When you look back throughout history, you can find dozens of examples of great people who were inspired by awesome landscapes. And although there are many places you can find awe in nature – the coast, forests, and prairies – nowhere can quite compare to the majesty of the mountains.
But for many people, especially those trapped in the city, moving to the mountains can seem like a distant dream – a total one hundred and eighty-degree turnaround from their current lifestyle.
Mountain living presents many challenges and opportunities. Here’s what you need to know before you move to a mountain town.
The Air Is Cleaner And The Water Purer
The majority of Americans live in cities with high levels of air pollution. The particles from motor vehicles, especially diesel-powered cars and trucks, can damage the lining of the lungs, leading to asthma, bronchitis and even an increased incidence of cancer. As episodes in towns like Flint show, water purity can also be an issue.
But in the mountains, miles from the nearest big, polluting industrial center, the air is clean and the water pure.
The Communities Are Tightly Knit
Mountain towns tend to host tightly-knit communities: groups of people who are comfortable to rely on each other to make life more enjoyable and comfortable. Unlike in the cities, you are expected to get to know your neighbors and spend a lot of time talking with them. Things can get tough in the mountains, so you need a network of people you can rely on to see you through the harshest conditions.
It’s A Less Stressful Lifestyle
In the city, there’s a lot of pressure to succeed and rise to the top of one’s occupation. But out in the mountains, there is no such pressure: most people choose a role in the local community and stick with it for the long term.
Few people who live in mountain towns commute, so there’s none of the stress of sitting in traffic or sharing public transport. And, in general, there’s less noise and light pollution – especially helpful if you’re somebody who struggles with insomnia.
It’s More Affordable
Living in a mountain town tends to be more affordable than living in the city, thanks to much lower demand for things like housing and food. You’re likely to spend far less on entertainment too. Rather than shelling out for the theatre or a restaurant meal, you can simply take a stroll on your local trail, bring your mountain bike out for a ride, or put on your skis and enjoy your local slopes.
The Roads Can Be Harsh
Because so few people live in mountain towns and the terrain is so rugged, roads can be harsh, especially during the winter. It’s not uncommon for mountain towns to be cut off from the outside world for weeks at a time if the snowfall is heavy enough. Before moving to a mountain town, prepare physically and mentally for the fact that you may not be able to leave your house for several days at a time. If you do decide to move to the mountains, make sure that you’ve got adequate food supplies to keep you going, should the local store close. Also, invest in a 4×4 vehicle equipped with snow tires to make mountain driving as safe as possible.
Difficult Weather Conditions
Elevation brings with it a whole host of weather issues, from plunging temperatures at night to fog and sudden downpours of rain. If you move to a mountain town, expect strong winds, plenty of snow, and extreme cold during the winter months.
Although crime in cities has been falling since the crime peak of the 1980s, you’re still much more likely to be a victim of crime in a city than you are in a small mountain town. Most mountain towns comprise small numbers of relatively affluent and stable people who have their neighbor’s interests at heart. Although crime does happen, it’s far rarer, meaning that you don’t have to spend as much money securing your property, or emotional energy worrying about it.
There’s Less Traffic
Traffic accidents kill more people under the age of forty than anything else. There’s much more traffic in the city, and a higher likelihood of being hurt in an accident, compared to mountain towns, making the latter a far safer option.
There Are Many Sporting Opportunities
Mountain towns often double up as tourist resorts for skiers, bikers, and hikers. But unlike tourists who only have a few days to enjoy the mountains, those who live year-round there get to enjoy them all the time. If you love outdoor or winter sports, then the mountains are an ideal place to live.
You May Have To Fend For Yourself
Because so many mountain communities are a long way from major population centers, utilities and services may be unreliable. For instance, bus services might not run during the winter months, or they may only run on certain days of the week. Stores may not be stocked during certain parts of the year or may find it difficult to supply the goods that you need consistently. Electricians and plumbers might live many miles away and only willing to travel to you if you pay their travel expenses.
You may also struggle to get access to medical care. Facilities may be located far away which may be a problem for people suffering from chronic conditions or who need immediate medical attention to manage their health, day to day.
There Are Limited Job Opportunities
Although people who live in mountain towns enjoy a lower stress lifestyle, finding work can be difficult. Many mountain towns do not support enough jobs for all the people who live there. The jobs that they do supply, mostly based in retail and tourism, tend to be less lucrative than those available in the city. But almost anyone can find a basic job at a ski resort to get the financial ball rolling.
It Can Be Depressing
If you’re somebody who is energized by being around people, then being in the mountains can be a lonely experience. Work is often solitary (although not always), and it’s not uncommon to spend long periods alone, without interacting with anyone.
If you live in a tourist resort, the off-season can be particularly long and uneventful, and you may go a long time between social gatherings. Furthermore, because people usually only stay in mountain towns for a few weeks at a time, it can be hard to develop meaningful, long-term relationships.
Word Gets Around
One of the benefits of living in a big city is your anonymity. You can mess up your job or your relationships, but there usually aren’t any long-term social consequences: you just find a new place to work or new people to spend time with, and the problem goes away. But in mountain towns word can get around when you mess up, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to pick up where you left off somewhere else.
You can deal with this in a couple of ways: ignore what other people think of your lifestyle and get on with it, or continuously bear in mind how the community might perceive your actions. Most of the time, you’ll want to do whatever helps you fit in with others by avoiding anything particularly controversial or anti-establishment. Put simply, it’s a good idea to be nice to everybody you meet.
You’ll Need To Learn To Plan Ahead
Big cities are incredibly convenient, offering practically every service at a moment’s notice. Forgot to pick up groceries from the store on the way home? No bother – just pick up your smartphone and get somebody to deliver them for you. Don’t have a battery for your torch? Just pop out of your apartment to the convenience store around the block for a new one.
Life in the mountains isn’t like this at all. Grocery shopping is a significant event – something that you’ll need to plan for, as the nearest supermarket can be many miles away. Often, the simple act of shopping requires an entire day dedicated to it and is something that you may only want to do once or twice a month.
Many people who live in the mountains share cars for shopping trips to save on fuel. They also plan menus weeks in advance, making sure that they’ve got everything they need in the pantry and the refrigerator ahead of time. You’ll also need to factor in the risk of poor weather preventing you from leaving your home.
The Mountains Will Challenge Your Fitness Levels
Living at elevation can be tough on your body because of the thin atmosphere. If you’re unfit, the lack of oxygen can prevent you from getting your breath and enjoying your leisure time. Before moving to the mountains, you need to make sure that you’re in good physical shape. Start jogging, running or resistance training in the weeks and months beforehand. You may also want to change your diet to help get rid of any excess weight that could make it for difficult to go hiking or biking.