Escape from paradise
I spent half my career trying to escape small town journalism, and get a real job. Then one day, I realized I was already where I wanted to be.
I live in a small town in Kansas. It is kind of remote. The town has around 12,000 people, and the next town is 15 miles away and it is about the same size. It’s 20 miles to the nearest Interstate and 100 miles to the nearest city that has a real airport.
It is the kind of place young people can’t wait to get out of as soon as they get out of high school. Often they come back for better or for worse, either they made it big and are ready to relax, or they bombed and are limping back home.
I didn’t grow up in a small town though. I had no intention of living and working in a small town. It is just where I got a job out of college in the newspaper business. I spent the first 15 years trying to get out of it, and the next 15 understanding that I was already where I was trying to get to.
The Internet has changed the world. Anything you need is just a click to Amazon or Google away. The advantages of living in a big city are pretty much neutralized by the Internet.
Ive lived in small towns a long time. I went to work for newspapers in small towns because I could not get hired on by major metropolitan daily papers.
But wait, that isn’t exactly true. I could have started on the ground floor of a major paper, and written obituary notices for eight hours a day, or rewritten press releases. Or, with my recently obtained journalism BA degree, I could go work for a small town newspaper and be the lead reporter — maybe the only reporter. Whatever, I was covering major crime stories, city councils and whatever else. My stories and photos were on the front page every day. For the most part I even got to choose what I covered.
So I made my choice. A big fish in a small pond.
Early on in my career I saw living in a small town as a trap of sorts, a place I wanted out of. The bright lights of the big city and all that. I did have a stint at a larger paper in a large city. I went back to small towns in a year.
Ive come to appreciate life in a small town though, and I don’t think I would move to a larger city now. I visited Houston last fall. It was fun, but I was ready to leave it after a few days.
Here are some advantages to small town living
If I want to go for a walk at midnight, I don’t even have to give it a thought. Really walking in daylight is more dangerous because of stray dogs. But you can walk anywhere day or night and be pretty safe. You’re more likely to get harassed by a stray dog than a mugger.
My work is an eight minute walk away. I can walk it faster than I can get in the car, get it started, and then park it there and so forth. Ive timed it. Driving to work, from door to door, is 12 minutes.
Traffic is another advantage. I complain when I have to wait for a car to pass before I turn left on Main street.
Supermarket is a block and a half away and open till midnight. They have everything big city grocery stores have.
One day my wife had a flat tire on her car at the house. She called up the gas station and they came out and changed it. Yup, gas station makes house calls. There are gas stations here that will pump your gas for you.
You know just about everyone, but that is a disadvantage at times too.
Costs are much lower for just about everything. Wages are lower too though.
There is a downside though, just like in anything. Here are some of the disadvantages.
Negativity is an issue. People love to criticize their small town, and its the same stuff no matter where you go. They complain about the smallness, why it isn’t growing and so forth. The favorite whipping boys are the city council, the local newspaper, the police — and often in that order. There are a lot of people in small towns that have not embraced the idea of small towns.
Big ticket items are usually more expensive, like cars for instance. There is not as much choice so you do have to go to a larger city at times for things like building supplies.
Restaurant choices can be a little limited. But you might get lucky. Some small towns have really good locally owned restaurants. I would say restaurant choices is the biggest objection I have to small towns.
Its pretty hard to be anonymous especially if you have a public job like a journalist or a cop.
So those are the basic good and bad points of living in a small town. By small town I mean less than 20,000 population. If the rat race and long commutes are getting to you, maybe consider what small towns have to offer.