It’s been 8 months and… 20 days since we departed from Johannesburg, arriving – tired and gatvol from driving – in De Rust in the Little Karoo. They say that moving is one of the most stressful life experiences you can have, but the first emotion to hit me when we arrived in the almost-middle-of-nowhere was relief.
Despite the moving truck being delayed.
Despite not having immediate access to coffee.
Despite sleeping on a yoga mat for four days.
When I told people that we were moving to De Rust, their first question was accompanied by a wrinkled nose: “Where now?”
Exactly, I thought.
At first my friends were sceptical, but as soon as I began to post photographs of the Victorian centenarian house we’d be moving into as well as the view from our backyard, the confusion turned to light shades of envy and promises of visits. Naturally, upon hearing about our impending move, the questions came thick and fast:
Where are you moving? Why on earth did you choose that place? What will you do for a living?
I’ll answer these questions as this blog progresses, but first things first, I want to divulge the benefits of rural living, which will directly answer the why we moved from the city to the countryside.
So if you’re feeling the itch for change and you’ve had enough of the inevitable stress, pace, and madness of city life, try these benefits of country living on for size… and start packing your bags.
Peace and quiet
Johannesburg hums with the noise of persistent wakefulness. Whether it’s traffic, radio waves, music, people communicating, aeroplanes flying overhead, sirens blaring… Go and stand outside at night in Joburg (or any city) and you will hear some form of noise. Of course you get used to it – as I did; no longer flinching at evening gunfire, and becoming accustomed to the sounds of blasting that rattled the windows of my cramped little townhouse.
In the Little Karoo, the quiet is not just something that happens on a sensory level – it is permeating through the day and night. At night, however, when you go and stand outside, the stars are dazzling and the shadows of the mountains have such presence that you cannot help but be in awe, the silence broken only by the leaves trying to stop the wind.
With the quiet comes a sense of peacefulness that makes me feel blessed to be alive in the here and now. It’s a completely different level of existence – something that you need to be seeking out or a change like this might make you uncomfortable. Peace and quiet fosters plenty of self-reflection and inner seeking. Are you ready to face yourself?
Low cost of living
Rates, services, insurance premiums and cappuccinos – these costs all drop dramatically in small towns. I never realised the high cost of convenience until we moved to De Rust. “Quickly grabbing something on the go”, and the convenience of the shops being so close by in every direction in a city – it never occurred to me how much extra money city-dwellers spend: getting little bits on many trips, instead of carefully planning one trip to collect food-and-stuff for a week or two.
To put it into perspective:
- We paid less for our house in De Rust, which is three times the size our little place in Joburg was. Can’t compare apples and pears? Well, we’re eating watermelon now!
- When I phoned my vehicle insurer to rerate based on location, even they were surprised by the sharp drop in the premium; the call centre agent exclaiming: “There’s no crime there!”
- Our water and electricity bill has halved.
- Even though a “trip to the shops” involves a 38km commute, our petrol expenses are still less than in Joburg.
And I’m serious about the cost of cappuccinos. I usually judge a restaurant menu’s average prices by its cappuccino price, and we get exceptionally good value for money here and much better cappuccinos…
Safety and security
It took a few nights, but eventually I got used to sleeping on the street. Literally. Beyond our bedroom window, there’s no wall or fence; we are on the street corner. The odd car will drive past from time to time, and the regulars come past on their daily walks, but the safety and quiet does take a while to get accustomed to, especially after city living can make one so hypervigilant.
Armed response has been traded in for four-legged response, in that anyone walking or cycling on the roads triggers a gauntlet of barking dogs. It’s also not the annoying kind of persistent barking at nothing, but rather the warning yaps of alert canines: I’m watching you…
Speaking of walking on the roads: the feeling of being safe and secure came full circle when, after a braai one night, we trundled home after 23h00… without the remotest possibility of being approached by undesirables or battered over the head for our shoes.
The power of community
Part of the sense of safety and security is that in very small towns (like De Rust), everyone somewhere knows a little about what’s going on; or someone everywhere knows; and in some cases, everyone everywhere knows all of what’s happening. Add a WhatsApp group to the sense of neighbourliness and suddenly information can be shared in a heartbeat.
De Rust residents experienced a severe water crisis a few weeks ago (it’s a long story) and, while we’re still in the throes of a serious water shortage, things have been restored to relative normal. Potable water still gets delivered to town on a truck, but the sense of support and empathy during the worst part of the crisis was incredibly heart-warming to experience.
The great outdoors
De Rust is flanked by the Swartberg Mountain Range to the north and the Kammanassie Reserve to the south/south-east. A walk to the elevated parts of the village will reveal rolling mountains in every direction. A short drive north catapults you through the Meiringspoort Pass (one of South Africa’s most scenic), and there are farms and nature reserves within a radius of hundreds of kilometres.
Go about 100km in a general southerly direction and you’ll find yourself on the beach.
As motorcyclists, we enjoy the high quality of the road surfaces and are spoilt for choice when it comes to where we want to go and what there is to see. The incredible scenery all around us – especially straddling a combustible engine – inspires a carefree spirit and a deep appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.
With little to no light pollution, save for a couple of street lights, the stars loom down low at night and the more you stare up at them, the more of them stare back down at you. There are so many shooting stars to wish upon, especially when the autumn breeze warns of the impending winter, raising goosebumps on your arms and reminding you to put the kettle on for hot chocolate.
One of the biggest benefits of living in the countryside inspired the name of this blog: MOVE OUTSIDE. It doesn’t just mean “relocate outside”, but also speaks to being active outdoors. We’ve been on hikes and walks, we’ve biked and driven, we’ve walked the dogs on a game farm, have enjoyed waterfalls, and will soon be planting a permaculture garden and raising chickens.
Life is not meant to be lived in a seated position, especially if you have legs that work and a heart that beats. And living in a small town or village encourages you to go and take a look outside every day – to be balanced between homeliness and exploration; activity and relaxation; moving and sometimes just standing still on a mountain and taking a look around you.