Riding Bitch

The daily musings of a writer.

My Rural Fantasy


When I first arrived in Los Angeles, an eager 24 year old film student, my life fantasy was to make meaningful, financially successful movies that would be nominated for awards and win little gold statues. (Yes, I used to fantasize about my acceptance speech. Every film student does.) These days I have a different fantasy.

I yearn for a life with fewer distractions and more opportunities to dig deep into the things most important to me, and I also yearn for a life with a lower cost of living and a lower need to earn a mountain of money. A rural environment provides all of these things. – http://www.thesimpledollar.com/why-i-prefer-living-rural/

Catskills roadEver since living/writing in Vermont in January of this year, I have fantasized about moving there. If not Vermont, then some other rural environment where there are seasons, real people, animals, open skies, long stretches of road without stop signs or lights, less traffic, and less noise. And not forever, for a year or so. Enough time to detox from 18+ years of living/working in Hollywood, finish writing my memoir (and a couple of other projects), and reacquaint myself with Me.

It could actually happen.

A friend has a spacious, sun-filled, second floor apartment for rent in a big, old house located in the Catskills area of New York State. Two bedrooms, large eat-in kitchen, plus a living room. There’s so much space, I could rollerblade from room to room. There’s so much light, there might be too much light (a problem I’d love to have). It’s 30 minutes from Albany, and 2.5 hours from New York City.



The rent is cheaper than what I pay now and includes utilities. Forget about the cost of moving there for a moment. The cost of living there would be far cheaper than living in Los Angeles. Plus my friend/possible  landlord lives in NYC and only comes to the house every other weekend. So most of the time I would be alone (with my dog), ideal for someone who wants to write all day.

So what’s stopping me? Well, money and fear.

The whole point of the move would be to focus on writing, not to spend ten hours of my day in some office, or in my car commuting to work. If I were to take a year off to go live in a small town, I would live off savings for a few months, then look for part-time work. How realistic this is, I’m not sure. When I was young, I used to do all kinds of work – shovel snow, clean yards, babysit. I even worked as a horse carriage driver, where I had to clean and tack up my horse and carriage before and after a 10-hour shift. (You know you’ve been working an office job for too long when you start reminiscing about shovelling horse manure.)

Horse and Carriage [queenvictoria.com]

Horse and Carriage [queenvictoria.com]

But I wouldn’t mind doing something completely different than what I do now (executive legal assistant), or what I’ve done in the past (production manager, assistant editor, writer/director/producer). Maybe I could be a part-time farmhand, helping to pick crops and/or take care of animals. Or I could run the cash register at a local coffee shop. Or help paint a barn. Or find a way to make money writing (gasp!).

Then there is Fear. What if I get there and hate it? What if I get cabin fever and go crazy? What if the house is haunted? What if I don’t like being alone all the time? What if I still find it hard to concentrate because now it’s too quiet? What if I can’t find any work anywhere, use up all my savings and end up homeless in the Catskills?!

I recently shared my rural fantasy with a friend who’s leaving Los Angeles soon for her hometown of Pittsburgh (for the much more noble reason of being closer to her ailing parents). She thought it sounded like a great idea, “As long as you’re not running away from something. Because if you are, whatever it is will be coming with you.”

Wise words. Obviously, if I were to really do this, I would have to think it through very carefully and come up with a ship-tight plan. Right now I’m still in fantasy mode.

For more insight into the city vs rural debate, click on this cheeky yet informative article by Heather Long and Jessica Reed at theguardian.com.

Heather’s reason #5 to move to the country:

You don’t get suspicious when people are nice to you. People say hello and “how are you” and generally mean it. You go to the grocery store and have a decent chance of seeing at least someone you know. Your doctor actually calls you back the same day you call with a concern. People don’t size you up constantly based upon your job, social status or income. Volunteer work isn’t something you do for your resume. You feel a part of a genuine community, not just one peon out of millions.

