Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The Allure of Small Towns for Big City Freelancers (slate.com)
274 points by wallflower 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 241 comments



Finally - A positive perspective on small town living.

When I read the stories of big city lifestyles I'm amazed so many people opt-in to it. Traffic, noise, concrete everywhere. Yuck - but to each their own.

I'll take my country life as a remote worker going on 8 years. Trees, forest, wildlife, fresh air, backyards. 5 minutes walk or 1 minute drive to a shop for groceries, hardware, lumber, restaurants, kid parks.

Everyone knows each other. Very tight knit community. Don't even get me started on cost of living differences. I'll never leave.

Remote work really levels the playing field and unlocks a lot of potential for rural and small towns. All happening at a time when the staple of resource extraction is declining but global connectivity is increasing. There may be a bright future for small towns yet.


Not trying to start a "town vs city" argument - to each their own, as you said - but I think people who don't live in big cities misunderstand what life is like there. In NYC you hear tourists say "I could never live here". The thing is, as someone who lives in New York, I also could never live here, if _here_ is Times Square or some other tourist hotspot. Cities are just collections of neighborhoods. In your neighborhood you recognize your neighbors and feel the same community spirit you would in any town. The difference is that you can get on a subway or bus and see people or have experiences that would require a trip to the airport somewhere else. But the real thing I love about city life are the opportunities you have every day to come into contact with people who are different than you. Going for a jog in the winter through a Hasidic neighborhood, an elderly man in a wheelchair is stuck in the snow, so I help him get to temple. A woman with a cane who has clearly had a very different life than me needs a seat on the subway, we make eye contact and I get up for her, she says thank you and I say no trouble. These small unavoidable collisions every day really do have an impact on how you see the world.


Or, people do understand and yet still don't like it. I've lived in New York City and also had those superficial interactions with people different from me. But like the person you're responding to, I much prefer my current life of remote work from a rural town in the South, for all the reasons in the original comment.

It just felt like your comment, despite reiterating the parent's "to each their own" caveat, was either a total non sequitur or pushing the perspective that if you don't like city life you must just not understand it.


I've elicited some strong reactions here. The commenter I responded to said this:

> When I read the stories of big city lifestyles I'm amazed so many people opt-in to it. Traffic, noise, concrete everywhere. Yuck - but to each their own.

I was simply explaining some of _my_ reasons for opting in to it. It's a tangent from the original post, I realize. I could easily come up with reasons a person might enjoy a rural or small town lifestyle, but here I simply gave my reasons for enjoying the urban life I currently live, even though I too have the option of going the remote work route.

No offense intended.


Sorry, I missed that part of the comment you responded to, and how it implies knowledge of big cities only via what they read and not personal experience. In that light your comment wasn't a non sequitur and was a fair response.


>had those superficial interactions with people different from me

sorry why do you presume they're superficial? or i should sat why do you exalt your small town interactions over someone else's big-town interactions? i've lived in both a smalltown (currently) and brooklyn ny (previously) and the depth of the interactions is absolutely about the same.

btw we can all play presumptuous and haughty: in your "tight-knit" community no one will help you/acknowledge you as soon as you diverge from highly constrained cultural norms even a small iota - where as in my diverse working class neighborhood in brooklyn that wouldn't be the case. what do you say? not true? color me just as suspicious as you color yourself if i claim to you that i actually had deep and genuine conversations with my neighbors, grocers, and occasionally fellow subway riders.


Yeah, I agree with you that the depth of interactions are the same.

It was just an unkind jab at the fact that the examples given of exposure to different people and cultures were helping someone cross the road and giving up a seat on the subway. That jibed with my experience living in NYC - it's not particularly conducive to expanding your horizons; the diversity is there if you really want to go out and meet people, but mostly it will be courteous distance on the street and most of your deep interactions will be within your filter bubble, same as anywhere.

Unlike my current town, NYC has mosques, but I didn't actually learn anything about Islam or Muslims living there, compared to when I actually lived in the Middle East and made friends for life there. I ate at Chinese restaurants and shopped in Chinatown but wouldn't say I gained any cultural insights. But living in Singapore for a year and making friends with Singaporeans, Indonesians, and Chinese people - there I learned a lot.


You would have learned the same if you had lived in those neighborhoods instead of simply swinging by. Of course, most people choose to segregate, but you always have the option in NYC.


> sorry why do you presume they're superficial?

I think you might be unduly defensive. I interpreted the "superficial" to mean "without the intimacy of an established relationship", which isn't particularly controversial afaict.


Sure, there are superficial interactions with strangers in dense, global communities. There’s also an increased likelihood of meeting someone who may significantly expand your network and change your life at any moment.

Humility is an aspect that’s often missing from these urban vs. suburban/rural discussions. Living in an suburban community and working in tech, it’s very easy to have a high opinion of yourself. Moving to SF quickly humbles you as you are suddenly surrounded by people much smarter than yourself. You feel a need to focus on what you’re uniquely good at and work on continuing to improve your skills in that niche. That was my experience anyway.


I second this. I grew up in the NYC suburbs, have went to school and lived in various boroughs of NYC for the past 10+ years, and my wife was born and raised in NYC. I think most people not from here (and perhaps 'here' can be any big city one may just pass through when visiting in this context I guess) seem to forget it's as you say just a collection of small neighborhoods just like anywhere else. I am sure there is an exception (maybe Midtown Manhattan but) - but for the most part I think most people know their neighbors, help each other out, see the same people around when they got to a bar or get coffee, go to the same parks in their neighborhood - all the same things people think you may miss out on vs living in 'small towns.'


I was in Brooklyn for 2.5 years living in South Slope just off of Prospect Park. Now I’m in a suburb of Birmingham, AL. I basically live in a forest. Have a 5 bedroom / 6 bathroom home that is significantly cheaper than my 3 bedroom / 1 bathroom apartment. Raising three kids, I am just so incredibly happy with life out here. My commute is a 10 min drive through beautiful woodlands in a comfortable car. Any time I get slightly annoyed by traffic, I remember jamming myself in a crowded subway where I’d be lodged between sweaty body parts of strangers for 45 min and I just grin.

Public transportation is great, except for rush hours. And the nights and weekends scheduling.

Don’t get me wrong: we loved our time in NY (and, like most people in NY we also hated it; it was a bipolar relationship). And my career might takes us back that way. But I hope not. It’s not really built for single income families raising multiple children.

I’m perfectly happy if you’re happy with the city trade offs. Because they are just trade offs. But I prefer the trade offs of living in unincorporated county outside a small city.


I find these descriptions fascinating, because my experience of Park Slope is so different. Short walk to the R at Union Street, easy commute to midtown even during rush hour, rarely more than 25 minutes, almost always get a seat, enjoying a podcast or ebook, never have to worry about parking, snow removal, traffic, car repair, refilling gas.

I grew up on what was practically a nature preserve in rural midwest, and I find Prospect Park is so beautiful, great for a walk or a jog, and has such a friendly community with the farmer’s market, weekend off-leash dog hours, kids programs, free BRIC concerts at the bandshell.

I find quality of life solely on factors like enjoyment of nature, community belonging, diversity of activities, is just so, so much greater in New York. The direct access to private nature areas in the rural and suburban midwest has plenty of upsides, but truly was much less convenient, much less community-oriented, much less diverse in terms of both cultures and variety of free or cheap activities.

I had similar experiences in Boston too. I joined a geocaching group that frequently met in Middlesex Fells. It’s borderline impossible to find such a group in the midwest that actually has meaningfully large membership and meaningfully diverse variety of people regularly participating.

I do agree that one has to weigh the cost tradeoffs carefully with cities. But I think what you get out of a big city is very different than the way you put it. It’s more about the vibrancy and diversity of the community, and that you can find inclusiveness no matter what walk of life you come from.


I was off the F-line at 15 St PPW. The commute into Manhattan was not usually too bad. The commute home was terrible (my stop was 23rd St and the trains were usually quite full by the time they got to me).

Life is about trade offs. We did our best to make Brooklyn home for our family and didn’t expect to leave. There were some incredible highs. There were also some very challenging lows.

We spent a lot of time in Prospect Park and were very blessed to live within walking distance. I would frequently meet the family in the park for picnic dinners on the way home from work (in the spring / summer). But as a counter example, I now live 5 miles from a massive state park. Yesterday we spent the morning swimming in the lake and the evening hiking to a waterfall (where we then climbed down the rock wall for a dip). It’s a very paddle friendly park as well and we plan on buying kayaks and paddle boards for next season (we only just moved here in February).

The best part of all of that is that it was just a normal Saturday. No pre-planning required. When we got home and realized my son had left his life jacket at the lake, I made dinner while my wife circled back for it (okay, I ordered pizza from my phone...).

I will say, we miss Seamless. Like a lot.

I’m on the fence about cities being more inclusive than towns. As a family we’re very active in church and community service so YMMV, but I find no shortage of opportunities to work, play, worship, and serve with people of varying backgrounds. There are certainly fewer types of communities (Jews and Muslims are underrepresented in the south). But I’m not completely sold that’s the same as inclusivity. My experience in the city was that bias exists in humanity no matter how many people you cram into a square mile. It can take different forms in the city, but it certainly isn’t absent.


It’s interesting that you mentioned underrepresented groups — that wasn’t what I was thinking.

I more meant that in rural / suburban American it can be really hard to have a community if you’re interests or beliefs are not mainstream to that area.

If you’re vegan, you like frisbee, long-form board games, medieval architecture, unusual (in America) world sports, have non-mainstream religious or political views, want to attend tech meetups, etc.

Near large culture hubs, despite the fact that racism or bias exists in cities just like it exists everywhere, you can find a community no matter what itbis that you love or value ir what to try or identify with.

Speaking from experience growing up in small town Midwest and Louisiana, both in rural areas and small cities, and then living in the Midwest as an adult, this is not true unless you’re right in a big city. Sure, there’s the usual superficial politeness granted to you even if you are “weird” relative to the area, but really it’s obvious your mere existence makes people uncomfortable and your hobbies or views or whatever “aren’t right.”

Small communities don’t tolerate wide varieties of weirdness (incidentally, Paul Graham has spoken about how this is a mainfactor that allows a city to develop into a successful tech center).

So, sure. If you “fit in” and all you want in life is the particular set of options that the one small town offers and people mostly see you as One Of Them, then it’s fine.

But this is obviously not scalable to a large group of people, who will have all kinds of conflicting weirdness.


There are certainly more opportunities in cities to be part of a wider expanse of recreational activities / groups. There are "more things to do." We never repeated weekend family activities in NYC (outside of things in our neighborhood).

I'm still unconvinced that cities tolerate "weirdness" better than small communities. I'm a religious conservative who works in the tech scene. People were "superficial[ly] polite" (for the most part), but it was obvious my "mere existence [made] people uncomfortable and [my] hobbies or views or whatever '[weren't] right.'"

I didn't move away from Brooklyn because of that, but it was a very real thing. I was fortunate enough that when I moved to the city I was already pretty successful in my career. I didn't have to kowtow or apologize for who I was because I didn't really have to care what people thought of me personally. But my kids definitely caught flak for it (even from the parents of their friends -- it was strange seeing a 40 y/o father debate the existence of God with my then 10 y/o daughter who finally, in exasperation said, "Listen, I'm just religious, okay?").

But I completely agree with tech meetings, veganism (though it's growing in popularity even in smaller towns), frisbee, etc. That is a definite trade-off. I used to grab lunch with players from pretty much any and every company. This week I'll grab lunch with a guy from Shipt, and... that pretty much sums up Birmingham.

