Sustainable life – 11 reasons to leave the city for it

in Sustainability - 13 min read

Bringing sustainable life home

The birthplace of a sustainable life is home.

Home as in heart, home as in mind(set) and home as in a sheltering-nurturing home environment. Whichever comes first and whatever order they follow, these three places eventually have to align with each other and with nature, before sustainability can truly manifest itself.

For nature and its principles to imbue our body, character, demeanor, mindset, to synchronize our instincts with nature’s flows and pulses, we simply have to immerse ourselves into that feral nature. We cannot only imagine it by staring at hotel rooms’ and cafés’ wallpapers. By only visiting nature physically or mentally, on rare occasions, to wind down.

We have to offer ourselves back to nature as its daughters and sons. Prodigal as we might have been, we ought to embrace the animal in us and return to nature, the only place we really belong.

Urban environments, however long-standing their culture may be, are mutually exclusive with sustainable life. You cannot tweak sustainable life into a town or city. Never. The result will always be a “farcity”.

The irony of the city

Have you noticed the irony in providing your personal information online, when address is requested? Wherever you may live, your location always seems to be marked as a city. They don’t ask to name your town or – better yet – settlement/village, but outright your city.

The same thing tends to happen in all languages in my experience. So, it cracks me up to fill in the name of our home village of little over a thousand inhabitants.

Worrisome trends

Many of us are indeed city or town dwellers nowadays and the worldwide tendency to choose urban life over the country, continues to grow.

According to a 2018 UN report on the urban population of the world, this population strata has surpassed 55%, but it is estimated to swell to 68% by 2050.

In the case of North America we are looking at a whopping 82%(!) of town dwellers, while Europe has just slightly less at 74%. (No wonder it is so spacious around us in the mountains of peripheral Romania.)

And this flocking-to-towns syndrome happens paradoxically, against all odds, if you ask me.

Even just 60 years, so roughly three generations ago, twice as many people lead rural, rather than urban life (2 billion vs. 1 billion), despite great differences between countries (for instance the USA has experienced a significant population influx to towns from much earlier on than China).

In 1800, still not so long ago (once I was able to trace my family tree back to near that year by simply interviewing my late great-grandmother, who was pulling the information out of her memory alone), less than 10% of the world’s population lived in urban settlements.

This meant a lifestyle lived relatively close to nature and definitely a lot more grounded. In a psychological sense it was incomparably more balanced than in our modern times.

Are cities worth the move?

Nowadays, in a reversed situation, when the proverbial “seventh generation” of that country folk, lured to town got absorbed by the harsh urban mechanisms – nearly one in three urban dwellers live in slum type households.

Materially and/or morally impoverished rural youth takes to asphalt avenues in evasion of their forebearer’s muddy paths. They desire wheels taking them smoothly to a wealthier, better future. By in large, they loathe the sweaty drudgery epigenetically bestowed upon them.

To be fair, there is a certain self-justice applied here, for modernity opened people’s senses to other possible means of existence (often more temptatious) than the immediate one they inherited (typically involving physical labor and strewn with hardships).

When “sure struggle” can be exchanged for the potential of something, anything even marginally better, in terms of promising more to life, however uncertain that may be, young hearts often take on the challenge. Understandable.

Take a step back and look at it again

Yet, is hitting the highway the only possible way of evading hardship?

Certainly not. It seems helpful, however, to be able to look at heritage from a distance, in order to bring about qualitative change.

The ability of distancing oneself from one’s past, including traditions, is often facilitated by travel outside one’s immediate zone of influence.

Coming (back) home with inspiration that is new to the old views, entrenched in the hearts and minds of the local people in an age-old cycle of repetition, yet what is in perfect alignment with the spirit of the land (the genus loci), can become the best thing to happen to both land and its inhabitants.

What about those that start out in a city? Whose thoughts never had the chance to be inspired by raw nature. Who have been subjected to manicured parkscapes or glimpses of wilderness at best. Aliens to Earth, on vacation.

