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The option of staying put

Yesterday at the American Partisan blog, Kit Perez posted a piece on strategic relocation. She promises more on that topic.

I know she’s already got more because what she posted was part of a book she and I explored writing on personal freedom. We put together a chapter. Then, despite getting positive feedback from a couple of reality checkers, we decided not to pursue the project for now.

The conceit of the book was that we would write point-counterpoint. For instance, in the chapter on location, she’d write on the advantages, problems, and strategies of moving, and I’d write on staying put.

Though the book may never see the light of day, we thought you might like to see (and consider) our point-counterpoint via blog. She kicked things off yesterday. Now here’s my part.


(From the book chapter)

Kit writes about relocating in pursuit of personal freedom. For some people, that’s exactly the right thing to do. For others that’s a deal killer.

By all means relocate if you believe it will increase your freedom or make your life better in some other way that matters. Do it if you’re following a dream and if your budget and circumstances permit. That’s a personal decision.

The good news is that moving is merely one option. You can increase your personal freedom and independence wherever you are. While its true that some locations have vastly more political freedom than others, and that some areas are safer or more friendly to freedom than others, your freedom is also personal. It can be created and nurtured anywhere you are.

Why stay put?

Chances are, I don’t need to make a huge, original case for staying put. You already know your reasons:

  • You have a job you can’t or don’t want to leave.
  • You’re in a place where you have history, friends, and a sense of belonging.
  • You’re bound by obligations to family members.
  • You enjoy amenities, whether those be dive bars, opera houses, or parks.
  • You realize every place has its problems and you don’t see the point of exchanging known problems for the unknown.
  • You don’t buy doomsday scenarios that drive some other freedom-seekers into rural retreats and redoubts.
  • You’re already in the ideal spot for your needs, whatever they may be.

For purposes of this chapter, I’m assuming that you’re most likely “in civilization” somewhere — that is, either city, suburb, or small town. So let’s look at the freedom advantages and disadvantages of civilized places.

How’s life in the city?

To those of us on the outside, a city might just look like one giant, hyper-expensive traffic jam, broken up only by homeless encampments. But life can be good there, too. And not only because of cultural attractions and 24-hour-a-day nightlife.

Years ago, on a visit to a friend who lived in Manhattan, I was struck by the small-townness of it. There were distinct tiny neighborhoods, each with its own character. You didn’t have to drive to a grocery store; a miniature market was right there on the corner. It was easy to get anywhere via subway, bus, or taxi (and now Uber and Lyft). Despite infamous urban anonymity, in these mini-neighborhoods, people often knew neighbors and shopkeepers.

You can see immediate advantages for community-building here. Never mind whether your urban neighbors share your politics. In fact, it might be best not to talk politics at all, but simply to talk common interests — including the growing nationwide interest in being prepared for natural and unnatural disasters.

Despite Hollywood visions of rioting and looting the moment anything goes wrong, urban people are just as inclined to help their neighbors as any others. We saw it after Superstorm Sandy, when restaurants hosted community meals, supermarkets passed out bottled water, and neighbors banded together to send one of their own on an out-of-town expedition to buy otherwise-unavailable gasoline. Good neighborhoods and good neighbors can exist anywhere.

At the same time, if your craving is for anonymity, so nobody knows about the freeze-dried foods you’ve stashed under the bed or the generator on your balcony, you can have that. Your solitude will likely be less remarked upon than it might elsewhere. Urbanites are experts at tuning out what they don’t want to perceive, so it’s easy to hide in plain sight if that’s your style. (At least from your fellow humans; hiding from omnipresent surveillance cameras and cellphones is a different matter.)

There are, however, at least four intractable problems to living in the city:

  1. Costs — especially of real estate.
  2. Growing homelessness — and all its attendant filth, crime, and disease.
  3. Crumbling infrastructure — and declining standards maintenance. All it takes is one strike to make life unlivable.
  4. No escape. Even if you laugh at zombie apocalypse scenarios, this is the #1 drawback — a potentially fatal drawback — of urban life. If you’re an urbanite, look around you. What are your escape routes in event of a catastrophic storm, terrorist attack, fire, explosion, or airplane crash? Chances are you’ve got damn few choices. With everybody else making those same choices in a moment of panic, you’ve got fewer yet. Now picture what happens if an earthquake, flood, chain-reaction vehicle accident, riot, protest, or something else damages an avenue of escape. You’re reduced to fleeing on foot or remaining in a dangerous situation. Unless you’ve got a helicopter handy, you’re screwed.

