When we moved back to rural Newfoundland from Ontario in 2003; we being a husband, a five year old, two dogs, one cat, and one very determined-to-live goldfish, I never dreamed we’d still be there come 2011.
I knew we’d love aspects of rural living; the peaceful remoteness of the place, the friendly people, and that we’d enjoy a more relaxed way of life. But I also thought the other side of those things; little access to things city-dwellers come to rely on, like quick coffees and meals you don’t need to cook, and that having people knowing too much about our business, would grate on the nerves after a while. Add to that the fact that being too relaxed can sometimes leave one feeling somewhat mush-brained, and you have one very temporary rural-lifestyle plan.
But that isn’t the way things have turned out.
So, why do we stay? On this Valentine’s Day, let me count the ways.
#1; It Feels Like Home.
When I left St, John’s for Ottawa in 1990, the city still had something of a small town feel to it. It was impossible to go into a George Street bar and not know at least half the people there. 13 years later, just shortly after we returned, my husband and I went downtown and didn’t run into a single person we knew. The urban landscape had changed as well. There were roads that confused us, businesses that had moved, and traffic lights where none had been before. But in rural areas we visited, things were exactly as they had always been. Roads was still bad in the places they had always been bad in, Many homes were still standing (and most of them were still white) and people still acted the way they did back in the day. How comforting is that?
#2; It’s Still Safe Here
Well, crime in Newfoundland and Labrador isn’t what it used to be, or it doesn’t seem that way. Tune into NTV News on any given evening and you’ll grasp that pretty quickly. But many rural communities still feel like safe havens from savage storms in that respect. People still ‘button’ doors from the outside when they’re away. No such thing as a dead bolt around places like this. And while kids often own the streets after dark, no one has any fear of anything worse than being the victim of a door-knocking prank.
#3; Where Everybody Knows Your Name.
When you live in a rural community, roots run deep, and everyone knows whose who and more than that, they know who owns ya. Sure, sometimes that might be annoying, but for the most part it’s charming. Social Networking sites might make people-connecting easier for many, but even before Facebook status updates and who-are- you- related- to apps, rural livyers knew what you were at and who to report it to.
#4; The Scenery.
Need I say more?
#5; It’s Not What You Can’t Do, It’s What You Can Do.
Sure, living remotely can mean doing without, but it also means living life to the fullest in the simplest of ways. Feel like blueberry pie? Go pick some not far from your front door. Go treasure hunting on an isolated beach anytime you feel like it. Bonfires, nature walks, wharf-side chats, and post-office pow-wows are activities that often happen at random and they cost no money.
#6; Appreciate What You Get When You Get It
O.k, so you can’t have a take-out coffee every time you want one, but when you do manage to get your hands on one, it’s taste so darn good! And taking-out (or eating in) feels like a real treat when the only other option is your own stove or microwave oven. Admit it folks, when a drive-thru meal is as easy as, well, just driving through, there really isn’t much pleasure in that, is there? But when such a meal means driving an hour before driving through, well, somehow it just tastes better. And, when going to a movie becomes a rarity, it also becomes a real treat. What many urban dwellers consider an everyday thing become an event to be treasured by the entire family when traveling and planning comes into play.
#7; Sometimes ‘Just Because’ Is Enough
When you live in a rural setting it’s almost like living in your own time zone. It’s five o’clock somewhere, right? So why not relax and have a drink and a yarn with a neighbour. There is always some reason to celebrate something; it snowed, or it didn’t snow, someone’s husband just came back from working away, or another’s just left for a great-paying job out west after a winter at home. And sometimes getting together to celebrate; with food and lively conversation, just because your can is reason enough.
#8; Someone Is Always Watching.
Now, this reason is only a plus when you have small children, otherwise it can be downright annoying. But lets face it, having extra eyes on your kid is always a good thing. Kids in rural places can’t get away with much without mom, dad, nan or pop finding out. Even if no one tattles, someone is always ready, willing and able to lecture some youngster about something. Rural kids learn early; best mind, or else!
#9; The Fishery Is The Heart And Soul
People in rural areas still believe in the fishery. While it’s true some youth still leave for so-called greener pastures, (or concrete jungles, whatever the case may be) others are entering the fishery with enthusiasm. And after the recent Auditor General report, they actually might be on to something. Because so many who live in rural regions have to leave, if only temporarily, to make fortunes away from the outports, the fishery is still an alternative for those who want to stay put.
#10: Because You Can
Outports have survived. Even many thought extinct during resettlement have been brought to life by cabin enthusiasts and by seasonal workers looking for a quaint, peaceful place to stay. When I left Newfoundland in 1990, I, and many of my generation, thought there would never ever be an outport home to return to. Thank goodness we were all wrong.