The trade offs are very real. I happen to be at a point in life where my community consists largely of my wife and kids. Once the kids are gone (or once they bore of me), I'll probably reinsert myself into other social groups. But right now, I don't want to spend Saturdays playing frisbee with other adults. I want to spend it hiking with my kids.

Those things are possible in the city. But as a family we prefer the trade offs of living in the county. I think the secret is that you don't have to have the same preferences that I do. And if you find the city more embracing of your goals, appetites, life style, or whatever then that's great. But every time I sit in my car all by myself in near silence, I breath a long sigh of relief.


The inclusivity / exclusivity really depends on who you are...

As a Jewish family in Germany (currently living in Berlin) I wouldn't want to raise my children in a small eastern community where they will be the only Jewish kids in school (I get the impression in North America anti-semitism is a pretty fringe phenomenon, but it's still "a thing" in Central Europe).

And similarly I probably wouldn't have wanted to be the only Muslim family in your town.


There isn't an easy or quick fix for it. Though there are small towns in America that are predominantly Muslim (lots of refugees relocated to specific locations). But this is completely reasonable: if I were an ex-pat living abroad, it would also be hard to raise my children in an area where they would be the only white Christians. That is a real trade off that is hard to account for outside of certain pockets within the US.

I think Anti-Semitism is fairly rare (though it does exist). But it would be hard being one of the five Jewish families in my entire high school. I was good friends with them, and Christmas was a hard time for them. It would be very challenging to be a Muslim in good parts of America (outside of major cities; where, if we're being honest, it still isn't easy being Muslim).


Anti-Semitism is mainly found in Western Europe, in Muslim dominant cities like Rotterdam or Paris.


I'd unfortunately like to inform you there's plenty of "traditional" anti-Semitism especially in the economically depressed areas of former East-Germany, Poland, etc.

It doesn't always stem from malice (sometimes just ignorance) but it very much exists.

And yes there are also some such issues in "Arab ghetto" neighbourhoods in Berlin and Paris but at least here I find it much easier to avoid by simpley not living in those neighbourhoods (& of course neither all muslims nor all working class europeans are anti-semitic, but you don't need a large % of the population to cause trouble/discomfort).


Have you lived in a all town like this article is talking about. Or just NYC burbs that this article isn't talking about.


I have!


Where? Thoughts?


This is especially poignant in NYC, given the density and diversity of life here. Sometimes I think the NYC subway only seems fast because life changes so rapidly from city block to block that it seems like you've arrived in an entirely new place.


Unless the uptown C is delayed again, then you're just late.


You've done some cherry picking with your examples, and I would postulate that your innate tolerance (or possibly desire) for the full spectrum of unavoidable social collisions probably influenced your decision to live in NYC.

Having lived in Manhattan I appreciate being able to visit when I like, for as long as I choose (working remotely).


Yeah, the question is "do cities attract people high on the 'openness to experience' spectrum, or do they make people that way". I don't think we can know for sure, but I suspect there is a little of both going on.

I'm reluctant to be a complete relativist about these things, even though I recognize that I'm biased. The fact is that a demogogue who wants to drive a wedge of fear between people (no need to state who I'm talking about) has a much harder time doing it in cities. All perspectives arent equal in this respect - some perspectives are based on ignorance and fear, and some are based on the actual experience of interacting with the kinds of people we're supposed to be afraid of.


All due respect, but it's hubris to conflate an affection for the urban lifestyle with being "high on the 'openness to experience' spectrum". There was even a story on HN just in the last few days exploring the biases in the research used to support that notion.

As to the high correlation between population density and political affiliation, I don't see that as being particularly mysterious, even if it is a complex topic. And having recently hosted a fundraiser for a prominent progressive candidate I can attest that fear is being effectively employed across the entire electorate.


Maybe. I suppose I've never questioned my assumption that you're more likely to find people high on the openness to experience scale in urban environments than rural. It's intuitively true to me, and it is the case that cities are more liberal, and "openness to experience" is generally seen as a common personality trait among liberal people, with the more liberal the person the higher on the scale they tend to sit. I'm not a psychologist or anything, so that's very possibly wrong, or "hubris" on my part. I'm too lazy to do actual research on this right now, but the geography section of this Wikipedia article seems to indicate a correlation with that personality trait and more urban states: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Openness_to_experience


Agreed, and I have the same intuition. The research I mentioned seems to indicate that the questions being asked to gauge openness (among other things) were in fact biased, that's all.


Huh? The cherry picking goes both ways I guess. For those places where people actually live in NYC, you’ll find parks and even parking, sidewalk cafes, cleanish air, beaches, even deer, etc... it seems scary to those who only visit, but it is completely livable to those that actually live there.

NYC is much larger than Manhattan.


And you can even find all those in Manhattan (well maybe not the benches).


> I think that New York is the new model for the new concentration camp, where the camp has been built by the inmates themselves, and the inmates are the guards, and they have this pride in this thing that they’ve built—they’ve built their own prison—and so they exist in a state of schizophrenia where they are both guards and prisoners. And as a result they no longer have—having been lobotomized—the capacity to leave the prison they’ve made or even to see it as a prison.

My Dinner with Andre

> [In NYC he heard] the enormous hiss of egos at various stages of inflation and deflation

DFW


No better way of describing it, as someone who recently moved from LA to San Jose, I miss those daily random interactions with people who are completely different from you, I believe it keeps you forever open-minded. And the ability to take an UBER and go to a K-town, Little Tokyo or a little Armenia in less than 20 mins..nothing ever beats that.


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” — Mark Twain

And as you point out, living in a big city can be akin to traveling.


And yet you do what every new Yorker does... "Not to make this story that is not about new youk about New York but really if you've never lived there it's souch better I really wish people would take the time to understand New York better".

This article isn't a about nor does it require defend of living in NYC or it's people. Your property value isn't going down because 3 people move to Ohio

The irony being you refuse to or are side tracking the thread and conversation immediately to talk about how misunderstood NYC is.

NYC doesn't need defending, millions live there. Tons of articles about it constantly. Media made there, hyped to infinity. It's not the topic of the article either.

What I noticed is many people from NYC only see other places as not NYC and complain about how they aren't. Talk about the article and the virtues of a small town. Have you ever lived in one or are you just a NYC snob like the lady was for Truckee? Discuss the article not threadjack it to extoll NYC.

Sure you know plenty of people on the street. Do you know 80% of them like you did in highschool? No, you don't, you don't know your whole burough. That's the point of know lots of people.

Not everything needs to be about you or NYC or defended. Many people here barely know small towns are an option or how cheap and welcoming they can be.

Not everyone needs to eat waygu steak every day... Chicken and tofu are also fantastic in their own ways.


I was responding to a comment, not to the post. Didn't know tangents aren't allowed here. You're right - New Yorkers can be insufferable. I was just pointing out what I like about living in big cities. I'm sure you have preferences that you sometimes justify with arguments to people that don't understand the reasons for your preferences.


No I just like rational discourse based on experience and people who know when they're being biased. I thought you were responding direct to the article. Misnest read. Meaculpa.

My problem with your comment stems from me feeling you haven't lived in a small town ever and so only see it from the side of NYC as many big city and small town folks both do. NYC is a crime ridden cesspool with no parking. NYC is a walkers Utopia with tons of culture. Small towns are filled with Hicks who know nothing. Small towns are filled with many self sufficient who have a direct and obvious impact on the community and I know them like family (and like family I hate about 30% of them)


Agree with everything you say. Been living in nyc on/off since the past 10 years. I love it.

One terrible thing about nyc is the subway. It’s been getting worse every year.


I think you missed the point of the parent comment. And I think you are making a “town vs city” argument. In fairness, so is the parent comment. But the parent wasn’t saying “towns are better than cities”, the parent was just saying it’s refreshing to see an article highlighting the pros of the town as compared to the city, which are often overlooked during this type of discussion.

I lived in NYC (read, Manhattan) for 4 years. Sorry but if you’re saying you lived in “the City” and you’re talking to non New Yorkers, the other boroughs don’t count cause they are equally unique in their living experience when compared to non NYC living. For instance you mention jogging through a Hasidic neighborhood and I instantly know you are 90% not talking about Manhattan and I also know what Hasidic means (I would venture to guess most Americans do not). I see your Hasidic name dropping and raise you a, I converted to Reform Judaism at Central Synagogue in the City, and there wasn’t even a threat of marriage involved.

I say all of that to make the point that I still agree with the parent’s comment, so much so that I now live in Texas. There came a moment where I had to choose between making work my life, so that I could afford a decent life for myself and any family I would eventually maybe have, or I could make my life my priority, which would mean sometimes not prioritizing decisions that impacted an upward trajectory for my paycheck. If you live in the City and you didn’t arrive there with a trust fund or pre existing network, and even then, you still have to prioritize work, then you’re not gonna have enough money to have a decent sized home (you will still not have a yard) and if you choose to own a car that will be a sizeable expense and you won’t be able to afford family expenses or possible downturns in the economy. Period.

Contrast that to my life in Austin (still a fairly expensive city) where I have a one bedroom to myself that is $500 less than the (actual) bedroom I was renting in the City, an SUV, that I use to tow my sailboat, which I use to go sailing with my friends cause I have free time. And if the economy tanks, I don’t fear I’ll go bankrupt if I don’t get a job in 3 months since I can have savings and there is no state income tax and no city (NYC) tax. And since other people enjoy much the same lifestyle I can develop actual, sincere, non transactional relationships with people since we’re not all jockeying for professional advancement, transient, or tying to get laid every night to fill the vacuum in our soul caused by the lack of real relationships. (But there is 6th street, if one gets the urge). And we have parks. And we have an awesome economy. Etc etc.

Yes I understand Austin is not a small town. It’s a good compromise for me. My sister lives in a legit small town a short drive from here. Much like the small city I was raised in, Kingsville.

Anyhow. Very much agree with the parent comment. And tired of people romanticizing the City, like name dropping, and not being called out on it.


Heh, honestly didn't realize I was name dropping. I'm curious what a poll of "does the word Hasidic mean anything to you" would show. I was just using it as an example of the kind of person who is different from me.

The second paragraph of the parent comment expresses some incredulouslness that anyone would want to live in a big city. I was specifically addressing that by giving my reasons that I love the city I live in. I totally understand that personal preference comes into play. This is my preference, and those are my reasons for it.

The bigger issue is what you stated: cost of living. It's not as bad here as San Francisco, but I believe strongly that unaffordable cities is one of the biggest, and least appreciated, problems we face as a society. As I said, I think there are many good reasons a person would want to live in a city. I don't think the fact that it's unaffordable for them to move here is a law of nature. It's a problem - crisis, actually - that we should be tackling with the same energy we would any other emergency that has such material impact on so many citizens.


Hola, thanks for constructively engaging me. For real.

Yeah I was told I name dropped “NYC”/ “the City” constantly after I moved to Texas. I was just trying to share my life experiences. And they happened to take place in a specific geographic location. But, funny enough, I then remembered when I first moved to NYC I gave my friends a hard time for calling it “the City” as if there were no other cities. Full circle.

