmer’s markets are more expensive. Across the board everything is generally more expensive in most cities.
So the country can usually be a better place for you if you’re on a budget.
You will be able to find cheaper property, cheaper food and save more money than you may if you were in the city.
If you’re in a city, you can lower your costs though.
You can grow your own food at a community garden or on your small lot. You can take public transportation and get a bike. You can shop at the numerous thrift stores and you can use Craigslist and Freecycle to get things that your would normally have to pay for new in the country.
So there are ways to make city life frugal. We’ve managed – with a new mattress – to stay under our budget of $2500 to furnish our apartment. Over the weekend, we found two bar stools for our counter on Craigslist for $10. After this expense, we won’t have put any money into our place because we rent.
That’s another thing to consider. If you’re in the city for only 10-15 years or less, you may actually save more money by renting then you would if you bought a home in the country.
When you have property, you have to spend either money or time to take care of the grounds regularly as well as make repairs on the house that could cost as little as $100 or as much as a new $10,000 roof.
If you’re renting, the landlord takes care of the big stuff, while you can go out to the park and enjoy the day.
As you can see, there are ways to streamline your lifestyle so you don’t have to pay big chunks of cash to house repairs as well as get things on the cheap in the city, but regardless I do think it’s cheaper to live in the country.
In the city, you pay for convenience.
Like I said, we’re walking distance to some amazing produce, farmer’s markets and healthy restaurants. We’re 20 minutes from San Francisco. We’re 30 minutes from Marin. We can hop on the train and get to any airport in the area or just take Amtrak to L.A. or Seattle.
This leads me to my next category…
2. Ease of transportation.
Hands down, the city wins here.
I started to mention the transportation benefits of living in a city above. You have easy access to the airports, other cities and surrounding areas in most major cities.
Now some cities are better than others, and some transportation systems are more developed, but regardless, you can leave the car in the driveway (or on the street) and get just about anywhere.
In the country, or even suburbia, you generally have to drive a bit to get anywhere. My experience growing up in Connecticut is that the roads don’t have sidewalks (unless you’re in town) and it’s dangerous to walk or bike the windy, hilly roads.
We have friends who live in Northwest Connecticut and some have to drive 45 minutes just to be in a small town where they can access a hardware store or other services that aren’t anywhere near them.
When we were moving, my ultimate goal was to feel like I never needed to use the car. In fact, Annmarie and I have made it a point to pretend we don’t have one and figure out how to get somewhere without it.
Also, when you’re in the country and you’re living with a spouse, chances are you’re going to need two cars. This can increase the cost of living a little bit, but probably still not enough to eclipse living in the city.
So for transportation, like I mentioned above, the city is much better.
But if you don’t go anywhere, it doesn’t matter!
In almost all cases, there is less pollution in the country. Cities have more people, more cars, more industry and are dirtier.
The air quality is worse.
(Here’s a place where you can check what the quality of air is in your county in case you want to know: http://www.stateoftheair.org/)
There’s also noise pollution.
Yesterday, we went for a run in Tilden Park, which is in the hills of Berkeley. The views from the peaks of the Bay to the east and Mt. Diablo to the west are some of the most spectacular I’ve ever seen.
What’s not spectacular is that you can still hear road traffic off in the distance from I-80 and I-580.
Most country, unless you live near an industrial (or nuclear) plant, downstream from feedlots, or on contaminated land, is generally pristine.
(Though, I’d definitely test your soil and water and not assume.)
We did not rank pollution as a big consideration when making our move. We knew if we lived in a city that there would be more pollution than in the country.
What’s interesting is that an area like Boulder, Colorado, which you would think is pristine, has an air quality similar to Contra Costa County which is where we are now.
Also, in Berkeley, the air pollution is less than it was in Fairfield County, Connecticut where we lived previously. So it’s a step up from where we were before.
4. Other health considerations (including mental health.)
There are three other health considerations that I want to mention here.
First is sleep, next will be stress and finally, I’ll address overall mental health.
Sleeping in the country is dramatically better for two reasons. It’s generally quieter and there’s no light pollution – that means it’s darker at night.
In the city, there is light pollution – so it never really gets that dark – and there is most likely noise.
When we were in the RV, we had very dark blinds that would block the light coming in from parking lots and RV parks. This would make the room really dark, but in the morning, it would stay dark and we wouldn’t wake up to the natural light.
Even though it’s still not very dark here at night, we can sleep with the blinds open and then have the light wake us up in the morning. This is a much more natural way – I feel – to sleep.
The most natural, though, would be to sleep in the country in silence and complete darkness.
We picked a quiet street to live on, where maybe 30-50 cars pass a day, so we definitely get good sleep. It could be a little darker here at night, but you can’t get everything you want all the time.
In terms of stress, many people would say the city is more stressful.
