At this point, we’re going to assume you picked a spot, and managed to successfully fund your move and show up in the new place. What now? You might be thinking, “What do you mean? It’s like any other move.” Actually, it’s just the beginning. Now is when the real work starts.
Getting plugged in is important. By yourself, you’re screwed. You’ll need to build relationships and networks. One person we know started joining local groups on social media even before the move, got to know the local society and culture a bit, and contacted a local “neighbors helping neighbors” group. He told them he was planning to move there, and asked what was available for small-time volunteer work. Not only did he get connected to some solid people who were very well-versed in the area and different resources, but they coordinated a neighbor welcome party for his own arrival. When he pulled up to his new house with his trailers and family, folks were there with hot homemade food and a lot of strong backs to help unload and get them settled.
Take the time to get familiar with who the movers and shakers are in your community, too. Here’s just a small sample of things you should do once you get moved. I’ll go into each of them in a bit more detail below.
- Attend a city council meeting. You’ll get a feel for who’s who, and what people care about in your area.
- Find a way to volunteer in the community. This could be anything from donating/staffing the local food bank, to joining a volunteer fire department.
- Spend one early morning a week in the local diner. Talk to the regulars, be polite, and do a lot of listening. Small town diners are excellent places to meet people and get information. They are not, however, good for any kind of clandestine meetings or activities.
- Find out how to get into the bartering community. Rural areas have amazing barter economies, and you can get your hands on some pretty great stuff.
The City Council
No one’s saying you should get involved in local politics (although there’s a solid argument to be made for doing so, if you have enough people to pull it off in multiple positions). But you should know who’s who, and where they stand on various issues. What are people mad about in your area? Who do they look to, to “do something” about those things, and who’s behind those people? If they have money, where’d they get it? What is the big industry in your area? What’s the underground industry?
The Fire Department
Joining your local volunteer FD may be one of the smartest things you can possibly do if you live in a rural area or very small town. Here’s why:
- Free and extensive medical training. Chances are very good that you need more of that, unless you’re already in the profession. If you live remotely, this becomes even more critical.
- Exposure to situations that require quick thinking and decision making, as well as “bad stuff” that can help you train your mind to be able to function in chaos instead of puking behind the nearest bush when you’re needed.
- A(nother) reason to get off your rear end and do PT. Firefighting is hard work.
- You learn to be ready to go at a moment’s notice, and have your ducks in a row when you do. By default, you become more mentally prepared for rapid changes in your environment. After enough 0200 calls, you learn how to wake up quickly, get moving, and be able to get out the door instead of wandering around wondering “where did I put my….?” That skill translates to a lot of different things.
- If you own property with woods, you’ll learn how to manage that property in ways that will help keep your home safe — and your animals, crops, and other things you’ll eventually invest in.
- Access to behind the scenes of disasters and other events that the public doesn’t get. Access and information are key.
- You’ll end up meeting people who are getting the same training (or are already very good at it), and you’ll make associates and allies.
- All of these skills and traits translate to you having value to a group or community. It’s not enough to “just” be a “gun guy,” or “comms guy,” etc. You need more than one skill.
Everywhere in the country — or even in the world — people, at their core, are the same. They get together to eat and chat, and they chat about things that matter to them. Those things should matter to you, too, if you want an understanding of the community you live in (and you do, believe me). Spending some time in the local eatery, whether it be in the early morning when the older farmers are complaining about market prices and weather, or at lunch when the local business people are chatting, you’ll learn all kinds of information. You’ll notice local cultural norms, social cues and even normal dress. You can think this stuff is stupid, but try walking into a tiny diner in Nowhere, Montana dressed like a hipster from Seattle and see how well you’re received. A lot of rural places aren’t interested in newcomers, and don’t trust them. You have a hurdle to get over, and the sooner you can blend in like a native and get tied in for info, the faster that’ll go.
If you’re smart, you’ll spend time on places like Craigslist, noticing what kinds of things are available to barter. Check out local flea markets, small town newspapers, and go back to the diner. There is always someone who wants something you have — and has something you need. As you get to know people, you’ll learn what things people are looking for. If you have chickens, for instance, you can trade your eggs for something else. In the spring, you can run a batch of eggs through a fairly cheap incubator and trade chicks for stuff. Even your junk and animal manure is desirable to someone. Keep your eyes and ears open and you’ll start building contacts…and networks of people who have things to trade. Also be creative about what YOU have to trade; it’s not always a tangible object. A weekend spent helping a neighbor with his car repair or house painting can net huge benefits down the road.
Other things you should consider include getting tied in with local ham groups, understanding law enforcement presence/mindset/capability, and talking to your neighbors to learn what the general attitude is in your immediate area is.
Once you’re moved in and a bit settled, maybe once you know a few folks, you might want to get involved with raising some animals or doing a bit of farming. Don’t think that you can only start such a venture if you have tons of money or your family’s been doing it forever. The truth is, you CAN go from business-attire-wearing corporate jungle to having a fully functional homestead. It takes a bit of time, a LOT of hard work, and some serious planning and scaling, but it can be done. Start small, with 5 chickens and a rooster. Read books. Watch videos online. There is very little about homesteading that cannot be learned about online—and then you go practice. Talk to local folks who are successfully doing what you want to do. How’d they do it?
If you truly want to get out of where you are, don’t be afraid to start planning it. Be realistic, but be excited. Come outside of your comfort zone. I can tell you from experience—once you’re in your new place, you’ll have setbacks. You’ll sometimes question your sanity. You’ll reach for the phone to call for something you want, only to remember that hay and propane are the only things getting delivered out where you live.
This isn’t meant to be the ultimate guide to relocation. It’s simply meant to get your head thinking of some of the special considerations to moving, especially if your reasons for doing so are to find more freedom. While I can certainly vouch for the fact that you CAN pull off a move like this, and you CAN find more freedom in doing so, you might not want to. That’s okay too, if that’s your call. If you do stay, understand the ramifications and potential consequences of doing so.
Taking the leap of faith to move—especially if you go from suburbia or urban settings to a rural one—isn’t for the weak. It’s hard work. There’s a very good chance, however, that when you look out over your property, see your animals and kids healthy and happy, and know what it’s truly like to do for yourself, with a solid network of people you can count on no matter what, you’ll never want anything different.