I speak to people from both of these two walks of life: the frightened country girls and boys, and the born urbanites.

I implore you to follow us (back) to the country.

Shake off your virtual reality and live by real virtue

Sustainable living for the essentials of life

Air

Without quality air, purified by nature’s filtration powers, not some mechanical-digital contraption, we are as good as soulless mechanisms, in constant need of fixing.

Air is far from being a void with kinetic energy that sometimes caresses our hair, at other times takes our breath away and knocks us to the ground.

Untainted clean air is as alive as you or us, with soul and purpose, with local flavor and universal messages. It speaks before you get to utter anything. Air is life, and air is poetry.

Air takes up space. It can truly thrive only where it has room to roam and spread its breath, its wealth. Urban environments constrict, confine air, forcing it into channels foreign to its feral moving patterns.

Urban air is overcharged with tension, friction, overloaded with spiteful waste it was never meant to carry.

You have to breathe free-of-charge country air in order to truly live and give life, in turn, to creations of cosmic order.

Urban air is stale, by comparison, and is characterized by self-righteous human polarity that gives little to no room for non-human considerations.

Breathe out, hold it… and inhale again in the country.

You are welcome.

Water

Town water is centralized in origin – flow and manipulation along the way. We can assume good, but often find wrong. You, who are turning a faucet, are pleading. Only pleading not to nature, but fallible at best human entities.

While you think you are controlling water, you are being controlled. And that’s a worse dependency than hoping for electricity to run uninterruptedly in its own wire channels.

Mechanized, altered water gives off the foul smell of dead matter.

Water has to stay in touch with air, the energy of the sun, the soil with all its living organisms and the bedrock for crystal purification to remain alive and enlivening.

The longer it runs through various metal and plastic pipes, the more compromised the water gets.

The closer to the clean source, obviously the better it s for you. It also goes without saying that this is only possible in the country and even there you have to be discerning.

In nature you get to enjoy drinking rainwater and the juices of freshly fallen snow. What a visceral connection that is!

Talking about water related visceral experiences: with some magic of luck, you get to live in a sufficiently remote, well-placed location that you can expose your bare body to the truest shower of rain, to the fiery-cold blanket of snow. You may get to enjoy dipping in a mountain creek on a daily basis, or all of the above, like ourselves, at the very upper edge of our home village in northwestern Romania.

Try doing these things in a town.

Food

Food is another essential to keep a close eye on when considering a sustainable life. Not only that, but to keep food as close to the body and our locale, as possible. We need our hands on our food from seed and root to plate.

City living gives another quintessential example to dependency, sometimes even exploitation of its residents, when it comes to food.

You can only buy what is on offer. Even when you could afford better, different foodstuffs, it is the market (on- or offline) that dictates the menu at home. See, if you stop to think about it, that’s disappointing. People have become accustomed to be satisfied with what is available, but that does not mean that their nutritional and soul needs are satisfied via food.

Grocery stores are very poor at meeting one’s energy vibration needs and matching those with the land’s emanation of frequencies at any given location.

Farmers markets and CSAs can come a lot closer in filling the gap, but only vibrations-wise (if indeed the right food is produced), geographic distances might still be overwhelming between consumer and the land as source of the food.

No matter what kind of busy professional one might be, there should be no excuse not to want to grow the bulk of one’s self-sustenance food. If that’s what it takes, cut out the percentage of clients preventing you from doing this.

Of course, the greatest hurdles to overcome are city boundaries. You can eat organically in city, but sustainably never. It simply takes land and living on that land to do so.

Living space

Here we are, closing back the loop at the land issue. It all begins and ends at the land.

Before and beyond any esoteric goals, personal career considerations from education onward to professional achievements, one needs to settle down. And not just anywhere! On the land, which is in the countryside.