I think the issue is, not engaging with the parent comment’s subject matter. Which was, small towns are finally getting a little love. To generalize, consider the Black Lives Matter movement. As a white person (which is a legitimate place from which to have life experiences, which you can legitimately share with friends and strangers), I really shouldn’t have gotten on the soap box during that time and place. During that time and place I should really let people in the BLM movement have the stage. So yeah, time and place. Not talking about your own perspective does not necessarily minimize your perspective, and sometimes by being perceived as fighting for soapbox time it can come across as minimizing other’s perspectives. Let’s all let the the small town have it moment, cause it kinda hasn’t been getting the love it might should be getting.


what a poll of "does the word Hasidic mean anything to you" would show

Since I am in a small town that doesn't have a Jewish population, I mostly think of B&H Photo and what days we cannot places orders. It struck me as odd when both myself and my boss added the Jewish Holidays to our calendars because its really important information. I guess we learn things in the oddest places.


Haha I love B&H Photo. On my first trip to New York I made straight for it.

Later that day I exclaimed my surprise to an old friend who lives in NYC that B&H Photo was closed on what, in my country, is the biggest shopping day of the week.

I just got a look and an explanation of the word "putz" in return.

I think this counts as a good example of how a big city was able to broaden the experience of this small town lad. :P


The hard part, at least here in Ontario, is this:

> 5 minutes walk or 1 minute drive to a shop for groceries, hardware, lumber, restaurants, kid parks.

Almost every small town in Ontario is car-centric. The big ugly parking lots push the shops further from the street. There is no bike lanes to speak of. The coffee shops don't feel lively, they feel depressed, and the coffee is usually Tim Hortons or worse.

What I want is a hipster small town, built around bikes and walkability. Close enough to a lake to be fun, but not so close to make it all about "water life". I want a city where artists and computer scientists can both afford to be there. High property taxes, but with a per-person dividend / basic income so the effective property taxes are progressive.


Sounds like you want Europe then.

The best thing about living here (coming from the 'states) is the density in the cities and towns. You can realistically have a town with a vibrant center full of cafes, bakeries, a bar/brasserie or three, and a grocery store in a town of a couple thousand people, all living within the area equivalent to 4 square city blocks.

Walk a few hundred yards the other direction and you'll find yourself in the countryside.

It's quite refreshing after living in an American suburb where you can drive in a straight line in any directions and pass nothing but Albertsons, Starbucks, Apartment Complex, Walgreens, Albertsons, repeat for 20 miles... without ever escaping into the country.


Yep. I was there last summer; loved it. Vilnius was my favourite, but there were lots of little places all throughout that I just adored. The only city I didn't really like was Kiev. The city was very car centric, the wealth gap was too huge, and the Russian they speak / write is hard for me to understand given how basic my understanding is. People were very kind though.

But why can't Ontario have a town like this? Why can't we get 5000 people to kickstarter a town? Have really strict building codes and really pro-human policies.

Edit: What town are you, if you don't mind my asking. I'm planning on going back to Europe at some point.


European towns were designed before cars were invented, and density was also often a product of defending the city from attack.

To answer your question, it is because sprawling car-centric localities are the cheapest way (in the short term) to maximize the living space/cost ratio. European style cities don't spring up from empty fields anymore because they are more expensive to build. Your comment about building codes is telling. European cities did not form in the way they did because of building codes. They formed for economic reasons in a pre-industrial era. The same way American and Canadian, and newer European cities sprawl for economic reasons. That you bring up building codes is a tacit acknowledgement that to make a medieval city layout now would require forcing builders and buyers to pay more than they would otherwise.

Anyways, a medieval city layout nowadays would still be an inauthentic pastiche, sort of like a Tudor-style Celebration, Florida. Form ever follows function, and all that.


I don't think it needs to be. Plus, Celebration was still built with cars in the picture. What I want is a city with a perimeter. Within that perimeter you have all the buildings and zero cars. Zero combustion engines. Zero electric vehicles capable of going greater than some reasonable speed limit. Say 30km/h. At the perimeter you have cars for people to drive to other towns and a train station to get them to Toronto / Ottawa. Maybe a small airport.

Once you change from thinking "oh we just must have cars here" to thinking "how would we solve problem x without cars" the whole city can be made to be more vibrant. We can't let our children out of our sights in modern cities they're so dangerous. That's madness!

In terms of authenticity, here I partially agree with you. I do not intend to emulate an ancient European city. That's dumb. But I don't want the city to end up looking like shit like most of Canadian cities do with their completely mismatched building styles, billboard ads, tacky chains, and telephone poles all over the place. Instead, at the city formation you get good estimates of what types of natural building materials are near by (the types of wood, clays, stone, etc) and you hire teams of architects and city planners to design a set of cohesive style guides. There should be room for custom flourish, but the city should still look like a cohesive whole. There is no reason to use concrete for anything other than subterranean piles. Use large flat rocks for streets. Yes rock streets are more expensive but they look much, much better and because we have density from day one they might be 10x the price but we should only need 1/10th of the pavement by area.

Also, by creating a hard perimeter around the city, there could be a real set of community gardens just outside of the city for things like herbs and other expensive plants. We wouldn't have to choose between city life and connection with nature.


>We can't let our children out of our sights in modern cities they're so dangerous. That's madness!

That has nothing to do with cars and everything to do with culture. I grew up roaming freely on streets filled with cars in the 70s/80s.

Banning cars won't fix helicopter parenting.


Interesting points. Laurie Baker's work may interest you, if not heard of already, same about Christopher Alexander.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurie_Baker

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Alexander


It sounds as if you were talking about Milton Keynes. Strange place, but doable without car.


European cities did not form in the way they did because of building codes

Some actually did. Lisbon expanded rapidly in the 1960s, and the new construction was designed on purpose to be 4 or 5 stories high with shops on the ground floor and with primary schools and churches as main foci of community interaction. If anyone wants to check out Google Streetview, the neighbourhoods northwest of the Zoo and east of Campo Grande park are typical.

But in America it seems that no architect made it back alive from WW II, and that's why their cities are so awful.


Part of the reason to mention building codes is that building codes in the US enforce car-centric building in many areas, by mandating maximum densities, parking minimums, road setbacks, etc.

And part of the reason for that is that many towns buy an off the shelf municipal code called municode to start from.


Ontario can't have a town like this because of weather.

You can get close, but it is expensive. You'll need pedestrian tunnels. Given that people won't be on the streets, you don't need to be concerned about traffic on the streets.


I too wish Canadian towns weren't all about the car. Perhaps the university small cities are the closest: London (ON), Kingston, etc.


Lived in London during and slightly after university: it's not. City's pretty much dominated by cars, there's technically a transit system but it was slow and infrequent, and the way the city is laid out with three major N/S and three major E/W roads makes it hard to get around during constructions season. Downtown is...kind of walkable, but it's bordering on a food desert with only one (expensive) grocery store at the edge of the core.


Your desire for a "hipster small town, built around bikes and walkability" describes the cores of a lot of college towns: Olympia, Missoula, Boise, Eugene, Arcata, Davis, Bozeman, etc. They all have good coffee, too! Not sure if there are similar towns in Canada.

However, a common lament in these towns is that housing costs are increasing as people move there from the cities. It can be... socially awkward... to be a carpetbagger in a place where everyone knows everyone else's story. Maybe that's why you've mentioned taxes and basic income in your comment.


100% agree! I would also add Ann Arbor, Michigan to the mix. These "small towns" have wonderfully integrated colleges into the small town such that there are positive benefits for both including good schools and things to do...what many "freelancers" with kids want.


Ann Arbor is crowded, expensive, full of college kids, is a clusterfuck every time there’s an event (football game, hash bash, etc)


However, a common lament in these towns is that housing costs are increasing as people move there from the cities.

If they are popular that is a good reason to build more of them.


The problem with that glib-sounding notion is that, besides being, potentially, a chicken-and-egg issue, is that the amount of available, suitable land is much more limited than the vastness of, for example, the USA, would suggest.

The first could be solved by something like the UK's New Towns, although that requires a level of government involvement that is likely politically impossible in the US and perhaps Canada, as well.

The second is the more important issue, since, based on many of the comments, people don't seem to merely want to live nearby to another few thousand people. They also want lakes, forests, mountains, or some other geographic or natural feature. They also need provisions and Internet, which means pre-existing infrastructure nearby.


> most every small town in Ontario is car-centric.

I don't know that I agree. I live in a small Ontario town. Pop. ~2,000. I don't ever feel the need to drive other than when leaving town to visit people who live outside of town. Everything I need on a day-to-day basis is easily walkable.

> What I want is a hipster small town, built around bikes and walkability. Close enough to a lake to be fun, but not so close to make it all about "water life". I want a city where artists and computer scientists can both afford to be there.

I think you described the Ontario town I grew up in. Pop. ~1,000. Near the lake, hipster town that has a booming (relatively speaking) tech industry. The downside is that everyone wants to live in the kind of town you described, so housing there is now just about as expensive as Toronto. That includes me. I would love to go back. But the costs are tough to justify.


> > most every small town in Ontario is car-centric. > I don't know that I agree.

For what it's worth, 'car-centric' has nothing to do with actual automobiles. "Car-centric" is coded language for "unplanned therefore affordable".

Strip malls, billboard signs, 10 lane light intersections, none of this is "car-centric", none of this is designed for cars, no regular person enjoys driving through that. But it's always cheap, so it's everywhere. Those represent an absolute-cheapest-option thinking, ignoring all else. Cars are just as much an afterthought as pedestrians and bicycles and busses are.

Roads that are actually designed for cars are freeways direct to other freeways, with no pedestrians and no bicycles and no oncoming traffic and no stoplights and no intersections ever and parking lots/ramps directly attached to freeway exits. It just so happens, that these are generally the safest roads too (in both US/Canada, and Europe) despite also being the fastest roads. Of course, construction of this rarely-to-never happens, "car-centric" roads rarely get built because it costs a bit more money.

But a 5 lane 'arterial' road, with turn lanes and curb cuts for every random store that wants it? Slap some sidewalks and a bike lane on it? Pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers will hate that, and it's terribly unsafe for all modes, but it's always the cheapest option to go with so it's the default. And it's so cheap that every municipality in the country can build them everywhere without thinking.

"Car-centric" has absolutely nothing to do with cars. "Car-centric" is complaining about areas being having the cheapest possible design (and therefore being somewhat affordable), with an unrelated jab against cars thrown in out of spite.


I find that to be a fairly insightful (at least partial) explanation of sprawl, especially in Canada (where freeways seem to have been relatively unpopular to begin with) and in the US after the freeway "revolt" of the 70s.

The US Interstate system and freeways into previously undeveloped land to create new suburbs near large cities would certainly fall under even your definition of "car-centric" design (and this could, arguably, be seen happening in Southern California to this day), but it doesn't in much of Canada.

I do expect some of the design is driven by a desire by citizens to live in low density (the "to each his own" idea brought up elsewhere in the thread), and it stands to reason that people attracted to suburbs would generally be those low-density seekers and would thereby encourage more of that kind of development.

However, that seems insufficient an explanation for a stand-alone town of a few thousand, that isn't a suburb of a nearby city.

Is building "out" really cheaper than building "up" a couple stories?

Maybe it's simpler than that, and city folk fail to understand that small enough towns are actually rural, without central sewage treatment, and every building needing substantial open space for a leach field. Even when centralizing becomes cost-effective, it may only be applicable for new growth, and it will still need land (and of a certain kind).


You just blew my mind. I don't necessarily know that you're right, but I'd never thought about things from this perspective before.