In a moment we’ll get to some of the many ways you can increase your freedom while living in an urban area. First let’s look at what small towns have to offer.

Small town dreams

If you polled Americans on where they’d most like to live, a small town would rank pretty high. Who wouldn’t want to live in River City, Iowa, ca. 1912 (setting for The Music Man) or some bucolic Vermont village untouched since Revolutionary times? Even a less distinguished community like the working-class berg I call home can be a great place.

Small towns offer close-knit neighborhoods, handy amenities (even if amenities are nothing more than a handful of grocery stores, banks, gas stations, and doctors’ offices), a sedate pace of life, and lower cost of living than most cities.

In a small town you’re likely to have easy access to rural pleasures and an outdoor lifestyle without being forced to live like a pioneer.

In or near a small town might be an ideal location for enduring hard times. You’re likely to have: helpful (and prepared) neighbors; nearby farms; nearby foraging, hunting, and fishing; the ability to reach most local services on foot or bicycle; general attitudes of self-sufficiency and independence; and businesses that are both locally owned and attuned to local needs. You can probably keep a flock of chickens, and possibly other small livestock. Lots are often large enough to accommodate a serious veggie garden.

On the other hand small towns present problems of their own. Notable among them:

  1. Insularity. Many small towns are open and friendly; others, not so much.
  2. Dying economies. Unless you lock in one of the rare good local jobs, you could end up having to commute a long way to work or create your own career.
  3. Unwelcome attention. It’s also very hard to be anonymous and invisible in small, independent communities. You may be able to keep to yourself, but people will notice. They may gossip. Or they might want to befriend you and poke around in your life more than you’d like.
  4. Lack of stimulation. Finally, if you simply must shop at chain stores or attend world-class sporting or cultural events, you may have to go a long way. Fortunately we now have Amazon, Netflix, and other companies that bring civilization to our door. But small towns aren’t made for a stimulating life.

See below for ways you can increase freedom while living in a small, independent community.

To be continued …


  1. Comrade X
    Comrade X August 15, 2018 2:43 pm

    I want to get to the sticks again.

    The plan is only in the planning stage, actual action may be a year out at least, however that could change with a phone call, it may even be a leap frog where there’s a stop between for a year or so before the final landing.

    Sure looking forward to more on this discussion, great start.

  2. kentmcmanigal
    kentmcmanigal August 15, 2018 3:42 pm

    The small town where I live manages to have all the drawbacks and none of the benefits! Yay, me! LOL.

  3. just waiting
    just waiting August 15, 2018 7:30 pm

    I think small town east coast and small town west coast are 2 different things. We lived in a small EC town but still had over 2 million people living (and 4 Costco’s) within 25 miles of us in the last place, same size circle here on the WC and its barely 2000. We’re so far from a city (or a Costco), I think we’re considered “frontier” rather than small town. We’re finding there’s a whole different mindset, not only do we feel more free than we ever did on the east coast, we actually are. Living so long under the yoke of political machines and policing for profit, being and feeling freer is a lot to fully experience.

    I used to work with a true city woman. Never learned to drive or cook. Why bother? The doorman always had her a taxi waiting and there were 23 restaurants offering 17 different cuisines in a 2 block radius of her place. Had fancy dishes and shiny utensils, but not a pot or pan in the apartment.

  4. larryarnold
    larryarnold August 15, 2018 8:58 pm

    If you’re looking at a small town, research the population change over the last 10 years, at least.

    Stable? Okay.
    Slow increase? Okay.
    Rapid increase? Caution.
    Slow decrease? Bad.
    Rapid decrease? Nope.


  5. RickB
    RickB August 16, 2018 4:07 am

    I live smack dab in the middle of the most densely populated county in Florida — and love it. Everything I need, including my job, is within four miles of my (very quiet, cul de sac) neighborhood.
    There are two nice airfields and a dozen kayak launch sites (salt and fresh water) within a twenty minute drive.
    But I’m nearing retirement and thinking about moving to a less crowded area–even another state. I have a few good reasons to relocate. But that inner voice keeps asking, “Are you insane?”
    Looking forward to the rest of the dialog.

  6. Zendo Deb
    Zendo Deb August 19, 2018 3:55 pm

    Amazon is easy for purchasing. Netfilx, Amazon for video, HULU, et al…. these require decent internet. If not great internet. That isn’t always available in the sticks.

