City or Country?

Ah, the age-old question: city or country?

While my husband and I figure out our next steps, part of the consideration is where we want to live. Currently, we live in a very small, cozy little town that sometimes feels like a self-contained mini-planet with a whole world of life happening here. It has everything we need–a grocery store, pub, post office, library, pharmacy, a few little shops, schools. This morning I watched a student driver car turn down the road in front of our house and I got this feeling like I was in the Truman Show, and the roads leading out of town would stretch into nothingness.

Mike and Becks crossing a bridge in La Vérendrye Reserve, Quebec.

I grew up in a similar, but even smaller country town, so this is probably why I’m comfortable with the rural lifestyle–the quiet, the bugs, the freshness, the need to have a car to go just about anywhere. I love that Becks and I pass by cows on our morning walk (and the smell of cow poop makes me think of where I grew up, fondly. I’m serious.).

In my current country house, a painting of the country house I grew up in

But sometimes, I need city.

I’ve lived in a few: Baltimore, Bangkok, Montreal, Ottawa. I had never even taken a public bus before living in Baltimore for university. Then when I lived in Bangkok, I mastered all forms of urban transport imaginable: buses, trains, taxis, tuk-tuks, motorbike taxis, canal boats.

On the hectic Khao San Road in Bangkok

Everything you need really is in a city, and you don’t need a car to access it. In an episode of Sex and the City, the girls gush about being able to get anything delivered to your door. Now, when cooking, I often curse the fact that I can’t get this or that special ingredient, so easily procured in the city.

There’s constant awareness of human life in a city, perpetual motion, a pulse–and the understanding that you are not allowed to sit still or stay the same. Every time we go back into our old neighborhood in Montreal, we look to see which shops or restaurants have closed or changed hands, which parking lot is being turned into a condo, where the new roadwork is.

Out the window of our first Montreal apartment, in the city's most densely populated neighborhood.

Country stillness has its own pulse: in summer when the heat seems to absorb all sound and the air is so thick you can actually hear it; or in the winter, when an icy landscape beats the sun back at you with such intensity that it’s a wonder you don’t feel its warmth. In the country, you are allowed stillness and constancy is expected.

Sun filtering through some icy trees at my parents' house in New York

Maybe this is why cities seem to appeal to the young and the country to older people who are ready for quiet. But ultimately, I think there’s a balance of city and country in all of us.

Ideally, we would have it all: a delightful pied-à-terre in a culture-rich, vibrant city AND a cozy, country retreat with space for a vegetable garden and dark nights that show the stars.

I know I am lucky that I’ve experienced both. Now that we’ve been in the country going on 2 years, we’re starting to get the itch to dive back into the busy racket of a city. But I’ll definitely miss the quiet haven of our town (and the$35 haircuts from my stylist down the road)!

Are you a city or a country person? 

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9 responses to “City or Country?

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  4. I’m a mix between both. I like to be able to walk to things, so city living is nice, but I also like space, a place to park, and green. Right now we live right of the edge of suburbia which suits us well, but one day I would love to live by the water in a quieter space.

    PS – I love the Bangkok picture! Now that is a city I could never live in forever, waayyy too congested!

    • Our town is actually a good mix because we do have things we can walk to. But the range of services is severely limited! I would love to live by the water sometime, too!
      haha, and yes, the convenience of Bangkok city life is often eclipsed by the inconvenience of completely unpredictable traffic. I could live there again, for a little bit, but definitely not forever! I’d have to retire to the beach 🙂

  5. This is exactly the question my husband and I are wondering about. When to retire to the country? We have so much “stuff” to get rid of. So right now we’re working on the downsizing so the move will be easier. But who knows we could just stay in the city. Just. don’t. know. yet.

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