I would argue that it depends on who you are.
If you don’t have to sit in traffic (take public transportation and ride a bike) and don’t mind being around people (in crowds) then you can be stress-free in the city as well.
In terms of your job, city jobs do tend to be more taxing on your adrenals. It’s just the nature of working in the city.
I love being around people and Annmarie does as well. We also love to explore and walk. Our jobs don’t require us to be in the office either, so our schedules don’t require us to drive at peak traffic hours.
This truly helps us be relatively stress-free in the city.
One thing that is an issue, and sometimes stressful (LOL!), is that when we do want to eat at a healthy restaurant there’s always a wait. This is not the case in the country. We have to learn to plan our trips to these places a day in advance. This way, we’ll actually get a table.
For overall mental health, I think it’s important to fit your personality. Cities are big for some people – too overwhelming. On the other side, the country can be relaxing at first, but you can get lonely and feel isolated.
Your mental health is extremely important in determining where you live. If you want to be truly happy, you need to know who you are.
My mental health suffers when we’re home for the holidays. You would think it’s because I can’t deal with family, but that’s not the case. The reason why I get in a slump is because we have to drive at least 15 minutes to get anywhere. I feel trapped. (I, of course, am not, but it’s how I feel.)
It also doesn’t help that it’s winter when we visit as well.
Anyway, the best way to test this out what is healthier for you is to really figure out who you are and what your needs are. Also, be brave and try something new if you’re in a slump.
If you’re lonely in the country, move to the city. If you’re tired of the race, move to the country for some rest and a recharge.
If you have kids, just weigh your options and do what’s best for the family.
For me, my mental health is fantastic in the city environment. I’ve done it before and love the possibilities it brings. Annmarie is new to it, but loves it already. She also is much more stable going into the office on a regular basis, which she can do here.
5. Preparedness, disasters, economic fallout.
Personal safety is probably the biggest topic that needs to be addressed.
There are a lot of people in the health world who also are fearful of economic, social and natural disasters. These people have chosen to move to the country to avoid the possible fallout from these events if they do happen.
They might be on to something.
In the light of the most recent disaster in Japan, this fear is completely understood and even Annmarie and I are wondering if we made a good decision to live in a place where there’s a 70% probability of a 6.7 magnitude earthquake (or higher) in the next 30 years. (US Geological Survey done in 1999.)
Moving to the country, provides you with a level of safety that you cannot find in the cities. It also, if you search for it, will provide local infrastructure for food and water in the case of a disaster.
These are real benefits to living outside of overpopulated areas in the case of a disaster or social / economic collapse.
So why did we choose the city based on this information?
Our own personal decision was made when we asked ourselves this question:
“Do we want live in an area where we know we’ll be unhappy (the country) based on our fear of collapse or disaster, or do we want to be happy in the face of all the possibilities?”
You know the answer to this question, we live in Berkeley. We clearly followed our hearts, not our fear. It may not be the best decision, but it’s the one that felt right.
I also wonder what the personal risk truly is.
Many people are irrationally afraid of flying (myself included), but choose to drive a car every day (which is much more dangerous statistically.)
I even choose to ride a bike, which is even more dangerous than driving a car.
So what is the risk of personal harm in a disaster?
I don’t know the answer to this. I do know that if there is a natural disaster or economic crisis things won’t be good. But this isn’t enough to move us out of here just yet.
What I do understand is the value of being prepared. We generally keep at least three 5 gallon bottles of water here in the apartment. We’ve made an earthquake plan and are in the process of putting together our preparedness kit – which includes food, whistles, a battery powered radio, and more.
We also plan on networking in the community to learn more about what systems they have in place in case something does happen.
In all, this is a very personal decision that requires a lot of thought. If you really think that the world is going to collapse, then get out. I have no information that you’re right or wrong. Your intuition may be better than the next.
If you can’t stand to live in the country, and are forcing yourself to do so because you’re afraid of a natural or economic disaster, I have to wonder what your true quality of life really is. If you’re not truly happy and living out of fear, what’s the point of living a depressed life in a place where you’re presumably safe from a disaster – but could be killed in a car accident at a much higher probability?
Obviously, there is a lot to consider when you decide if you would fit better in the country of the city.
Just like I suggested in the first part of this article, sit down and make a list with those who are involved and at least identify all the pros and cons of these categories that I mentioned.
Doing this will give you a good starting point to help you make your decision.
Also know that once you move somewhere, you can always move somewhere else. Our friends Michael and Tracy have moved more than a dozen times over the last 17 years or so. They’re thinking of moving again (and they have 3 kids.)
You’re completely free to decide what works best for you.
Just do me a favor and act on it.
I want to know your thoughts: Are you afraid of a natural or social / economical disaster in the U.S. or global cities?
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