South Africans who are seeking a more leisurely lifestyle often dream of moving out of the city. While the pros are pretty obvious, there are also cons that you may not have thought about.
Moving away from the city to a country or coastal town and a slower-paced life is a frequent new-year resolution for South Africans, but thorough research should be done before you break free from the hustle and bustle, because making the wrong move could turn out to be a very expensive mistake, and even more stressful for you and your family than staying in the “big smoke”.
“For example,” says Berry Everitt, “the ubiquitous use of technology in business these days may make it seem like a simple matter to relocate your ‘office’ from a study in the suburbs to a trendy cowshed in the country. Have laptop, will travel.
“But before making any move, you really should check that the rural town you prefer has the technology infrastructure that you need, such as fast internet connections, good cell-phone reception and a stable power supply.”
Writing in the latest Property Signposts newsletter, he says there is nothing likely to dent your enthusiasm – and productivity - so much as a constant battle to stay online, or constant interruptions when you are trying to call or video-conference with colleagues, suppliers or clients.
“Alternatively, if your employer expects you to still show up at the company’s office a few times a week, you should consider that a move out of town might not free you from many hours of commuting. You may think that you’re prepared to do this so that your family can have a better life at the coast or in the country, or because you simply like driving down the road-less-travelled, but realistically, it will most likely cut into the time you can spend with your loved ones, and may soon make you wish you’d made a different plan to lower your stress levels.”
If you’re lucky, says Everitt, your chosen career path will itself take you away from the bright lights to the quiet, slow pace of a rural community. You might be a wildlife vet, for example, or run an eco-tourism business. “Or if you’re a professional such as a doctor, lawyer, dentist or engineer, there may be a country practice for sale or a big need/ demand for your services or specialist skills in a certain small town.
“But for most people, any move to the country before retirement means that employment or business opportunities and commuting distances are critical considerations. For example, picking a popular tourist town or holiday destination might mean you have good work prospects only during three or four peak-season months of the year – and actually more money worries than you had in the city.
“Similarly, if you choose a town that is particularly popular with seniors, you might find that good schools are far away, or that your children won’t have similar age friends nearby during weekends and holidays.”
The town must also meet your social needs, he says. “A quiet village might seem like bliss without traffic and constant noise, but if you don’t have as many friends around as you’re used to, and there aren’t many places to socialise or activities to participate in, you could find it lonely – and start wishing you had never left the city after all.
“So before you decide on any relocation, you really should visit the town or village you have set your heart on several times, at different times of the year and/ or different times of day. It’s also a good idea to make a list of your daily necessities, and map out how far you will need to travel to get everything you need. In the city there may be several places to pick up milk and bread on the way home, for example, but if you live in the country, it may be a long drive to the nearest supermarket, meaning you have to plan a complete grocery shop only once a week or once a month.
“You also need to assess what kind of housing will be available, and be realistic about whether you personally will be able to adjust from fast pace of the city to the more relaxed, neighbourly pace of a small town, or whether it will irritate you in the long run. You should make a point of talking to local residents and business owners, subscribing to the local newspaper or online news site and, if you’re thinking of buying property, consulting with experienced local estate agents.
“You will only be ready to make a good decision about the move when you feel you really know the town and its people, and you have reassured yourself and your family that it is an area which offers prosperity as well as the quieter, more leisurely life you want. Alternatively, you might just decide to stay put and add more leisure to your lifestyle in the city.”