Why do I say so? Because living takes space. Exceptional, sustainable life takes even more space. It is our nature to need an ample spatial buffer among ourselves, and from our fellow human beings. When this is missing, frustration arises and the artificial concept of compromise is born.

Urban life is the avatar of living by compromises.

In rural settings, it is my personal experience, tension tends to palpably diminish with every hundred meters introduced between you and your kin. Paradoxically, what is likely to grow with distance, is kinship! Bare that in mind.

Sustainable life for the non-essential, but so-great-to-have benefits

Health

People keep repeating, in different colloquial terms, how highly they regard health. Many of them, however, at the end of the day (literally and figuratively), could care less. And, as we all know, one can get by with less than optimal health…

Health is wholesomeness and sustainable life both promotes and requires optimal well-being.

The countryside offers the potential for (re-)gaining an all-round health, like one has never dreamed of, or could only get that far with it. A dream come true: physically, psychologically, emotionally and even esoterically.

Naturally, the potential does not equal manifestation. One has to actively seek health. Health as a dynamic journey of well-being, not as a finite destination.

In our individual journeys of maintaining vibrancy, we are often challenged to open up our mind to our heart and gut instincts. Nowhere can this flourish more than in a nature setting.

Calm and quiet

I could also add dark to calm and quiet, because as opposed to a city, that is never dark (hardly ever calm and quiet except for a couple fleeting hours only, in the dead of night) the wide-open country enjoys the natural dark of the weather and moon phases combined.

I am happy that the last lamp post on our lane, right outside our home has long blown out. We would never request a bulb replacement.

In the country, the human factor in allowing calm as such to happen, is a lot more reduced versus natural ones. It is a lot more likely for the dynamic calm to escalate into a thunderstorm, than obnoxious human activity to perturb peace. The latter tends to follow a seasonal pattern, which is easier to adjust to than the random cacophony and unexpected events of a tumultuous city.

Quiet, as we venerate it, is a relative one, itself full of dynamism, as life unfolds, following its natural rhythms. It’s never a dead-quiet I, or any of us, for that matter really wishes for. That would be frightening at best and maddening at worst. It is the soothing quiet, a poetic silence that regenerates the mind-body-soul we are after.

The three of them together, calm, quiet and dark, are at present unrecognized or undervalued “commodities” each of which alone, and especially combined, are going to attract tremendous demand in the near future.

Realizing this and deeply appreciating the benefits these features bring to our lives, it fills us with pride to have already chosen them, voted by them.

The countryside is a great place to grow up!

What better cradle and playground can one imagine, than nature itself at the doorstep?!

Some have said, it takes a village to raise a child… I would challenge this tenet and say that it takes nature and its wisdom to best raise a child.

Some of the real virtues to come out of the woods with, are patience, respect for all, deep listening, being observant, resourcefulness, sharing, generosity, kindness, gentility, courage and resilience.

And all of the above nurture intuition into blooming. Such great gifts to endow our children with!

Children raised in nature will gain a life-long inspiration of beauty, forming a sense of esthetics of cosmically divine kind. They will grow into adults with awesome collaborative skills, for they socialized inside a dense web of life, understanding interconnectedness and interdependence from personal experience.

These are and will be the truly responsible people the Earth’s future is going to brighten up from. The people who fill sustainable life with meaning.

Where resilience is built

Country living is the place where true stamina is formed. Where endurance is measured by willpower and uncounted calories, like in no high-flying urban environment. The difference is like between bodily thriving and social survival. Hard to compare, but you get the point: striving for personal well-being versus grappling with societal expectations.

Nature treats every survivor equally. So is it equally ruthless with the ignorant.

With an open heart and mind, a good amount of inquisitive curiosity, knowing one’s boundaries and being brave but not brazen – one can quickly learn not only how to survive in nature, but how to thrive there.

Instead of pressing buttons, expecting others to deliver a service to or for us, here we assume the service title ourselves. We collect, process the wood, down to kindling size pieces, and light the fire, one of the many ways. Any time it makes sense. That is true independence.