Winston-Salem, NC has a great downtown scene with affordable living close by. I've started to commute the 10 miles to my co-working space (I don't live near downtown) some of the time by bicycle and drivers are surprisingly respectful. Downtown links to a great 15-mile bike ride around Salem Lake (7 miles around the lake itself). The arts are great here with many artists training and living here, quite a few breweries, restaurants. I work remote for a California company and have never had a local job, so in truth I don't know what employment / pay is like here ... but if you can swing remote-mostly the quality-of-life and affordability are definitely good. Education choices are quite good as well for kids.


I can vouch for this. I live in the upstate of SC (in an equally walkable town near the eminently walkable Greenville). But I've spent some time in Winston-Salem. It's a great town. The US does have walkable towns, if you look for them.


Well quit hiding it from me! What's the name of the town?


Don't we all! I don't think those places exist. Berlin might be the closest. It's big but easy to get around by bike or public transport, and the cost of living isn't that high, though it's climbing. Everywhere else I can think of (mostly considering the US or UK) is already expensive.

I visited recently, and if I was single I'd strongly consider moving there.


Would Waterloo/Kitchener work? Visited there to give some academic talks, liked it a lot (it's so beautiful during autumn!) and with some coffeeshop life.


Don't be afraid to leave Ontario. Every single "Onterrible" resident I meet in Western Canada has only one regret.

They wish they had left earlier.


Revelstoke, BC sounds right up your alley.


There are ups and downs to any of these, and various people like them (or hate them) for very diverse reasons.

My mother is from one of these small towns and she hates almost every single thing you enumerated:

- - "Everyone knows each other" is a nightmare when you're a teenager. News that you did something stupid or peculiar can sometimes get home before you do, sometimes amplified. And if you don't want to be that close to everyone, you can end up being treated as a freak.

- Trees, forest, wildlife, backyards -- also the occasional possibly rabid fox, bugs everywhere, sweeping the leaves...

- Five minutes walk or one minute drive to shop for groceries. If they're out of ketchup, tough luck 'cause the nearest one is thirty minutes away and you have to cross the railroad tracks, too.

To those of us who live in the city, these things don't look bad at all. I'd certainly endure my share of bugs and give up the night life (at least for a while...) for some damn fresh air and being able to see more than five trees at a time. But the allure of large cities for people who grew up in small towns isn't worth understating, either.

(Edit: to be clear -- I'm definitely not advocating for large cities. I was born and grew up in one so I definitely understand where you're coming from :-D)


You are describing a really small town and a Northern American one. Larger ones (≈100k pop.) don't have these problems and tiny ones (≈3-10k pop.) in Europe, Asia or Latin America usually have multiple stores in a walkable range.


With respect to walkability, that doesn't describe a really small town in North America, it describes almost every city and town in the US.

If you look at cities of 100k+, in the vast majority of them, only a tiny fraction of their residents can walk to a grocery store in 5 minutes. In fact, there are only a 3 very large cities (500k+) in the entire country where the majority of the population is a 5 minute walk from a grocery store.

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2014/03/27/the-5-cities-where-it...


I'm describing a European town with more than 20k people (albeit only slightly).

Edit: certainly a slightly larger city (50k-100k) is better but the parent comment was about country life, hence my comment


It's strange for me because I lived in a 1.5k town on Balkans that had two stores and a tiny open market. The bigger one was a chain store, so it always had everything.

In Chile we have lots of stores and services even in quite poor 10-20k towns.


> It's strange for me because I lived in a 1.5k town on Balkans that had two stores and a tiny open market. The bigger one was a chain store, so it always had everything.

When I was a kid, my grandmother's neighbourhood had two stores. Understandably, besides the basics (bread, oil, flour, sugar, stuff like that) they carried different items, since there was little room to compete on price. So my grandpa, for example, had a veritable stash of his favourite cigarettes, because only one of the shops had them. I'd have to go to both of them in the morning, because my grandfather would send me to buy him cigarettes, and I'd buy myself a 7up -- but the shop that had the right cigarettes only had that dreadful Sprite thing :-).

The first chain store there opened somewhere in the late 1990s, but it was pretty expensive for the locals and it was quite far (~20 minutes walk). Nowadays there are two chain stores and one of them is a little closer (maybe 10-15 minutes of walking).

I found out about the one that's closer the hard way -- my mom has long grown unaccustomed to small town life so obviously she ran out of cigarettes in the evening, only to find out -- much to her horror -- that the shops in the neighbourhood close at 18:00. Guess who valiantly had to chase the ferral dogs away when crossing the railroad :).

Edit: to clarify the mechanism: what happened, in this and in many other small towns, was that a larger chain store in a slightly larger city, or on the city's edge, monopolizes much of the trade. The small family shop is all but extinct in my grandma's town. There is only one left in her neighbourhood, and it carries only the most basic of basics. Oil, sugar, flour, a few brands of cigarettes, water and Coca Cola. Wide access to cars, coupled with frequent commuting and town growth mean that people spend enough time in their cars anyway, so they don't mind stopping to shop. The children shop for their elderly parents and their neighbours once a week or so. There's not much of a need for shopping because almost everyone grows their own vegetables and the like.

tl;dr if a shop is out of ketchup, you're out of ketchup :)


I’m writing this comment from a small village close to the Carpathians, where my brother lives and where my family on my father’s side has lived for generations (half of the land on which the village’s church was built was “donated” by my family), I for my self live in a city with a population of 2 million people. As such, I just wanted to comment on the “everybody knows everybody else in a small town/village” and the implicit assumption that that would only cause “positive” feelings. It doesn’t.

Back to my brother: he has been through a nasty divorce (divorces also happen in small towns/villages) and as such half of the village (the one who “listened” to his ex-parents-in-law) now think that he (my brother) is the scum of the earth. That isn’t good at all for my brother’s psyche. Also, my brother happens to be better at what he does (driving a lorry all over Europe for a living and in his free time raising a couple of cows and making some pretty good palinka-like drink) compared to some other villagers, and because of that those villagers sort of envy him, so much so that some of them have directly approached my brother’s new life companion and have told her about how in fact my brother is a not that big of a deal because he hasn’t accomplished this and that and that other thing. And I could go on and on with examples like these, all of which haven’t directly affected me while living in the big city: “My neighbor thinks bad of me? F.ck him, I don’t care what he thinks!”. The quiet and calmness is pretty nice in the village though, of that there’s no doubt.


People have been talking about remote work “leveling the playing field” for a while, but the statistics show the opposite. More people have been moving into cities since remote work has become possible than the opposite. It’s possible this may be because as our work lives become more lonely due to it being remote, cities offer the availability of people that they lack in their day jobs.

Also, the reason cities are expensive is entirely due to the number of people wanting to live there. Setting aside housing demand/supply, cities are more efficient and cheaper than small towns by far. It would be interesting to see how livable small and rural towns would be if it wasn’t for the variety of subsidies the US government offers these areas (subsidized postal services, roads, etc. that are largely paid by people living in cities in the US, where the majority of the economic benefits of the US are generated).


I think it depends on how you rank growth. Sure, in terms of raw persons, the large cities are adding more people, but in terms of percentage growth, many of the fastest growing areas are actually small-mid sized towns/cities in the South [1].

Other measurements like job opportunities also tends to favor small/mid cities. "U.S. Census Bureau metropolitan area population estimates for 2017, which show a significant increase in domestic migration away from the 53 major metropolitan areas with populations over a million and toward the 54 middle-sized metro areas in the 500,000 to 1 million range." [2]

As to your point about subsidies...many of those subsidies are for the production of food that the cities obviously rely on. I think it would be interesting to see how livable large cities -- dozens or hundreds of miles away from food sources, waste disposal sites, and water sources -- would be if the true, un-subsidized costs were passed through.

[1] http://worldpopulationreview.com/us-cities/

[2] https://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2018/05/15/growth-in...


I think 1 is a bit misleading because it shows city populations and not metro area population. You get cities like Miami and Atlanta in the top 10 by growth rate that look like mid size cities but are actually in the top ten largest metro areas in the US.


Maybe, but I think the concept of metro areas doesn't help much when trying to define people moving from small towns to cities.

For example, the Philadelphia metro area has over 6 million residents, while the city itself has only about 1.6. Problem is, the metro area includes extremely rural and small towns within about a 1-2 hour drive of the center of the city [1]. I'm not sure I'd consider someone living in exurban/rural Chester or Montgomery counties, 50 miles from the city, to be living in Philly.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delaware_Valley


Using the population within city limits to measure, rank, or even describe a city isn't very helpful because city limits are completely arbitrary. Metro areas, while still arbitrary are much less so. Take Atlanta--everyone who lives here considers Atlanta to be anything inside the perimeter (I-285), and the urban population is about 4.5 million, but the city limits only cover half of that area (~130 square miles) and include only about 400k people. Then you have Sitka, Alaska that covers almost 3k square miles, while the urban center is only 2 square miles.

>rural and small towns within about a 1-2 hour drive of the center of the city

According to this, the vast majority of the metro area is within 1 hour.

https://app.traveltimeplatform.com/#/search/0_lng=-75.16843&...

>I'm not sure I'd consider someone living in exurban/rural Chester or Montgomery counties, 50 miles from the city, to be living in Philly.

The number of people living in rural areas is small compared to the people living in closer more densely populated areas. Subtract 10-20% from the population numbers to account for them and you still have a number more useful and less arbitrary than population within city limits.


> More people have been moving into cities

Not so much in Canada. Small towns (1,000 to 29,999 people) are the fastest growing community type. Large cities (100,000+ people) have lost share of the population. The definition of urban is "a population of at least 1,000 and a density of 400 or more people per square kilometre", so you might hear that urbanization continues (which is true, the rural population shrunk by about the same rate as cities), but that doesn't mean the people are moving into cities.


Canada is very different from the US in this regard, so it's important to consider both distinctly. Canada never had the same mass-exodus of the middle class from their cities, so the economic demographics are all very different from those of American cities. Maybe these two sets of cities are growing to become more like each other?


Really? There are no suburbs in Canada? There were sure a lot of poor neighborhoods in Montréal near the downtown core in the 60's and a lot of residential development on the South Shore and the West Island.


There absolutely are suburbs. But relative to the US, Canada’s major cities have maintained bigger inner-urban middle classes.


>More people have been moving into cities since remote work has become possible than the opposite.

More people have been becoming surfers than leaving surfing for skateboarding since it was invented.


> 5 minutes walk or 1 minute drive to a shop for groceries, hardware, lumber, restaurants, kid parks.

Yes, this sounds amazing. In fact you've just described exactly what (most) in the big city enjoy about it.

You also described a vanishingly small amount of American small towns. Most are much more akin to suburbs, which to me is the absolutely worst form of living yet invented.

I completely understand those who want to live in small towns/rural area around nature. I completely understand those who want to live in a big city with big city conveniences. I simply do not understand those who want to live in between.


I grew up in São Paulo. Then I moved to Dublin, Ireland (which is, compared to São Paulo, tiny, but, with over a million people living here, shouldn't be called a small town).

I now live in a quiet and walkable city. Have a huge shared backyard where kids in the neighborhood play. We all know each other, we have Whatsapp groups for the neighborhood (wives created one, husbands, half-jokingly, created another to keep a balance of power). I almost never have to use a car. We have only one.

I never considered moving to a smaller city, but, really, I can see the appeal of not living between tall buildings, with sirens, beeps, engines and the constant hum of large city.

I'm now in San Francisco (for the week) and the constant noise is already getting on my nerves again (happens every time I come here - I'll be cranky for 3 days or so - and, mind you, I've been living in Dublin for only two years and grew up in São Paulo).


