The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt most acutely in densely-populated cities around the world. When governments began enacting increasingly strict shelter in place orders, many Americans took that as their cue to pack their bags and head out of the city.
This has led to an Urban Exodus. With offices, businesses, bars, restaurants, and even parks closed, a significant number of Americans no longer saw any real reason to stay in the city. What began, however, as a temporary change while they waited out a global health crisis, has become a distinct shift in the type of lifestyle that many citizens value, and has caused many to reconsider returning to their former lives.
An Urban Exodus
Stephanie Steele and her husband Peter are just two out of the millions of Americans who chose to leave their city lives behind. When the pandemic hit, the pair packed up their things, gathered Stephanie’s parents and nephew, and drove from their home in Los Angeles to the small town of Bigfork, Montana.
“My husband and I planned on staying a few days before returning to Los Angeles. It’s now been 10 weeks. We asked ourselves, what are we rushing back for?
Stephanie and Peter are most certainly not alone. According to a recent Harris Poll, close to one-third of Americans are thinking about moving away from the city to less-densely populated areas, and with interest rates at an all-time low, now is the time to make the move.
Tim and Amber Bradshaw are another couple who took the leap. They moved from their home on the outskirts of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to a small farm in Tennessee- a move that gave them peace of mind.
Amber explains that there is a certain level of confidence that you gain when you know that you aren’t relying on anyone else for your basic necessities.
“If you can provide that for your family you can endure most calamities,” she said. “And many people fear that this isn’t the last pandemic we’ll see in our lifetimes, so they want to be ready for the next one—especially if it’s worse than COVID-19.”
Daniel and April made the move to the country before the pandemic began, and as they’ve watched the events of 2020 unfold in their former home-city, Atlanta, from afar, they are very happy with their decision.
“We lived less than a mile from where the recent riots took place,” said April, “so when we see what’s happening around the country and talk to our friends hunkered down in cities, it’s an affirmation of the choice we made to be self-sufficient on the farm. Fear is gripping the nation and is the big motivator encouraging people to get out.”
Josh Enyart, a veteran survival specialist and consultant, believes that what we’re seeing is now a large-scale self-reliance movement.
“The denser a population, the more people there are to potentially participate in social unrest,” he explained. “People instinctively know that the safest bet is to get away from those highly populated viral hot zones, which is why you’re seeing so many folks escape to small towns and rural America.”
He explains that the basics of survival are shelter, water, food, and personal security, and if you can provide that for yourself and your family, you will likely be able to get through any calamity. Many people across the country are concerned about the possibility that another, potentially worse, pandemic could happen in our lifetimes, and they want to be better prepared for the next one.
Businesses are Leaving, Too
For many Americans, this move has been made possible because of a similar shift happening in the corporate world. Tech giants like Twitter and Square have announced that employees can now work from home indefinitely, and both Google and Facebook have announced that employees have the option to work from home until the end of the year.
Many other businesses are planning on developing part-time work-from-home strategies, and some experts are predicting a significant shift from downtown offices to cheaper spaces in the suburbs .
Remote work has made it possible for many Americans to move from their city apartments, and with many employers realizing that employee productivity is better when telecommuting, this change may be more permanent than anyone initially predicted.
The Off-Grid Movement Picking up Steam
The off-grid movement began long before anyone had even heard of COVID-19, but the pandemic has caused this alternative way of living to explode in popularity. Survivalist camps across the country have been receiving hundreds of calls from individuals asking how they can secure a spot in their off-grid camps, and the “prepper” community, which at one time seemed more like a fringe movement, is getting a lot of attention from the general public.
Going “off-the-grid”, which started as simply living without reliance on municipal power, has become more of a philosophy for simple living. Making this switch, however, should not be a hasty decision. It requires time, dedication, and money, but everyone who does it says the benefits are worth the work. These benefits vary from person to person, but most find the independence rewarding and they enjoy the peace of a remote existence.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be unpredictable and countries try to figure out what their next steps should be, perhaps it is worth it to look into making the move to the country to live a quieter, simpler existence.