Jessica’s reason #3 to move to the city:

The entire world is (almost) on your doorstep. I don’t know about you, but it would be a shame to die on the way to the hospital – or give birth on the side of a road. Which probably won’t happen in the city. You can order anything from online stores and – miracle! – receive it the next day. Museums, galleries, libraries are easily accessible, a lot of them free. And food: enough said. Who likes to have the choice only between a grim pub serving dismal burgers or fish-and-chips and the local Subway branch at the back of a derelict mall?

Have you ever moved from city to country or vice-versa?



Author: nivaladiva

Freelance writer and independent filmmaker.

25 thoughts on “My Rural Fantasy

  1. How exciting of a choice to have! Maybe you could do a test run for a week or two to see what it’s like. Another thought is to check the local papers online to see what kind of environment (e.g., jobs, things to do, places to go) exist in this town. I think you’re a good writer; I always get a vivid sense of place and pictures from what you write (perhaps you’re a script writer at heart). I fully expect to see you as a FAMOUS PUBLISHED AUTHOR one day and think, I remember reading her blog!

    • Thanks for the compliment! And yes, I would do a test run beforehand, as well as a budget for the move and the cost of living in the new place. Another option is Athens, Georgia, where a good friend of mine lives. Little bit more going on there, but it’s still not the big city. We shall see. It is good to have options. I get excited just thinking about making a change, and living closer to family!! Being within a car drive vs being across the entire country will be a HUGE difference in itself.

      • I’ve never been to Athens but have heard great things about it. Plus, it’s a college town, and there’s no better place to live.

      • I’ve never been to Athens but have heard great things about it. Plus, it’s a college town – and there’s no better place to live.

  2. BTW, regarding your last question, living in a small city has always been my choice; I think it provides the best of both worlds. What I like about where I live is that it’s small enough to have a more relaxed and (I think) healthier life, but it’s large enough to have culture and activities. When Rick was alive we’d take drives out to small towns or spend a weekend up North; we both enjoyed it but were very happy to get back to a larger area.

  3. I concur…GO FOR IT. You know my backstory (more or less) I’d have to say I prefer the small city…much more to offer. You get the solitude AND the social life…but it’s not RIGHT there ALL the time. So excited for you. And you’re so driven, I would imagine you’ll flourish wherever you decide to hang your hat & leash 😉

  4. I’ve lived in the city all my life! I’m from the Philippines and lived in crazy-chaotic-Manila where most days my best-friend and I would spend our coffee breaks yearning for the country. Then I worked in Ghana and stayed in the even-more chaotic city of Accra. From there I moved with my husband (whom I met in Africa) to a small English village by the ocean. All you hear when you wake up is the sound of sea-gulls… It’s lovely, but most times I miss the craziness of the city. Then again, because of my 3-year-old, I think this is the best place to bring up a child where there is 0 crime-rate (there’s even no sheep-stealing around here!). We are about an hour away from the nearest city (Exeter or Truro)… My husband is a historian and is with the Open University. He has to drive an hour every other weekend to do lectures. I work as an on-line freelance writer. Projects are hard to find and pay is crap, but at least, it’s something. Most of our friends here moved from London (one is from Sweden) and all do freelance work like web design, graphic art, one makes jewellery. Our web designer friend tops up his income by cleaning holiday homes which is a very lucrative business where we live! But everyone loves it here. We often go to cities for breaks or visit the in-laws who live near London. In the end, it’s really up to you. Then again, 2.5 hours away from NYC isn’t really that bad right? All the best, D.

    • Hi Dean, thanks so much for your comment. What an adventurous life you have lived! I’d love to hear more about your experience living in the Philippines and Ghana, and your current work in online freelance writing. I’ve heard it’s a tough road but can be rewarding as well. Your small English village by the ocean sounds so quaint. I think if we have fairly close access to a major city, it’s got to be worth it. I have family in NYC and being 2.5 hours away by car (instead of 3,000 miles by air) would mean all the difference in the world. They sometimes come up to this house for holiday too, so it would be the best of both worlds.
      Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  5. “They” say that planning something that you desire, even if not quite in reach, is very good for your mental health…like an anti-depressant:>) So cool, plan away! I have thoroughly planned moves/visits to Greece and Hawaii since my husband died, and it really helped me and gave me something to be excited about. I got as far as this little beach town, but I still have those plans waiting in the wings for me.