Some of us don't feel comfortable if everyone knows each other. I don't know my neighbors and I like it that way. I have more options for stores,etc... More services are available in big cities too. More banking options,more car repair places,more grocery shops and placss of entertainment. There are nice parks if I want trees,or I could just drive out of the city on the weekend. I'm just saying, everyone has their own priorities.


5 minutes walk or 1 minute drive to a shop for groceries, hardware, lumber, restaurants, kid parks.

I've never lived in, or even seen, a small town in america where this was possible.


Keene, NH. About 20-30K people total. Walkable and all amenities available.


NH, MA, and the southern parts of ME have quite a few of these kind of towns, as a natural side effect of developing in the pre-car era.


I'm living in a small town right this moment where is is all possible. Toss in a library, a bar, a couple barbers, and a fresh bakery too.


Interesting that you bring up the library -- when it comes to small towns, the library is the deal breaker for me. They usually have thin, dated collections.


Most (in my state - MN - which I do believe is known as one of the better ones) state library systems are networked, for this reason. Simply reserve a book you want and it will show up on the weekly van delivery.

I spent a few years growing up in a ridiculously small town where we'd have to drive to the next town over to check out books - and I never missed anything I wanted to read, just had to plan ahead a little.


That might work if you know what you want already, you're still out of luck for browsing though. And even if you know what you want, they might deliver you the busted copy that's all highlighted and underlined ;)


> Everyone knows each other. Very tight knit community.

That's my main problem with it. Grew up in a small city and this was exactly the case. In a big city I can pick the people I want to deal with, in a small town this is inpossible without creating tensions.


I totally grok the desire for anon when living in a small town especially when I was younger. There is a social pressure that can be suffocating. I can't imagine the pressures of village or tribe life thousands of years ago. As I got older and relaxed this mostly went away. Such is life.


It’s easy to be relaxed when the financial pressures have been lifted. But if you need your community to survive (e.g. LGBT in conservative small towns), that’s not fixable.


I live in a small town, work remotely for the most part, and love it. In my town, the number of people who work remotely is steadily increasing. The remote workers tend to have higher incomes which brings in more resources to the town, but also creates some divisions.

For example, there’s a “yuppie” coffee shop and a “hippie” coffee shop. They’re both great, but there’s a noticeable cultural divide and some animosity on both ends. People who have been here their whole lives are starting to get priced out of the area, and they’re understandably leery of non locals. We’ve already had long time businesses shut down because they couldn’t afford rising rents. There’s a vocal group who are very much against new developments that would taint the old charm and probably raise prices.

Our town is actually pretty progressive though, and is already investing in low cost housing, but I doubt that’ll be enough. I see a bright future ahead for our small town, but managing the growth without losing our sense of history and community is going to be difficult.


“I'll take my country life as a remote worker going on 8 years. Trees, forest, wildlife, fresh air, backyards. 5 minutes walk or 1 minute drive to a shop for groceries, hardware, lumber, restaurants, kid parks.”

My neighborhood in Chicago has all of these things and I can walk to the train for work every day.


And my neighbourhood in Edinburgh has all of that too, with a 20 minute walk to my office


I recall when I worked for a while in Edinburgh a 20 min walk from princess st was considered out in the boon docks.


> I'll take my country life as a remote worker going on 8 years. Trees, forest, wildlife, fresh air, backyards. 5 minutes walk or 1 minute drive to a shop for groceries, hardware, lumber, restaurants, kid parks.

If you don't mind a bit of privacy invasion, what city/town do you live in? One of the biggest reasons I live in a big city is that I like being able to take a 5 minute walk to get to anything I need. Stereotypical suburbs/rural areas are primarily built for cars, not pedestrians/cyclists.


I like your take in general, but these two phrases don't quite go together:

> Trees, forest, wildlife, fresh air, backyards. 5 minutes walk or 1 minute drive to…

Guessing that the number of places in the middle of a forest with a five minute walk to spectacular shopping are quite rare.


I got both. Living in one of the big cities in Germany, but on the outta rim of it. 10min walk and I'm in the forrest, 10min subway and I'm in the city center.


Driving is wasteful, dangerous, expensive, and toxic.


I'm glad you've found something that works for you (really!) but you're cherry-picking. The key problem is this:

> 5 minutes walk or 1 minute drive to a shop for groceries, hardware, lumber, restaurants, kid parks.

This might be true for you but that's probably because your income is much higher than the median where you live such that you can afford just off Main St is whatever qualifies as central where you live.

By definition not everyone can do that. And I say by definition because:

- Average walking speed is about 5 feet per second

- 5 minutes to just one of the destinations you mention puts you at at radius of 1500 feet

- The average supermarket size is, say, 40,000 square feet [1]

- Let's assume an entry on each side and a square footprint of 200x200. That doesn't include parking

- It seems ~150 parking spaces per acre is a good estimate [2], putting the space for each at roughly 300 square feet

- I can't find any stats or the average number of parking spaces for a supermarket so let's go with 100 for 30,000 square feet bringing out supermarket footprint to 70,000

- Assuming these things are circular (best case) and you can walk in straight lines (best case) the radius of the store is 112 feet. The parking lot eats another 38 feet of that

- So the circle for being within 5 minutes is 112 feet + 1500 feet - 70,000 square feet, which we'll call ~8 million square feet.

- Average lot sizes are harder to figure out. There's data like this [3] but that includes cities. Even in big cities like Atlanta or Kansas City you can see lot sizes over an acre.

- There is also things you need to roads, (more) parking spaces and so on so probably a better way to approach this is houses per acre [4]. Based on medians of 24 acres and 60 housing units, that puts the average house footprint (including ancillary services) at ~18,000 square feet. I actually think that's rather generous too as the figures were for a subdivision. Small towns (with the possible exception of older towns such as what you have in New England) will probably have higher average house footprints.

- That means within our circle we have ~440 houses.

- According to the 2010 census, the average was 2.58 people per household [5]

- So ~1100 people get to walk to the supermarket in 5 minutes.

- So with 10,000 people, only 1 in 9 has this lifestyle.

- That's just one your points of interest (the market). Add in restaurants, parks and the other things you mentioned and it gets a lot worse very quickly.

My point here is that you are in a privileged position and your characterization of "small town life" is unrepresentative. Most people will have to drive everywhere.

Now granted traffic probably won't be as bad as say LA or Chicago. My point is that being able to walk everywhere in a small town (in the USA at least) is highly unusual, not remotely representative and highly privileged (locally speaking).

[1]: http://time.com/money/136330/why-your-grocery-store-may-soon...

[2]: https://ag.tennessee.edu/cpa/Information%20Sheets/CPA%20222....

[3]: http://eyeonhousing.org/2016/07/lots-in-2015-are-smallest-on...

[4]: https://www.nahb.org/en/research/housing-economics/special-s...

[5]: https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-14.pdf


That's because US city planning and management are extremely car-centric.

I go to a big supermarket 4km by foot and return in a taxi. Cabs are always queueing near the exit. People who can't afford individual taxis or simply bought fewer bags, walk 20 meters to the bus stop to get a shared taxi or any of multiple city buses that pass through that street.

Smaller supermarkets are even closer and tiny grocery stores are in five-to-ten-minute walking range for 80% of the city.


Fortunately I own a bike.

tjr225 7 months ago [flagged]

These kinda of comments seem to be growing in frequency on HN.

Why? Who cares what decisions people make? I've lived on acreage in the woods, small towns, suburbs, mid sized cities and urban environments and guess what? The only thing I've learned is that each has pros and cons and that every time I've said I would "never" live in one of those situations again I was surprised when I chose to do that very thing.

Why limit your lifestyle options with arbitrary mental boxes? Maybe I'm just getting tired of reading strangers opinions on the internet, it seems like a waste of mental energy...but as you say- "To each their own"


5 minutes walk or 1 minute drive to a shop? Must not be the US.


This idea works really well for remote developers.

I live in the tiny, 1,000 person, village of Arbonne-la-Foret, smack dab in the middle of nowhere, France. That is, unless you're a rock climber, in which case it's exactly in the center of the largest concentration of fantastic bouldering on the planet. American companies are happy to pay me the same to work from here as from that little Ohio town in the article, or from the Bay Area.

I think the strategy to follow if you're in tech these days is to:

  1. figure out the thing you like to do most in life,
  2. find the best place in the world to do that thing,
  3. move there and,
  4. contract remotely for a company based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
There is good internet everywhere. I'm finding less and less reason why anybody who could would ever want to work in an office.


Sorry to nitpick but that "smack dab in the middle of nowhere" is 40 miles from Paris :) Anyway, it is very surprising that freelancing and remote work are taking off so slowly. At the company where I do remote freelance work I think less than 10% are freelancers and less than half of those are remote, even if the opportunity exists for almost everyone, even employees could switch to a freelance contract.


France is a central-governed country (in contrast to Germany), so everything outside Paris is a smack dab in the middle of nowhere.


We (jokingly) call everything outside the inner ring of Budapest countryside :)


Just like everything north of New York City is “upstate”.


With respect to smack dab in the middle of nowhere, I think this is a matter of relative scale. For reference, I grew up six miles outside of Conrad Montana, which isn't all that "close" to anything. However, my cousins thought nothing of hopping in the car to drive to the middle of Utah to check out a dog that someone was giving away. Or take a little further east to the town of Jordan, Montana where there is no railroad and the biggest events are the high school football games. My friend works at the University in Missoula, and complains that in driving back east, after an 8 hour drive he is still in Montana.

And Montana isn't even the biggest state. There are counties in Texas that are too small to have courthouses, so they share them with neighbors. That are not really walking distance. Check out the book "Miles from Nowhere". It tells of two census takers who ran out of gas and were lost for days in a county in populous Oregon.

My definition of remote is likely different from yours. I would define it as no internet access other than satellite, no roads connecting the rest of the country, no waterway access. I would be hard pressed to find somewhere in Europe that is smack dab in the middle of nowhere.


> a county in populous Oregon.

Oregon's population is mostly concentrated in the western 1/3rd of the state. The central and eastern bits have some extremely empty areas. Indeed, SE Oregon is one of the emptiest places in the US outside of Alaska.



My wife and I have been debating a move to France. Are you French, or did you move there from elsewhere? If you moved, how was that process? Any tips on expatriating?

We like where we live currently (small town USA), and the thing that really keeps us here is family.


The thought of working in an office is a big NOPE for me. I can’t EVER see myself going in to work somewhere. This ends all sorts of roads for me but I just have it so damn good to ever change it.


This area is hardly remote: https://goo.gl/FKNQPv

Still, as someone who has (as is still doing) the remote thing (Vlore Albania, Sackville NB Canada -pop <2000) I completely agree :)


The strategy seems easy to execute but the first two points are quite tricky.

I've been trying to figure out what I'd like to do and where for the past 12 months. I've been jumping from one continent to another, living in villages under 50 people and in multimillion metropolises - all this while working remotely for clients in Europe. They didn't care where am I as long as I replied to emails in a timely manner. In South America I had to wake up at 4am and in Asia I would go to sleep at that time, but that's the only inconvenience I had.

p.s. No, good internet isn't everywhere :)


Amazing part of the world. I lived there for a year as a child (Bois-le-Roi) when my Dad was teaching in Insead and visited every summer (to a small village called Recloses) until I graduated high school. Fontainebleau is not exactly the middle of nowhere though. Only around an hour by train to Paris.

