CITY VERSUS COUNTRY – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I lived in an apartment in Manhattan for over 40 years. I’ve lived in the woods in Connecticut now for over 25 years. I think I’m something of an expert on both life styles.

My apartment building in NYC for 15 years

It’s a common misconception that getting around is easier in a city than in the country or suburbs. I disagree. Having lived long-term with both transportation options, I’ll take my car and the country any time.

In the city there are often many things that are within walking distance. A small supermarket, a pharmacy, a dry cleaners, some restaurants and stores, etc. For those destinations, it couldn’t be more convenient (unless you count having to be outside in inclement weather as more than mildly inconvenient). But you can’t live your entire life within a ten block radius of your apartment or house. You always need to go downtown or outside your residential area. That’s where you get into trouble.

You have to walk to bus stops or subway stops, in all kinds of weather. Then wait for the next bus or train, whenever it decides to come for you. There are always delays of some kind. You get off the bus or train and again have to walk to your destination. Add kids in strollers and the logistics become mind boggling.

Another city transportation option is the taxi. First you have to wait to find one and then you have to sit in traffic – there’s always traffic in NYC. This is often easier but it can actually be slower, is less predictable and is definitely more expensive.

You can never be sure, in a city like New York, how long it will take you to get somewhere. You’re always at the mercy of factors outside of your control. My ex and I would have endless discussions about the best way to get to the theater or to a downtown restaurant on time.

So for me, going anywhere in the city was stressful. I dreaded having to take my young kids anywhere. I dreaded going out when it was very hot, very cold or very wet outside. (Weather is a big thing for me). I was ALWAYS rushing and always worried I’d be late.

Getting a kid and a stroller into a bus is not easy

In the country/suburbs, you just get in your car and go! Mine is in my garage so I don’t even have to go outside. You always know how long it will take to get where you’re going if you’re traveling locally. If you don’t, you can always look it up on Map Quest. There’s rarely traffic (unless you have to take the highway) and usually plenty of parking wherever you’re going. You don’t have to battle the elements for more than a few yards.

You may technically be farther away from the necessities of life. But I’m in the middle of nowhere and I can get to anything I might need or want, including movies and theater, in 15-20 minutes. Door to door. You can’t go anywhere on public transportation in NYC in less time than that!

And when I drive everywhere, I’m not only in control of my schedule, I’m traveling in style and comfort. I’m in my comfy car, listening to my Broadway Channel on Sirius Radio and singing along at the top of my lungs. I’m looking out the window at trees and grass and often a reservoir. The view going by makes me happy no matter the season. Snow is beautiful if you don’t have to shovel it. There’s nothing like watching the leaves come out on the trees in the spring, or watching them turn to reds, oranges and yellows in the fall.

For me it’s a no-brainer. Me in my car, singing and watching the beautiful scenery go by. No stress, no worries, no environmental issues. I’ll take that scenario over a crowded subway any day. Even if it means I can’t walk to the local market, restaurant or store. I can walk on my tree-lined road any time I want to commune with nature or get some exercise.

I always thought I was a city girl at heart. I grew up as a dyed in the wool, ethnocentric, arrogant New Yorker. But I’ve converted. I’ve seen the light – and the trees.

18 thoughts on “CITY VERSUS COUNTRY – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

  1. More than once, I’ve moved to a more suburban area in search of something closer to the country life you describe. More than once that’s been wonderful for a couple of years (or maybe 5), after which the urban sprawl has followed me to the “country,” and it becomes more urban. But then, I guess that’s the result of living in California, where migration is more inward than outward. I’ll soon move again, to an area on the edge of wilderness — I hope that lasts!

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    1. That’s sad that you keep getting encroached on by urban sprawl. That can’t happen where I live, in part because of zoning laws. My town is very protective of its country character. There are only a few commercial entities and they are mostly farms that have a small store. No other businesses are allowed. We are a 99% residential town. We also only have about 7,000 people. I live in a 3 acre zoning area and the rest of the town is 1 acre zoning. So the town can’t get overcroweded with houses either. I guess I’m lucky.

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  2. The country for me too even though getting around is not so easy for me as I don’t drive. I’ve never lived in a large city and while I think I might have enjoyed it when I was young I wouldn’t now. Even though I miss the opportunity to go to the theatre, cinema, restaurants etc I would not want to live anywhere else.

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    1. You’re right. I think cities are for young people too. When I was young I loved the excitement and the people and all the culture that was available everywhere. Now I don’t mind driving an hour and a half each way a few times a year to see a show. I don’t have to see every new show anymore. Or every new movie or art exhibit. A little bit goes a long way for me now. And the peace and calm of the country enriches my soul.

