SMALL TOWN LIVING: Slow Down to Really Move Forward

Co-authored by Patricia Elwing & Elizabeth Dengler

Have you ever noticed that moment of bliss and calm as you’re driving from the nearest City back towards home? Those of us who are living in the smaller towns and communities in and around the Columbia Basin, can likely relate that there is a sweet moment when your shoulders drop and calm comes over you as you near home in your small town and little retreat in the world. This could be one of the reasons that more folks are moving out to rural areas with the hope of living more simply.

You’ve probably seen some new faces in your rural neck of the woods, maybe a few more cars or moving vans. According to the WA State Employment Security Department’s website, they are projecting a large influx of people to Lincoln County due to lower land costs and increased industry in surrounding areas. Shoot, even the authors of this piece are transplants to rural WA counties. We thought we’d take this opportunity to help out those city dwellers who are new to country living and offer a few fun suggestions to more easily adjust to rural life.

10 tips for city dwellers adjusting to life in rural areas

  1. Be a good neighbor. What does that look like? Well, I have found good neighbors in my tiny community in Edwall to be the folks who are inclusive but never pushy. They like to share and assist in whatever way they can. Sharing fruit and vegetables from their trees and gardens. Offering support freely is a wonderful way to make friends. If you have a tractor, help your neighbors and mail men when the snow needs removal. Even when the weather is bad and the roads are questionable, we often have to make trips into town for a necessity or a special need. This is an opportunity to ask a neighbor if they need anything in that area.
  2. Practice patience while driving and connect with others in the community. Don’t freak out if you get stuck behind a combine on a 2-lane highway, it’s one of the joys of country life that forces you to slow down and take your time. Oh, and don’t forget to wave at passing drivers/walkers/bikers. We recommend you use 5 fingers, 2 fingers, but never “the finger”.
  3. Always refill your gas tank before heading home, especially if it is below ½ full. You may be surprised how fast you can go through a tank of gas, but it’s worth it because you are actually driving through some gorgeous areas and not stuck in gridlock.
  4. Embrace diversity in your area. Look for similarities rather than differences when meeting new members of your community or when travelling through new communities. We all are far more than politics or stereotypes. We come from different backgrounds and have our own valuable experiences and stories to share.
  5. The Golden Rule – Treat others as you would want to be treated. Take time to observe your reactions when in communication with others. Your reaction is all you really control in any situation. Remember that people are inherently peaceful, helpful and kind. We all want to receive love and admiration and it is free to give and receive.
  6. Make lists for each store you want to visit, Costco, Trader Joes, grocery stores and pet stores, then, plan to hit a few in one trip into town.
  7. Stack appointments for more than one family member, or add on to the shopping day.
  8. Develop the art of chatting. This informal way of communication will have you connect with everyone from the local supermarket cashier to the fella in front of you in line at the post office. I have made endless connections by taking the time to engage in pleasantries with the people helping me and behind the registers. Be curious.
  9. Look out for animals, we’re talking dogs and livestock, deer, elk, moose. As you get more familiar with your back roads and highways you may start to increase your driving speed, but keep in mind that you may need to come to an abrupt halt. So, mind your speed to keep you, your vehicle and the animals safe.
  10. Slow down to really move forward. Slow down and take time to smell the roses. Discover the beauty, share with others, be curious and you may just find yourself surrounded by the simple pleasures of country life.

Elizabeth Dengler lives with her husband, their two children and cat in Stevens County and Patricia Elwing lives with her husband and Jack Russell in Lincoln County.