We used to go bouldering in Buthiers, which I'm sure you've visited. It was also the location for the world mountain bike trials championships in the 90's.

One of my favourite places in the area is the sand quarry near Bourron-Marlotte (48.342808, 2.676220). Highly recommend a day trip there.


I currently do remote work in Toronto for an SF company, but as a full time employee, with benefits etc. How does your healthcare situation work?


I've always arranged my employment as a contract, so benefits were never a consideration. Health insurance turns out to be quite affordable when you're billing out at effectively double the hourly rate of the full time guys, as is pretty common when contracting.



Thanks for the link! That's a pretty long article, however. Can you point me to the relevant section?

Some Googling led me to https://www.contractorcalculator.co.uk/contractor_guide_cont...:

>“Although sole traders in France receive no paid time off, extra pay or unemployment benefit, they do have access to the French healthcare system and accrue pension benefits, albeit at a lower rate than an employee.

jasonkester, is this your setup?


... at the moment. Try not to read that in as a factor, especially if you're looking for reasons why this might not work for you.

I've done the same in England, Spain, Thailand, Colombia, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico. And shorter stints in a dozen other countries while traveling.

It doesn't really matter where you set up shop, provided it's cheap to live there and you like it.


Are you a Canadian citizen? How to taxes work in this situation?


Did you ever try making apps vs contracting? I see so few folks living off apps or games (as products) it seems..


Do you make the same salary as you would in the Bay Area or did you have to offer a discount?


Employers will happily take you up on a discounted rate if you offer it. But then they'll also pay you your market value if you ask for that instead. So that's what I do.

Took a few years to work that out though, personally, so I'm glad you asked for the benefit of anybody else who may not realize it yet.


I've worked for two separate companies as a remote worker, and with neither did I have to take a discount. Most companies want to pay you for the value you bring, and are not willing to lowball and risk losing highly-talented employees.

There are a few companies out there that play this game (Gitlab [1]), but many others (Basecamp [2]) that pay you what you're worth regardless of location.

[1] https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/people-operations/global-c...

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16051062


> Team members in high-wage regions having less discretionary income then ones in low-wage countries with the same role.

Heh, so their answer is to take away (presumably unearned) discretionary income from people who win the location lottery?

How very egalitarian of them.


I've said it before but as long as you can get a PO box for the vatican city then Gitlab are going to have to pay you a lot!


Not OP but having been in this situation I am willing to offer a discount, but I still insist on a premium over what I could earn locally; as a remote I am giving up career advancement so comp neefs to recognize this. Otherwise I might as well work locally and get the career benefits of being onsite.


Not the OP, but know several remote workers for Bay Area companies, and all are getting comparable salaries. The ones in FL and TX are seeing quite a bit more take-home due to no state taxes.


If I could only find a remote job...


That is a nice fantasy. I don't see it applying for most people tho. I know exactly zero people who do contract/remote work and don't struggle to make a living, even in a cheaper area. The hardest part is to get any decent paying contracts.

You might have some advantage that is not even clear to you. Maybe you worked in a big company for 10 years and now can gather work through contacts from there. Maybe your father is well known in the industry you work. Something like that.


You might have some advantage

Keep in mind that the first 10 odd years of your career out of school should be all about building that advantage. You want to hit your 30s in a state of Embarrassing Employability, where another amazing contract gig is just an email or two, or a Twitter status update away.

Spend your entire 20s amassing a collections of artifacts you can point to to demonstrate how good you are at all this stuff, and a horde of ex-bosses and ex-co-workers to whom your name springs first to mind when asked by somebody who needs a guy to do that stuff if they know The Guy.

So yes, absolutely. Get an advantage. But know that the short list of "built in" ones you gave above is not comprehensive. The best advantages are the ones you construct yourself.


Sure, but those aren't the people struggling. People with successful careers and property in the Bay Area have probably seen both their salary and property value double in the last ten years. Which is pretty hard to beat anywhere else.


erikb, I'm not writing this to be rude, but I am hoping it can change your perspective a little. Every sentence in your reply is so negative. You almost certainly won't get something you want if you think it's impossible. It means you wont bother trying. You have an excuse for everything. Its completely possible. I've worked for a large company for 2 years and made it happen. I know plenty of other people that do it as well.

The attitude in your comment was such a bummer I had to log in for the first time in years just to respond. Try to be more positive and go after what you want. Have a good rest of the weekend.


I think parent is right to point out that remote/contract work is more tenuous than the alternative in most cases. I also found your comment aggressive and nasty... the irony of the "stop being negative" put-down.


Sorry it came off that way. I'll keep that in mind next time I comment.


Your comment above didn't come off as negative to me fwiw. I had the same reaction.

The error in thought is limiting his perspective to people he knows personally, which of course can make it seem unlikely or impossible. For example, I don't personally know anyone who lives and works in Silicon Valley and doesn't struggle to make a living, but I do understand that it would be possible for me to try to do so if that was my desire.


I think he is mostly correct though. "If you have a good resume and live 30 minutes outside even a small town, but you also have to drive everywhere" isn't really comparable to the "standard deal" in a city.


This is not negative, this is called objective. The bear eats fish. That is nice and relaxing for the bear, but really painful for the fish. And there is not much the fish can do about it. Will the positive thinking fish get better results? No. Has the bear an innate advantage in that exchange? Yep. Is it negative to say that the bear has innate advantage? Nope.

If you think that your success comes from happy thoughts I bet you are in a similar good situation as the bear.

E.g. compare a western european software manager to his developer comrades in eastern europe offices. Independent of his skill he can make $70-150k a year. Most of his programmers will be in other countries where even people 5x his skill and putting in 3x his hours will earn around $18k/year. (Example could be Munich vs Brno, 600 km apart)

Who do you think can achieve more with his happy thoughts?

I don't say "do something for the poor". I don't say "you are bad for having an advantage". What I want to make sure is that one knows about ones advantage and that others can't easily copy it. In fact ignoring that difference is quite assholey.


Yes, you need to break into the industry before anyone will take you seriously as a candidate. So maybe add in at the top: 1. Go live in the US long enough to get established in the industry.

It's still out of reach for most people in the world, but not even San Francisco can employ literally everyone.


I can’t say I agree. I started freelancing in a brand new (to me) industry just 2 years ago with zero contacts and have been doing alright. I think a lot depends on your attitude, work ethic, desire to learn and self improve. Being nice and authentic with everyone you engage with is probably helpful too. I didn’t know anyone in the states and I certainly don’t know anyone in my country and it hasn’t been a deal breaker.


What was your sales strategy to get started?


Still you are probably male, white, born in Western Europe or US, etc.

I found even some little things like how people style their hair, if they use face masks to keep their face clean, if they paid for teeth whitening/straightening in the past, can make a difference. In some regards that is attitute, true. But the kind you can't really learn growing up in the countryside for instance, or can't afford from the pay you get in some countries.

One of the best programmers I know has even some black teeth. He'll never be invited to a meeting where financially sound contracts are made.


Just checking in. I have been remote ~10 years now apart from when I ran my own startup that was running location specific ops. I now work as CTO for a listed company completely remotely even though we also have offices in a few countries. I also have a completely remote team working on a new startup (currently side project status for me but full-time for the team). I can assure you none of us have any trouble earning a living.


Here are three companies off the top of my head that offer remote positions as standard: IOHK, Github, Stripe. Those jobs are certainly out there.


Actually I'm going to check them out. Thanks.

Last I checked for that was Wordpress and they paid like $1500/month if I remember correctly.


You don't need to become a contractor, you can just work remotely from Europe for a US company. So, you just one job offer.


True about 60% I'd said. You will be surprised though how two different people, one white-male the other asian-female will get offered for the very same job with the very same skills.


Small towns get worse the further you are from the default. For example, dating here is terrible. All the men are assholes or very deep in the closet.

The women are super religious. Think bible quotes as Tinder profiles. And I don't mean "their bios have a lot about religion in them." I mean that's their whole profile. A bible quote.

And I doubt many gender non-comforming people in my age range are out about it. There is no way I'm taking my queer ass to one of the three dive bars to do it the traditional way.

That's not even getting into the lack of entertainment options. This town is at least close enough to Atlanta and Athens for good internet options and reasonable support for LGBT+ people in government. They had updated marriage licenses ready before the SCOTUS ruling.

If you're a straight, white, cis dude who doesn't mind traveling to the nearest city for anything fun to do, knock yourself out. At least get a hotel paid monthly and spend some real quality time in a prospective small town first. Even if you are super default, I don't see how you could enjoy it if you're remotely intellectually curious.

I'm getting out of here ASAP.


Remote work is fantastic if you are willing to make some sacrifices.

The biggest sacrifice is career advancement. I personally don't care because I am considered an older worker...but as a remote employee, it can be more difficult to advance into management etc. I also tend to let others "win" if I have any sort of workplace conflict. Since I am not in the office, I need to make sure no one has cause to talk negatively about me.

Everything else is a positive. I can literally live wherever I want. I have no "commute". I get paid a decent Bay Area wage that is considered very high by local standards. I do not pay CA taxes.

Many companies are still hesitant to embrace remote work but that is changing.

My guess is in twenty years, the remote worker will have higher life satisfaction: much more likely to own a home, much more likely to be able to start a family etc etc.


I cringe a little when I hear "advance into management". Management is an entirely different job, not something that is an upgrade over an individual contributor role.


I agree but sadly the salary often is an upgrade and there are few alternative routes for advancement.


Agree. I have a job and you can either be remote or onsite. I am well on the way to c-suite roles partially because I choose to be on-site, and of course the necessary hard work. We don't typically make someone COO or Director of Engineering if they're remote for many reasons.

Another reason to eschew remote is impact. Much easier to have impact and do real, meaningful work from onsite where one can convince people of things and drove companies in certain directions. Imagine Steve Jobs as a remote employee. Maybe this is cynical, but remote is great if all you want from life is to be well paid and code. For many, there's much more.


It depends. You describe working for a "remote allowed" company.

My advice for any engineers that want to do the remote work thing and still have career advancement is find a "remote only" company.

Everything you said is true for larger orgs who have physical presences. For small shops that have developed remote-only cultures most of those negatives are moot.

If I were ever looking for work again I would only entertain offers from remote-only companies unless I was getting desperate.


These jobs tend to be very, very competitive, are they not?


> but as a remote employee, it can be more difficult to advance into management

I agree, you need remote-first company or at least all-remote team to manage effectively. Politics are always hard but then meritocracy wins. However still I haven't found a good way to break the ice remotely - ocassional team gathering IRL helps a lot.

Disruption idea: remote watercooler/lunch/hallway talks solution.


Six years ago our remotely working family was choosing between Canada and Chile (these countries have freelancer-friendly immigration[1]). After looking at the costs of life and real estate in Canada, Chile won and we moved to a small southern city[2]. It is walkable, green, full of various stores and services but still small enough to occasionally run into your friends in the downtown. I feel more at home here than in St. Petersburg where I've spent most of my life.

We live very comfortably here for less than $2k/mo for two people and expect to build a house for less than $150k (including half a hectare of land that we have bought already). I think it's quite easy to retire early in these conditions even on a moderate remote income ($50-60k). Also, Chilean personal income taxes are the lowest in the OECD[3].

