Updated: Jan 26
Growing up in a red, white, and blue town is an experience I will forever be grateful for. While all 35 of my classmates hated it, I loved it! Don't believe me? My senior year I got voted "most likely to stay in Julian." I was not your typical nerdy geek who could recite the textbook. I was the class geek in the sense that I could be your personal tour guide and assistant for Julian (my hometown).
This life isn't for everyone. That's totally okay. For those thinking small-town life is for you, I want to help you acclimate. As you consider embracing the small-town lifestyle, here are 16 things you should seriously consider before you move to a small-town, like my hometown of Julian, CA.
1. We are old fashioned on purpose.
You will notice this as a common theme throughout this post and other posts I have written on small-town life so I don't want to be too repetitive. I'm not saying you have to go completely off the grid and be a completely self-sufficient homesteader. In general, people who live in small-towns are friendly to people who walk by, we eat more homecooked meals, are active in the community, and tend to do things more on the traditional side.
The farther you get away from the city the more you can expect the weather to impact your life. This is especially pertinent to mountain communities where all the seasons are experienced. Those of us living in regions like this are prepared for snowy days, rainy days, windy days, foggy days, muggy days, cold and hot days. I personally love getting a taste of all four seasons. It really brings a storybook-like feel to your life. For some though, this can be a bit tough to become accustomed too. From preparing your home to brace for the weather to learning how to drive in less than ideal changes, and having to adjust your wardrobe it will take newcomers some to get used to this lifestyle change.
In the city, the animals have to learn to live among humans. In the backcountry, we live among wildlife. The skunks aren't afraid to throw a stink bomb on your day. The moths will invite themselves any time they get the chance. Just about every local has stepped (or almost stepped) on a snake. You'll have to evict the ants multiple times a year. The deer will eat you out of house and home. The spiders overstay their welcome. The mountain lions will drink from your birdbath. Don't worry, I'm only half-joking. Point is, when you live in nature, you have to coexist with nature. Honestly, there’s nothing more magical than seeing a deer out your window or hearing the birds sing. I just want you to be aware of this adjustment going into the move so you can be prepared and not caught off guard.
4. Conveniences (or should I say the lack thereof?)
You can't always just run to the store when you need something. There’s no hardware, office supply, feed, department, or drug stores within 23 miles of my town. When you need something you have four options:
1. Ask your neighbor.
2. Hope one of the local markets has what you need.
3. Live without until you go down the hill next.
4. Drive a half-hour or more to the store.
Oh, did I mention my town closes down by 5:00 every night? Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it at some point.
5. Mother Nature
Every geographical region comes with its own set of natural disasters. In my community it’s wildfire. Unless it's raining, it's pretty much-considered fire season. I can’t stress enough how important it is to learn how to prepare for these potential threats before you make such a life-altering move.
6. Living off the grid
Even if you are on the grid, you will be living off the grid a few times a year. One broken water pipe or down power pole affects everyone. When this happens I promise you, it's not the end of the world. Just be prepared. Keep flashlights, Mountain Made candles, canned food, and water handy.
The neighborhood watch program is an active group. Unlike in the city, your neighbors pay attention. We know what is out of the ordinary and we are very community-centered people. Everyone helps each other out.
Time and time again people ask me, "What was it like growing up in a town with nothing to do?" Well, just because we don't have a band program or a mall down the street doesn't mean there's nothing to do. Sure, kids up here miss out on some opportunities city kids get, but we also have opportunities that city kids don't. We play video games and get to run around outside. You have a pretty high chance of being begged to join every sports team and Associated Student Body (ASB). The odds are in your favor.
There is this thing called dust, and it gets everywhere. I've given up on washing my car on a regular basis. It's not called being lazy around here. It's called being smart with your time.
10. The speed limit
Where I come from the speed limit is either 55 mph or 25 mph. There's no in-between. So when you get pulled over, you have a 50/50 chance of getting the speed limit question right. Choose wisely!
When you check out on Amazon, it may say you get Prime two-day shipping… Yeah, that's a lie. The Pony Express delivers rural mail. It's really five-day shipping, and make sure to list your physical address and your PO box, or you risk your package being sent back. Have no fear! Our candle supplies come in two days… still haven't figured that one out yet.
Aside from the four-block grid system in town, good luck! GPS is almost always wrong.
13. The night sky
The night sky is full of stars. Take some time to enjoy it.
14. Slow internet
You can’t avoid it. San Diego Broadband is the fastest, but it is only available in limited areas. For the times when you need fast upload or download speeds, I recommend using the library internet. It’s available 24/7.
15. Sell-by dates
In sleepy little towns, things move at a slower pace. That includes merchandise on store shelves. Independent store owners have a tough task of trying to keep a large variety of fresh options on their shelves. Out-of-date items often fall through the cracks. (Then again, I’ve received out-of-date items from big box stores.) It’s best to get in the habit of checking dates before you buy. For some newcomers, it’s a bit of a culture shock, but in the big scheme of things, it’s only a minor inconvenience.
16. You have to get along with people you don't like.
It's nearly impossible to avoid someone in a small town. So you just gotta learn to live them.
Do I need to keep going? Number 12 sealed the deal on my decision to move to Julian. Just kidding, my parents never asked me if I wanted to move here. I haven't left yet, so that says something. Some of these are harsh realities, but overall Julian is a wonderful place to live. When you’re ready to make the move, one of our local realist agents will gladly find you a good home to move into.