Things No One Tells You About Small Town Living


Washington Street in Julian, CA
Washington Street in Julian, CA - Photo by Jennifer Gutierrez

Moving to a new place can be a very exciting life experience. (An experience I have never had.) On the other hand, though, over the years I have watched new ones come, seen people leave, and some move right back. Rural living isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It is also the only place for some, like me. Before making the move out of the city to a small town, I highly recommend taking a moment to learn about what you can expect.


1. Medical Services Are Difficult to Access.

Not only are hospitals and doctor offices far away, but there are also limited emergency services, and it’s difficult to find a health insurance company to cover you.


A trip to the doctor’s office and/or a hospital is probably an hour’s drive. If you have a medical condition that requires you to make frequent doctor visits or requires medical assistance in a certain time frame, this is something to keep in mind.


In my hometown, there’s one ambulance that covers over 80 square miles. Depending on how far you are from the fire station, there is a high chance you could wait over 20 minutes for the ambulance to arrive. If the ambulance is on another call, the next closest ambulance is stationed about 30 minutes away from your local fire station.


Some healthcare providers (and states) require their members to live within 30 miles of their healthcare facility. Whether you have insurance or are in the market for new insurance, don’t forget to look into the company’s location requirements before you move.


2. Diversity Comes in Different Ways.

When we think of diversity, race is usually the first thing that pops into our heads. In small towns like Julian, our diversity comes in the forms of economic social classes, caring professions, artistic abilities, and age. We have some racial diversity, including a large Native American population.


3. Business and Personal Mix.

Our national culture as a whole puts a lot of focus on achieving a work-life balance. Here in the backcountry, business and personal are very mixed. We support businesses because we are close to the owners. Business owners hire their family members and their friends.


4. Businesses Open Late and Close Early.

Out-of-towners often express their confusion surrounding the business hours in the backcountry. In my hometown, most places open around 10 a.m. and are closed by 5 p.m. Why is this? Simply put, supply and demand. There is very little business outside of these hours. It’s not hard to shut down a sleepy little town. We always jokingly say, “The last one through town, shut off the lights.”


5. There's No Public Transportation.

This isn’t a hundred percent true statement. In Julian, there is an MTS bus once or twice a week, and an occasional Uber driver. So yes, there’s public transportation but on a very limited scale. The bottom line is you can’t depend on it as your main form of transport. Out here in the sticks, it’s your last-resort backup plan. The lack of public transportation is one example of why you should become close friends with your neighbors.


6. It's Not Crazy to Drive Hours to Get Something.

I hope you love your car, because if you move to a rural small town, you will spend lots of time in it. Living in a small town requires you to travel for work, shopping, errands, medical needs, and anything else you may need.


7. Locals Are Very Protective of Their Hometown.

Every local has their own opinion as to what is best for the town, and we ain’t afraid to say it. We are proud of where we live. We disagree about things all the time. At the end of the day, we all care deeply about our little gem of a goldmine town. Despite our differences of opinion on what the future should hold, we are all on Team Julian. The passion I see in my neighbors is one of the most beautiful things.