    I get about 20 Mbps download. And I pay through the nose to get that. Go 4 or 5 miles farther out of civilization, and people consider using satellite internet because even the cellular networks are not great. Still, I would give up fast internet (and you can always go to torrents for video) to be away from the busy-bodies.

    One time, about 20 years ago, I lived in a condo. A bunch of retirees in Florida. Sweet people. They thought they knew how I should run my life. I stayed 9 months. (And it was beautiful. On the New River in Fort Lauderdale.)

  7. Zendo Deb
    Zendo Deb August 19, 2018 4:01 pm

    As for staying put… The longest I’ve ever been anywhere (aside from my childhood home) is where I am right now. (4 years earlier in life, and now about 6 years.) But I’m thinking it isn’t the final stop.

    There are reasons I came back. (Friends mostly, and I couldn’t own real estate in Florida, not with hurricanes and the cost of insurance.) And I plain didn’t like Florida (Aside from Fort Laurderale (and environs) I worked in Miami, and later lived in St Petersburg. For me, Florida wasn’t the end of the journey. Decades ago, I lived in California. So glad I’m not there now…

  8. Zendo Deb
    Zendo Deb August 19, 2018 4:25 pm

    Here’s a link to the view off my front porch from a couple or 3 years ago during winter. Yeah, it can be cold, but I love the privacy. (Currently am trying to get a solid wall of blackberry brambles across the front of my property. Trying to decide if it is worth it to plant a hedge of Osage Orange. (What folks in this part of the world used before the invention of barbed wire for fencing.)

    A hedge of Osage orange (the thorns are an inch and a half or more) is better than a brick wall. You can climb over a brick wall, but not even kevlar will stop 1.5 inch spiky thorns

  9. Claire
    Claire August 19, 2018 6:05 pm

    That’s beautiful, Zendo Deb.

    Osage Orange? Never heard of it, but yup, it sounds even better than blackberries for keeping two-legged varmints out.

  10. Fred Seymour, Jr.
    Fred Seymour, Jr. September 6, 2018 3:07 am

    I moved from Philly burbs with its traffic, crime,traffic, drugs,traffic, murder, high cost of living, endless run down strip malls and microwaved food franchises with the occasional tree……to….. Tunkhannock, Pa. in the Endless Mountains of Pa.’s northern tier. Two traffic lights in town. People come here to vacation, I LIVE HERE! AN I LOVE IT!

  11. Native Mississippian
    Native Mississippian September 6, 2018 3:38 am

    Osage Orange 🤔 better known as Boise de Arc or down here Bowdock…the French name is reference to the original use to make bows as in arrows…. we called it the Horse Apple tree due to the seed pod being a rather large softball sized item that our horses seemed to like. The wood from this specie is as hard as iron and before creosote was invented made a fence post that lasted at least 100 years…

  12. anonymous
    anonymous September 6, 2018 4:07 am

    Retiring to a small town (< 20,000) works better for me. Part time employment isn't a problem, but if you and starting a family, could be problematic. I would also want this small town at least 200 miles from a population center and ONLY that one. No way would I want this city to be in between two large cities. And a town with a single large employer could be devastated should those doors close.

    Finding a small home a couple of miles away from this town sounds good to me. A property small enough an old couple can take care of without hardship. My wife and I are used to that, owning 2 1/2 acres of small pasture we need to maintain. Easy when young but we are now both in our mid 50's and keeping it up is getting harder. It does keep us in good physical shape and is good experience as well.

  13. BG
    BG September 6, 2018 9:55 pm

    Great article. There are always two sides to every story. Take for instance the person known as Selco and his experiences in a grid down evironment. I got to work with a man down in Houston that went through the Balkan war. He had a different experience than Selco. He was in a smaller community among lifelong friends. They had a tight knit group that helped each other in every aspect of life during the conflict. They didn’t have a problem with theft, treachery, or thuggery. They shared food, supplies, and spirit. He did say on occassion someone from another area would come. Some caused problems and some assimilated to the group. But overall, other than actual warfighting at times, they survived the Balkan conflict because of a strong local network. Again, I think there will be different outcomes for different peoples.

  14. Solar John
    Solar John September 17, 2018 1:33 pm

    Its getting crowded out here. If you live in a big city, you’ll be fine. Please stay there, enjoy life and tell others how great it is.

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