    • That’s a great point, Patti. I do like planning things, but I’m not sure I would want to spend the time planning if I weren’t serious about actually going. My time is so tight as it is. Every moment counts! Planning towards a move, then something else coming up would be different. Thanks for the input. I hope you make those trips to Greece and Hawaii!!

      • I was/am serious, but I also have more free time than you do right now. I hope a good choice opens up for you and you can take more moments to chase a few more possibilities:>)
        Thanks for replying and for the good wishes.

  6. Addressing the Fear: each time I’d make a big move to a new adventure (like to Idaho to fight forest fires), Daddy would say “you can always come home”. TRUE! There is nothing and no one that says you have to stay forever! Give it some time and see how you feel. If it’s not right, then move on.
    In terms of the city / country: the Catskills is perfect. More rural but close to the city!
    I live in a rural part of Virginia, but am within an hour of a fairly large city (Roanoke), and within 4 hours of DC, Richmond, Knoxville, Asheville – all places with vibrant downtown, cultural communities.

    I love the potential of this adventure and look forward to hearing about your decision!

    • Thanks LB!! I look forward to making the decision. And you are so right – one can always come home. Honestly, I’ve always been able to land on my feet, so I’m not actually that worried. Your area in Virginia sounds wonderful, and from your pics, it looks beautiful too. Hope we can meet one day soon!

  7. Make the move. You will regret more not taking the risk than you will taking it. Even if it doesn’t work out the worst case scenario is you are still alive.

    Go with the Catskills. Though the state is not without its charms, for the most part the energy in Georgia blows. I’ve lived in and near Atlanta for the last 16 years and I am constantly plotting my escape.

    • Thanks, Paul. I think I am going to go for it! Just figuring some things out before I confirm. As for Georgia… I would have to see for myself. I’ve heard different things on Atlanta vs Athens. One thing is for sure, there is a growing film and TV production community there, so I might actually be able to work in my field. We shall see. Appreciate your comment!

      • OK, I was a little harsh on Georgia. There is a lot to love here. As for the film community in Georgia it is not only growing — it is fully established. Zombieland, The Blind Side and Trouble With the Curve are just some of the major films which were made here. The Walking Dead is filmed here too. Along with Tyler Perry’s there are several studios. My son graduated with a theater degree and moved out to LA. He should have stayed here. The guy who got him started in high school theater down in Newnan, GA, Joe Masingill, played the ball player Clint Eastwood was scouting in Trouble With The Curve. Athens might actually be the better choice from an industry standpoint.

        If you choose Georgia my girlfriend and I will buy you a coffee when you visit Atlanta as a bribe. Love your blog.

      • Thanks! I would love to have coffee with you and your girlfriend in Atlanta. So, your son is out here? Does he work in film or theater now? I just read an article by Tony Gilroy, the guy who wrote the Bourne movies, where he advises screenwriters to not live in Los Angeles, as “it’s a bad place to feed your head.” 🙂

  8. I’d be a little careful about the Catskills. I know an editor (w/ husband and kids) who made that move from NYC to save $$$, and was back in NYC within two years. It **sounds** idyllic, I know…but rural life is tough.

    I know because I did try it, from January 1988 to June 1989. I lived in Lebanon, NH in a great old house (loved that), cheaply (liked that) but have never anywhere been SOOOOOOOO lonely, bored and isolated. Ever. And the was no work to be had…I even applied to work tapping maple trees — but had no experience and they would not even consider me. I’d only lived in really big cities before that and found it far too pokey and provincial, even with all the lovely things I found there as well.

    I’d try Athens.

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