I read “Why Millennials Are Avoiding Small-Town America” a few weeks ago about how we gravitate more toward metropolitan areas after college. My story is the opposite even though I started out as one of those starry-eyed students destined for big adventures in the city.
My hometown has less than 17,000 people. We have one Starbucks, no shopping mall and Kmart instead of Wal-Mart or Target. Despite its small size, I didn’t feel trapped or limited in opportunities growing up. I participated in school plays, choir, track, tennis and competitive dance. I attended cooking classes and movie nights hosted by the recreation and park district.
When I graduated from high school, I admit I was ready to leave. I wanted to move on to bigger things, whatever those might be. I spent four years attending college in Los Angeles County and one semester in Washington, D.C. I got my taste of big-city life, but I can’t say the quality of life was any better.
Here are 20 benefits of living in a small town as a 20-something.
1. Shorter commutes and less time stuck in traffic. It takes only seven minutes to drive from one end of my town to the other, which is how long my commute is to work. That means I can go home on my lunch hour and see my husband if he’s home.
2. Smaller churches = more intimacy. There might not be as many ministry opportunities or small groups, but there’s a greater chance of knowing the majority of people who join you in worship every week.
3. Cross-church community. Churches in my town get together every so often for “Fifth Sunday Sings.” It’s a worship night hosted by a different church every time, and all church goers are invited to participate
4. Slower pace of life means a more Sabbath-like lifestyle and higher quality of life.
5. Low crime levels create a safe environment for raising a family.
6. Chances are better you know your neighbors — and maybe the entire block. We had the same neighbors while I was growing up, and for the most part, the neighborhood still has all the same families it did 20 years ago.
7. Small-town hospitality. We live in a small apartment complex, and when we took our new neighbors cookies the night they moved in, they talked to us like they already knew us.
8. More support, less competition. Local businesses might not always thrive, but they don’t suffer from as much name brand competition. Around here, the saying is “Shop Local, Support Local.”
9. Quirky traditions. My town hosts an annual Horned Toad Derby parade and carnival. They don’t race horses or cars, but horned toads. While it’s a unique event, it brings the whole town together.
10. Movies don’t always sell out opening night. It’s nice to have your choice of seats at a showing of a popular movie and not have to worry about purchasing your tickets in advance.
11. Lower cost of living. When I was in college, I was amazed that the average rent of a studio or one-bedroom apartment was at least $1000 per month. In my town, you can rent a two-bedroom for $600.
12. Less temptation to spend money. While there’s always online shopping, small towns tend not to have name-brand stores, so there’s not as much temptation to overspend.
13. “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” Small towns are great for community where most people know each other.
14. It’s easy to get involved. Fewer people in a town means fewer volunteers, which also means more opportunities to lend a hand and volunteer. You won’t likely be turned away if you offer to help.
15. Fewer things to do means freedom to do more. While there aren’t as many places to hang out or events to attend, you have more time to pick up a hobby or learn a new skill and really work at it.
16. Art appreciation. Small towns are known for artisans and musicians, and local talent doesn’t go unnoticed. Mine even hosts a few craft fairs and boutiques throughout the year.
17. More opportunities. While people might think there are fewer opportunities in small towns, there is less competition to do what you love. I was on the newspaper staff in high school and was picked up as a freelancer by the local newspaper my senior year. I wrote for them until I got my first full-time job a year ago. It was work experience I could add to my resume that others didn’t have.
18. Traditional values. Small towns tend to have a certain way of doing things, and values are more ingrained. People expect you to be more polite and respectful. My town has a lot of churches for its size, and there is a heavy emphasis placed on family and traditional values.
19. You can exercise outside the gym. Runners benefit in small towns that have less traffic, few stoplights and hardly any interruptions.
20. It’s easy to stay informed. While my town only has a weekly newspaper as its news source, everyone is a reporter. If something big happens, you know about it. My town has a Facebook group page where people constantly post events, lost pets and items for sale. If some crime or accident happens, you only have to wait a matter of seconds for someone to fill in the gaps.
I think I took small towns for granted while I was growing up, but now, I appreciate them for what they are. I go out of town once a month or so for major shopping trips, but otherwise, I have what I need right here: family, a close-knit community and small town charm.
The appeal of any city depends on the benefits it offers. When considering a move after graduation or a move in general, spiritual growth and quality of life should be at the top of your list. For me, small towns offer the best of both.