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  3. Love this one, Ellin. Marilyn and I discuss it all the time. A GREAT topic. City Versus Country.

    I hate driving. Period. I hate driving. I used to love it. No longer. Driving around our small town is aggravating because people drive so friggin’ slow. Unsteady and slow. Our rural area has all the road problems you might anticipate and more. It’s really bad when we have medical appointments and must be someplace on TIME.

    CITY driving: Okay, glad we don’t have to do this much anymore. It’s a bloody nightmare. We remember WHY we moved to our rural area. Roadwork, detours, traffic jams, rush hour road rage, jay walkers seemingly EVERYWHERE. Familiar places have become enigmas to us. We USED to know how to get there. No longer.

    Highways — another topic for another day.

    I’ll stay with the country and it’s quaint irritations.

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    1. Your area seems to be plagued by bad and slow drivers. We usually don’t have that problem, although it does happen sometimes. We can usually count on being able to get somewhere in a predictable amount of time. That’s really important. That’s one of the things I hated about the city. You never knew how long it was going to take you to get somewhere on public transportation. I actually like driving. The scenery is generally pretty and I listen to music on the radio, so time in the car is rather pleasant for me. And I always know that there will be parking when I get where I’m going. So there is little hassle doing errands in town. All in all, I consider my area to be pretty convenient – once you accept that you have to drive 15-20 minutes to get to a major town center. And I’m fine with that because I don’t have to do it every day.

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        1. I’ve been profiled by slow and bad drivers. They wait patiently on side streets and use walkie-talkies to communicate my road presence.

          Yesterday, there was a horrible 2 car accident encountered on my way to pick up a Mother’s Day dinner. Explosion with melted car debris all around. Very unsettling. I heard some Police chatter about “Texting and tweeting”. Oy!

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    1. I can’t imagine taking subways anymore on a daily basis. That is the best way to get around NYC, but possibly the least pleasant. I can’t believe how many years I spent underground on those awful trains! Never again!

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  4. You know, I keep thinking I should live in NYC and my husband has been saying the same lately. Always a nature girl, it seems city people appreciate rural life more that those who grew up in the country. And there’s the open minded-ness that I at least imagine exists in the city. Country people are friendly until you express a differing opinion. So difficult for an idea person to hold one’s tongue in fear of offending. Guess the grass is always greener . . .

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  5. I spent the first twenty years of my life in the city of Toronto. After I married we moved to Deep River and that was quite a change from the “Big City”. It was a great place to raise a young family but when they start growing up, they go off to university and at that point we decided to move back to Toronto. The traffic, the noise etc. everything had changed in Toronto. We then moved to Mississauga which is part of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). It is somewhat quieter here but still close to amenities. Traffic is still an issue so we try avoid the busy times. We never shop on the weekends. I think Paris had it right with their extensive metro system.
    Leslie

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  6. What a great article! I have ‘my views’ too and they might or might not align with yours.
    As a Swiss from the ultimate country with very good transport systems and train/bus/tramway stations and stops everywhere, it was always of great importance to me that I’d find places to live where I can reach one of the above on foot and within max 15-20’. Mind you, this is absolutely possible in most places in Switzerland.
    When I lived outside of Toronto in the seventies, I had the bus close by. It took me with one or two changes to the big city where I worked, but I was very happy when I got something much closer.
    In UK we had a terribly unreliable bus & train service but the ultimate location. From our home we looked down on the sea & strand, but to go anywhere but close-by places, it was by car or (again) unreliable buses & trains. Airports were a nightmare….
    In France where I live now you don’t even want to have a car IF you live in Paris or Lyon or another large city. Their ‘inner’ transports are reliable (unless you have 3 months of strike as we suffer now), although the trains are so dirty, full of graffiti etc that you’re nearly glad if you can’t find a seat, BUT you get there. For everything else you NEED a car. I always say, some villages are super cute and beautifully located but unless you are happy to posses one car per adult IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to live there. No transports, nothing…. It seems that often you can’t win. But hoping to move back to Switzerland within the next year or so I can’t wait to use my own legs again to walk to the next stop, be it for a train, a bus, or a tram…

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    1. You are right that different cities have different public transport systems – some better and most worse. If you have good transport, cities can be much easier to live in. New York City used to be a dream to get around in, but not for decades. I always dreamed of living in one of those picturesque country towns in France or England. But you pointed out the logistical realities of these places and my dream has faded.
      I was always impressed with the tube system in London. We got robbed on a subway in Paris, so I’m not a fan of that system. New York subways are filthy and unreliable but I guess they do get you where you’re going. I’ve just been too spoiled for too many years in the comfort of my car to want to go back to being dependent on public transport.

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