[1]: https://qotoqot.com/blog/best-countries/

[2]: https://valdiviaguide.com/

[3]: http://www.oecd.org/tax/tax-policy/taxing-wages-chile.pdf


Cool! Chile looks like an interesting country - you can pick a climate that suits your fancy... but in practice, how does that work out? Are there differences (besides the weather) between north and south? Did you speak Spanish when you went? Have you written about your experiences?


When we were moving here, I thought we would stay only for 6-7 years to get a better passport but now I just don't want to leave.

The southern Chilean culture suits me perfectly: there's no tension in the air (especially compared to the US or Russia) and most people are a bit reserved but kind to each other. It's somewhat different in the central regions because of the population density and competitiveness but still great in my opinion.

Neither of us spoke Spanish and it was tough in the first year because we had little time to practice. Overall Spanish acquisition goes quite slowly because we work from home and have met a lot of English-speaking friends but I got to the conversational level in the third year. It's not a hard language after all.

I don't have an immigrant's blog but I made the "Valdivia Guide" site from the previous comment.


That's what I did, some years ago, as a consultant. Once I had enough steady clients, I moved to a small town, where living expenses were much lower.

However, I did pick a college town, not very far from interstates, Amtrak and a regional airport. So meeting clients hasn't been a huge hassle. And there are interesting communities, including a maker space.

And damn, the vibe is amazing. As much as I come off online as a privacy extremist, I love the intimacy. Neighbors care about each other. There's no need to lock your doors. Neighbors ask about strange vehicles and people. They know you at the post office. I've received mail addressed to just name, city, state and postal code.

But of course, I never talk about Mirimir etc there ;)


That's what I did, some years ago, as a consultant. Once I had enough steady clients, I moved to a small town, where living expenses were much lower.

I'm living in NYC and looking into something similar. The rent is absurd and the vast majority of the work I do is conducted electronically. I read this article and was like, "Very close to my reaction." I don't want to move to a really small town, but somewhere like Nashville or Columbus, OH is appealing.


I moved from Brooklyn to Baltimore five years ago, without changing my income. It meant an instant boost to my standard of living, as I was able to get a new luxury apartment in a nice neighborhood for the same rent as my infested Brooklyn studio in a "transitioning" neighborhood.

There are so many mid-size, low-cost-of-living, vibrant cities to choose from. Baltimore, Pittsburg, Columbus, Cincinnati, Charleston, New Orleans, Nashville, Louisville, ... And these days they all have great co-working spaces.


If I did ever move back to the US I think I'd pick one of these second tier cities too. Small town living is just too provincial for me but I think you get a lot of the upsides of living in NYC or LA or SF without a lot of the downsides when you live in a place like Pittsburg.

Not to mention that cities like NYC or LA are so expensive and so gentrified now that artists and other creative people can't afford to live there anymore so they're a lot less interesting than they were 20 years ago anyway. There's a lot of really creative and offbeat electronic music coming out of the American Midwest right now for example.


Similar situation. Freelancer, clients all over the US, can live anywhere. Having lived in SF, Portland, and NYC for about a decade, my wife and I packed up and moved to Nashville in 2015 when our first child was born.

We moved back to NYC a few months ago.

Nashville was great, but it can’t even come close to touching what NYC offers in terms of culture, diversity, novelty, careers, food, walkability, transit, etc. Not to mention more minor things like multiple international airports, ocean access, architecture, etc.

We have to sacrifice to live here but I now know it’s worth it to us.


A huge upside for small town living is livability for people with disabilities. It's a major reason, for example, that people like to retire to smaller towns. It's also why it is expensive to rear more than a couple small kids in a major urban area, assuming you can consider babies and toddlers (temporarily) less-than-able human beings.

It varies from big city to big city, but older areas of cities are usually grandfathered out of ADA regulations that require wider doors, accessibility ramps, elevators, etc. Parking at all in most cities is atrocious, let alone handicap parking with extra room to unload a wheelchair. Wide aisles are a waste of space in dense urban areas but needed if you need to get a wheelchair to the only open table in the back of the room. Shoving your way on to a crowded train car is distasteful when young and healthy but a deal breaker for many. See also availability of handicap bathroom stalls. The list goes on.

I was recently at a museum in a small city and was struck with how many visitors had significant disabilities of various kinds. For all the diversity we come to expect from large cities, this kind of diversity is probably lacking.


I've always been under the impression that small towns aren't accessible from an aging and disabled perspective. Even the smallest tasks require a car and there's little to no public transportation. Whereas in cities, you might only have to go to the corner to grab necessities or get medication from your pharmacy.

I've worked with Meals on Wheels in suburban areas. Often, if the elderly didn't live in a senior community/nursing home or didn't have family nearby, they barely left home because they physically, or legally, couldn't drive. That means they don't see doctors when they need to, and lacked food, medication and basic necessities. Taxis exist, but they're relatively expensive if you're retired and living off of Social Security.


I lived in Irvine CA, my studio rent was 1650 one of the cheaper ones in the complex. Wife and I made combined 110k a year and all we had enough for was to pay living expenses when figure in everything else. Then I lost my job and had to pick up freelancing as nobody else was hiring - I didn’t have enough experience in the field I wanted to work in. Moved to Vancouver WA and was able to afford more while getting better freelance gigs. Now I live in rural Japan where a 3 br house costs $500 to rent. I still freelance and have grown my career significantly- with ability to pull over 100k if I wanted to, except now I work less since I want to spend more time with family. Even the money I’m making now, while far far less than many people here, goes a long way. Meanwhile this has enabled me to spend 50% of my time to work on side projects. I am hoping some of them pan out for recurring income so I can drop wage slavery forever. Big cities are fun and all when you are younger. Spend all your money on rent - no problem at that age. Then you get to a point when it all sounds too absurd and you want a lawn, a place to watch your kids play somewhere to slow the hell down from life in the fast lane.


I feel like we're missing a lot of detail between Vancouver, WA and how you ended up in rural Japan... Can you fill some of that in? How did you end up there?


My wife is Japanese. We were expecting our first and made a conscious decision to move. Most of my clients now are still from US, although I have and occasionally still work with agencies in other English speaking countries.


Rural Japan? Wow, that must be amazingly different from the U.S. I’ve often thought about offering my services to different countries to experience what it’s like living there.


I can see the same thing happening over here in the UK. Me and my partner left London to move to a smaller city Scotland, we now pay 60% of the rent for a place that's twice as big. I still freelance for clients in London and can funnel the extra money into side projects and savings. We actually have a realistic chance of buying a house in the next couple of years too!

One thing I wonder, having seen a few articles recently about people leaving big cities[1], is whether this is a new trend or simply the same thing that happens every generation as people grow older and their priorities change?

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/jun/28/london-propert...


> One thing I wonder, having seen a few articles recently about people leaving big cities[1], is whether this is a new trend or simply the same thing that happens every generation as people grow older and their priorities change?

I don't think so - not in general. I think it largely depends on the economical situation. My grandparents (and with them many others) have done the exact opposite because it made economical sense back then.


I think on a long enough time scale it is a cycle. Just like the market booms and busts the flow of people oscillates to and fro in the market of places to live.


I've always thought that people misunderstood the power of remote working. The power is that it lets you live where you want to live while also letting you do the work that you want to regardless of where either is. We love country life. We live in a village of less than 400 people on 100 acres of land yet I work internationally in marketing and my wife is an engineer with a major aerospace company.

Some of my best friends also have jobs that allow them to live in the city they want to live (Tampa area) while working for companies in locations that they have no desire to live in (SF Bay area).

I've always felt that remote working was all about making the connection between the desired career and desired lifestyle where in the past if you wanted to work for major firm X you had to live THERE.


Isn't this exactly what people understand the power of remote work to be? Sadly, most firms still don't think the (real or perceived) loss of productivity is a good deal for them, even if it is for their employees.


Based on my experience it isn't. Most people full stop at 'work from home' but never take the next step toward live how I want to live while working how I want to work. They have their job, convince their boss to let them work from home, then never actually do anything other than work in their PJs. ;)


Maybe staying where they are but working in their PJs is how they want to live!


I don't think that most people misunderstand the power of remote working. I work from home 99% of the time, but it is nice having the flexibility to go into the office when necessary. People also develop networks (professional and personal) during the time it might take to turn something into a remote opportunity and it is hard to separate from that.


Anybody ever though about downshifting to 3rd world countries in line of this?

I myself work for a SZ based company, moved there from Canada. During production run times I'm in Shenzhen, and the rest of the time I'm stationed in a random "developing country" trying to "play a big man," fraternise with local business and political establishments, trying to win bets.

We have few Americans in the company, all of them are from "flyover" states. They all say China is a way better bet in moving up the ladder for them than Silicon Valley.


A friend of mine moved to the Philippines with her husband (both Australian) to set up an offshore development shop doing NetSute ERP implementations for Australian NetSuite customers (usually mid-market retailers or manufactures).

She’s been there for 4 years now so it must be going well - her house is amazing there too.


> Anybody ever though about downshifting to 3rd world countries in line of this?

Many 3rd world countries have issues with government-provided infrastructure: security, healthcare, schools, etc.

But there’re quite a lot of 1st & 2nd world countries with reasonable cost of living but good quality of life. Montenegro’s one of them (that’s where I currently live) but there’re more, e.g. most countries in Eastern or Southern Europe have similar qualities.


I moved to CA not for work, but family. There was nothing to do in my home state in the south, and I lived in the capital.

In CA I have endless opportunities, events, family activities, and access to a huge variety of landscapes. Having both the ocean and mountains within easy reach is a big advantage. Food is also so much better out here. And then the people -- it's nice to live around people who think and feel the same way.

I sometimes think through moving back, or somewhere else with low cost of living, but I'm not willing to give everything up.


I've lived on the west coast and in the south (where I currently am). The west coast has what you say, but there are spots here in the south that are pretty close, and way less expensive.

I'm a 3 hour drive from the ocean, 30 minutes from decent mountain hikes (not as good as the Cascades, but decent). The food here is not as varied as Seattle. To get the same variety, I have to hop in the car and head up to Ashville, down to Atlanta, or 30 minutes into Greenville (whose food scene is improving). That said, I'm currently in walking distance of a great Thai place, a really good microbrewery, a great farm-to-table place, a great Mexican place, a really good seafood place... So, that's good enough for me. Politically, this is a conservative place, but not as much a you'd think, and Ashville, which is ~1 hour away, is as liberal as Seattle, I'd wager. So, you can definitely find a nice group of folks who think the way you do, if you don't feel like hanging out with a more diverse group.


> I'm a 3 hour drive from the ocean

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this would be a dealbreak for anyone for whom ocean access is even moderately important. Even the greater Portland, OR area being 2 hours away (assuming no traffic, which is never a safe assumption for those routes) was a big enough impediment to a friend of mine who is a CA expat there, that he considers casual day trips out of the question.

> not as good as the Cascades, but decent

> food here is not as varied as Seattle

Ultimately, I think this is the big takeaway.. there are places that may be way less expensive, as you say, but many amenities (for lack of a better term) are only kinda-sorta comparable if one squints hard enough.

If those amenities are central to ones lifestyle and perception of quality of life, that approximation isn't going to cut it, no matter how cheap it is. Some people may well overestimate the importance of such amenities, but others may underestimate them because they take them for granted, if they've lived in certain West Coast cities long enough.


I agree. Having lived in a big cities and little villages I much prefer the big city. However I think the mid-size city offers the best tradeoff between cost-of-living, ease of getting around, and stuff to do. It will have all the common activities and, if you choose the right city, the niche interests as well.


