So You Want To Move To A Small Town |

I remember when I started this blog back in 2012, I was stationed in Washington D.C. of all places and living in an apartment south of Old Town, Alexandria.  I had a reloading station in my apartment, guns under the bed, a storage unit within walking distance full of supplies and an extreme desire to get away from all those people.  Alas, the US Army had different ideas for me at the time.  Once home from that tour I was back to my vinyl sided home in a subdivision approximately 30 miles outside of another major metropolis, a short drive from any number of strip malls and retail outlets.  I wanted, I needed to move further away from others and embrace the small town mentality.

In 2016 I was fortunate enough to move to the mountains of Colorado, to a town small enough that it had no stoplights, 1 gas station, 3 restaurants, 1 hardware store and the nearest grocery store 30 minutes away.  I knew that bordered up to the national forest I had found paradise but in reality I had no idea just how “small” this town would be and how hard it would be to break into the local community (this as opposed to being seen as an outsider).

The Harsh Reality

I came into this area with some reasonable skill sets, both from 2 decades in the military and also some corporate experience.   I was a patriot who loved his country and who was excited to be part of the community.  Guess what…nobody cared.  By that I mean, they REALLY did not care.  While I thought I had value and tried to connect with folks it took literally years to overcome the transplant / outsider label and transition to an actual local who was recognized as such.  I cannot confirm but could suspect that this would apply not only to where I live in Colorado but to many other rural places throughout the country.  Be aware of this dynamic and prepared to address it if you plan on moving.

Starting Small

I quickly realized that instead of going big I had to start small and by that I mean, folks within a mile radius of my home.  That meant connecting with my neighbors, learning about them and figuring out how we could collaborate on projects or just hanging out during a weekend cookout.  Those connections helped develop other connections which helped expand my level of credibility and influence.  These were folks who have lived up here for 40 years or more with considerable influence in and knowledge of the community.  Those friendships were / are / continue to be invaluable.

Tiered System of Residents

Everyone really does know everyone and  if you’re part of the loop it’s much easier to get things done.  From chimney work, deck work, fire mitigation, plumbing or even trading services at local shops the ones with the connections are the locals because there just aren’t that many options.  It’s not that a new resident couldn’t get someone to look at their well (for example) but that could be weeks, whereas I shoot a text and usually the guy is over looking at my well in the afternoon / next day.

Despite being part of the cool kid crowd I am not, nor will I ever be part of the old school crowd.  These are the folks who are in their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s who have lived up here their entire lives, the true natives and trust me: they will not let you forget it.  As far as I can tell the hierarchy around here goes something like this:

  • New People (aka Transplants aka City People):  Folks who move in from out of state or up from the city.  They can learn to adapt or after the first winter they usually move back to where they came from.
  • Locals (not connected):  Folks who have been up here a few years or more and have enough staying power to make it but never really choose to immerse themselves in the community.  They work from home or commute to the city, choosing to stay within their own bubble.
  • Locals (connected):  Folks who live and thrive in the local community, not just for the service related connections but because in times of need knowing mountain neighbors can only be a good thing.
  • Natives (Old school): Mostly retired, these folks have seen it all.  They will tell you about the wildfire from 30 years ago, the snowstorm from 20, when there used to be 1/2 the homes that are currently in the area.  They also know the lay of the land and where just about every dirt road goes which could also be beneficial in times of need.

The Bottom Line 

In a post COVID and much more connected world “going to the office” has taken on new meaning.  More and more folks have the freedom and flexibility to work from home which means they can live wherever they choose.  Maybe that place is the country or the mountains, further out from the cities which they once inhabited.  The only issue with that is many other folks are pursuing that course of action, driving up property prices (demand) and building on vacant lots to pursue their own little piece of paradise.  This could make it harder or more expensive to find a nice spot but they are still out there.  If you do move be aware of the dynamics listed above when it comes to small towns, obviously these are my own experiences / observations but they probably apply elsewhere.

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