Nature’s floral canvas is our market to forage in. Open any day (weather allowing), one gets to choose from a wide range of edible, and many times healing plants. Following due discernment, they are ready for harvest and processing. Without any pretentious packaging. Food and medicine for free!

A sustainable life calls for simple solutions that can be crafted by the individual or a more or less casual team of skilled individuals. When necessary, these creations are repaired, tended to the same uncomplicated way. This is self-reliance or resilience.

You’ll need to gather skills to be self-reliant, if you don’t have them already – they are yours for the taking!

Resilience is open for collaboration and bartering goods and skills, but is in much less need of what you would see in a typical urban context, full of pricey over-specialized participants.

Great value for the investment

Investing in land and home (a homestead) in almost any rural area suitable for sustainable life, is bound to have a multi-fold return on the investment. Especially when time constraints are of no concern.

While real estate could have a relatively high upfront cost in the countryside as well, the diversity you are buying into is going to reward you in so many ways, for generations to come.

By contrast, an urban property is relatively unilateral in what it can do for you (living or renting, typically) and is vulnerable to real estate market dynamics and speculations. The benefit is almost exclusively monetary.

The scene of a sustainable lifestyle consists of an astounding amount of benefits. These are in large proportion tangible, yet not necessarily of monetary nature, while many other rewards are more elusive, however very real.

Some tangible benefits are the already mentioned food and natural healthcare produce; the wood stock as heat, furniture and many other crafts source; fodder land for animals, including bees; source of leather, furs, animal and plant fibers for clothes.

A sustainable homestead can easily provide the household with a substantial income as well, either by selling the excess the land offers, or a career built upon the inspiration gained from the land.

The less obvious, but perhaps even higher value benefits of moving out to the countryside would be the mental and emotional well-being leading to longevity, greater love, joy and fulfillment in life; enhanced creative powers; deep-rootedness; positive outlook on the future; profound sense of continuum.

Live sustainably for subliminal reasons

Inspirational

Life surrounded and determined by nature is a pure inspirational existence.

In such an atmosphere you can take note of your own feelings and emotions. Moreover you are able to consider the feelings of the entire animate, other-than-human world too. Sustainable life might turn you into an animist we all have been once, long ago.

Nature allows you to hear your own thoughts and gently ushers you into becoming a broad, holistic thinker. It opens your mind to your heart. By doing so, nature helps bring your cognition into recognition of the intuitive powers. We would all do best listening to our intuition more, much more. Listening first and foremost to our gut feelings.

To me, all the inspiration possible in sustainable country living eclipses any culturally fertile urban environment. It pronounces us into real, sensitive Earth citizens.

Esthetic

One ought to be realistic when judging a town or a city for its beauty. More often than not, towns are evaluated by the architectural heritage assembly and the associated vibe of their historic centers. Sure enough, most towns are claimed charming by these measures.

For a well-rounded picture, however, one has to include the dark sides in the equation as well. The outskirts, general condition of housing, cleanliness of public and visible private spaces, access to greens paces, the quality of vegetation, family friendliness, infrastructure and so on.

The objective end result – in my subjective, countryside-biassed interpretation – is that towns are huge stressors. Not only by their economic pressures, but by the very visual “unappeal” they emanate on a whole: decay, disrepair, dirtiness, vandalism and the huge amount of forgotten eyesores.

The stage of sustainable life is set primarily by nature, which framework human presence is expected to mold into seamlessly. Nature is never ugly, unless we tempered with it. I hope we can all agree with that.

Nature uplifts the spirit and regardless of its textural richness and color diversity, it cannot be overwhelming. We have all heard of culture shock, but never of nature shock.

The word best fitting here is awe-inspiring on one side and spell-bound on the other.

Welcome to my world!

Roland Magyar

Passionate rewilder, who lives outside of the world of compromises.

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