Truckee looks pretty great for this sort of thing. It's only 35 minutes drive from Reno too. So getting out and getting fancier food or whatever is very much doable for an evening.

It's interesting that more people don't move to places like this. Perhaps the difficulty of obtaining well paid work is the hard part.


I live in a ski resort and work remotely in tech.

While it has its upsides, which are obvious, there are some downsides.

Winters can feel long. Like 9 months long. The “slack” season between spring snow melting and summer can feel never ending. Same with fall; too cold to do much, but no snow. Town is empty, businesses shut down and shorten hours.

It’s easy to get feel isolated. It’s easy to not see much sun shine for days or weeks at a time.

January and February are generally great, but tourists can get annoying. Same with July and August. 4/12 would recommend.


Truckee is relatively expensive given the demand for second homes for wealthy coastal types.

Why not just cross the border? Incline Village is great and you avoid CA taxes


As more and more skilled work moves online and becomes disintermediated we’ll see more of that. I’m guessing that upwork and similar websites are the start of that though they still have the problem that they’re a market for lemons, people who are good learn relatively quickly they can get better pay outside them. Software is probably the leading edge of the sectors that lots of knowledge work will eventually follow. You have marketplaces like instapainting.com for art work. I’m sure there are others and if there aren’t it’s an opportunity some software entrepreneurs will exploit.


For tech people you almost /have/ to find remote work. We moved to a remote part of Indiana for my wife's job and the only local tech job I've found offered 1 week vacation and less money than I made out of college 15 years ago.

There are perks like having a 4500sq ft home on almost 2 aces of land for a mortgage much smaller than what I see a studio rent for in SF. On the other hand there's only a couple of truly good restaurants in the area, the rest is low end fast food (McDs and the like). The nearest Chipotle, for instance, is 45 minutes away. And the night scene.. it ends around 10pm.


The first town mentioned in the article is Yellow Springs, OH. That's very close to Dayton and Springfield, two decently sized cities. On top of that's it's about an hour away from Columbus and Cincinnati, both of which have tons of nightlife, restaurants and competitive tech jobs.


Yellow Springs is actually a neat little town on its own, with several good restaurants and coffee shops and stores. It has a reputation as sort of a hippie town. And Dave Chappelle lives there. Probably not a lot of nightlife or jobs, though.


But how many people long for "the small town" just to commute 2+ hours a day?


Some people commute 2+ hours in the Bay Area too


Purchasing a house in Truckee, while not Palo Alto expensive, still isn’t cheap. There are some decent restaurants there. Reno can actually be surprising when it comes to food choices.

If one relies on work in the Bay Area, the remoteness can add a bit of anxiety. Driving to the Bay Area can also be a drag.


Simple fact is I think many many people would look for better places to live if they could afford the lifestyle they wanted there. That’s why so many of my friends have moved from the Bay Area to Seattle and then to Colorado and sometimes to Portland now.

Main downside of moving to a small town if you’re LGBT or queer is that you’re always going to be the odd one out - at the very least you won’t have much of a dating pool.


An unwelcome side effect is that incoming city dwellers can push up prices for people already in these small towns who don’t have the option to relocate.


That is typically an issue with zoning, not people moving there: https://www.vox.com/cards/affordable-housing-explained/what-.... Even most small towns prevent reasonably-priced housing via height minimums, lot setbacks, and parking minimums.

The cost of housing is set by supply and demand; allow supply to increase and prices will moderate.


Or...people wanting to buy up their homes in "this little dead-end town" allow them the opportunity to fulfil their dreams of Big City Life.

Though I think that's mostly a cop-out, people always blame the newcomers for all the problems -- can't count how many times I heard "Californians are driving up housing prices" during the real estate boom in the aughts. Now it's "the Chinese are driving up housing prices" though I often hear it's still the Californians' fault.


This could be said about Sunnyvale, Cupertino, Santa Clara also...


It's a welcome side effect for local business and city services, as well as helping smooth out geographical income inequality. Small towns usually have short commutes, so it's not the same type of issue as places like Denver.


My partner and I are making this move soon - we should go from a two bedroom terraced house to a good four bedroom with a nice garden, along with quieter roads, less crime, pollution and all the rest of it. In the absence of a decent regional policy I'd say we are doing our bit as two educated professionals to spread the wealth!

I hate having to be part of this system and resisted as long as I could, but if you don't own property in the UK you are virtually a non-person in some senses.


> if you don't own property in the UK you are virtually a non-person in some senses

I'm a property-owner in the UK. Could you explain a bit about what you mean by this comment? I understand that there is a strong desire to own a property, even if most people can't say exactly why that is, but I don't understand the 'non-person' comment at all.


Landlords can hike the rent unfairly at the end of the rental period, kick you out to sell, and the mandatory term is short. Also, there are plenty of circles where lack of property ownership equals social death. Additionally missing out on rising property values can, due to increasingly inadequate pension provision, leave you far poorer in retirement, and even have a knock on effect on your offspring given the importance of the bank of mum and dad for younger buyers.

I'd argue that all in all not owning property can hugely affect your life chances here in the UK. You just have to watch one of the TV shows about high court bailiffs or evictions etc. to see what things are like at the sharp end for renters. Do you think I am exaggerating?

In some ways I see the UK as a semi-feudal state. Monarchy, rigid class system, concentration of land ownership in few hands (even worse in Scotland than England), property law that exploits the renter, etc.


> there are plenty of circles where lack of property ownership equals social death

I'm not sure what you mean; I can't imagine any circle where anyone would care either way.

> You just have to watch one of the TV shows about high court bailiffs or evictions etc. to see what things are like at the sharp end for renters.

Sorry, I make a point of not watching trash on Channel 5 ;)

> Do you think I am exaggerating?

No, I didn't say or even suggest that - I'm honestly just trying to understand what you mean. Also, you made a good point regarding retirement.


So you're not a property snob, but you are a TV snob eh?!

I remember an advert from maybe 15 years ago about a couple selling up to go abroad, cutting from the couple's brilliant new life to their snarky friends at a dinner party, one person saying 'where have they gone' with another responding 'straight to the bottom of the property ladder'. I guess the agency behind it must have thought it would be a familiar concept back then, and the property market has got even worse in the meantime. Middle class Britain can be a competitive place, no? Also I think The Good Life satirised this type of outlook even further back.


My Channel 5 comment was meant to be in jest.

I didn't see it, but I'm not sure the point of the scene you mention was 'property snobbery'; it sounds like it was perhaps a dig at those people with a chip on their shoulder who hate when others have something they don't and will grasp at any pathetic attempt to mock them.


Back to your original query. Its easy to find sources that mesh with my choice of words.

'Renting carries a stigma. "There is a social expectation to own a house at a certain point. You're made to feel like a second-class citizen if you rent."'

'But in the UK it can feel like a second-class system. There are limited protections'

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22952667

And the ad would have no poignancy unless there were something recognisable about there being status attached to property, would it?

Anyway I think you are being deliberately obtuse or picking up on my choice of words whilst ignoring the main point, which is that property ownership is a critical differentiating element in life chances in the UK, and with that I bid you adieu.


> Anyway I think you are being deliberately obtuse

I was absolutely not. I am however, also very much done here.


There’s a perk for the small towns, too: they get “tech money” without having to court a “tech industry”. This brings money into the community that would otherwise be left outside it.

I see remote workers as an equalizer / booster for communities that have a small economy with little outside interaction with the larger economy. I’m thinking of small rural towns, groups of 2,000 ppl or fewer that are geographically isolated.


It is perfectly reasonable. But you still have to have sales or other good contact on the ground in big city. Because if in walking distance you have 100 customers you can maintain connection with people working there. If you will move to small town where you don't have customers and you have to rely on your contacts over the internet then you might get burned when your contacts switch jobs or whatever happens.


At some point I would like to continue to be a developer but live in some place like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pampa,_Texas

It has a feel of utter isolation but the town is big enough that it isn't quite like living in Antarctica.


> It’s harder for creative professionals to make a living in big cities.

Still more desirable to be the creative in the giant loft in the city doing really interesting or weird stuff that has no discernible market value except that the opaque market valued it for millions anyway.

You aren't going to have any of that in Small town, Anywheres. Just a few graphic designers that suddenly have a manageable cost of living, I can admit there is utility in that. I guess.


This is something that I'm currently debating and have been thinking about a lot lately. NYC is so expensive and makes it insanely hard to save anything. Moving to say Woodstock, NY would be half the price, 2 hours away on a bus, and its beautiful.

I also think that people from small towns can give you a different perceptive on ideas and life that you can't get anywhere else.


A friens of mine was once working with a developer who charged SF market rates but lived somewhere in Idaho. Part of me wishes for that, how much he must be cash flowing.

Also i find it ironic that despite all our advances in technology most tech companies insist on people working in office.


When cost of living is a factor, I recommend Warsaw, Poland. For me it is a sweet spot for a big enough city (collaboration, flights, etc) but neither too overwhelming (as London or New York) nor too expensive (as them or Bay Area).

5x lower rent prices than in SF (https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/compare_cities.jsp?cou...).

Thanks to that I an spend most of my time on side projects. It wouldn't be possible in Bay Area.


I recently asked this very question on HN and got some fantastic answers:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17522160


Very interested in this. I'd love to partner up with some people to find a way to be financially involved in this trend. There are tons of cool little towns out there in some amazing places.


I remote from a location less than 1h commute from a big city. Means I can have a big lawn with a house on it and swim 5 minutes walk from it. But I can also get all the stuff you only find in bigger cities like a large selection of restaurants, concerts etc. The downside is that it’s not small town cheap, but it’s definitely half the cost of living just half as far from the city or in the city proper.


The idea, "work from anywhere", helped me leave big, dirty, over crowded, complicated city for a small, clean, friendly one about four years ago. From my experience- the upsides are- relaxed lifestyle, friendly environment. The downsides are- very slow people all around makes you significantly slower, significantly less competitive work attitude and very few like minded people around.


Great to hear about the happy coexistence of creatives and small town communities.

A few of the takeaways for me:

- General rule, a city can support 1 creative for every 1,000 people

- First mover advantage: small towns see creatives as novelty and are willing to assist.

- Benefits creatives moving to small town, but with an existing "big city" network

- Lowered cost of living means increased budgets for passion projects and less team dedicated to paid, professional work


To people who have or are doing this, does the fact that you're not in the office hamper your career prospects? Do you risk pigeonholing yourself as a "skilled worker" and not "management material" - should you want to move up the ranks?


Probably, but I am completely fine with that. I don't want to work in management and don't see that as harming my career.


Depends on the kind of company and whether they are remote friendly or remote only.


I'd love to live in a small town in Italy (where I'm from), however - to oversimplify a bit - I am afraid that the type of people that I would normally meet is not exciting or interesting as people in bigger cities (I currently live in SF).


How do you define interesting or exciting?

I spent a summer in Sardinia a few years ago. I didn't meet anyone who was a programmer like myself, but I met plenty of people who taught me about food, literature, philosophy, herding sheep, and how to live simply.

I fully understand the appeal of SF and I know that there's more to SF than Silicon Valley, but I'd much rather live somewhere where I'm surrounded by people that I wouldn't normally meet. I feel like those environments give the greatest opportunity for growth and expansion of my personal perspective.


I don't disagree with you - what I am trying to say is that perhaps it's difficult to know for sure that you will be happy with the type of people you will meet in a certain place.

That's why it's difficult for me to even think about moving back to Italy eventually: I am not sure I will like it there.




Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: