Countryside Living and Why We Love It

There’s perhaps no other question we get more often than “doesn’t it get too quiet?”. The simple answer is no, not to us. We like it quiet and we like things the way they are – and if we didn’t, we wouldn’t continue to live here.

But of course we understand the question and where it comes from. The idea of moving away from the city scene and settle someplace calmer appeals to many, we know that, but a bunch of concerns typically accompany that appeal. What if you feel lonely? What if you don’t like the quiet? What if you miss the city? What if you can’t sleep at night? What if you learn you’re afraid of the dark? It’s totally normal and completely in order if these are your thoughts, and just as normal if they exist side by side with your dreams of a countryside life in a serene, calm setting with a big garden and woods right around the corner.

If we backtrack a bit and go to when we decided to move here, we’ll have to be honest and say we never thought any of those things. The reason why isn’t that we had zero doubts – but instead that we weren’t planning on making this our forever home on a permanent basis. We moved here from New York with a gap year in mind – a year to decompress and destress, do whatever our hearts desired and really just be together, before we intended to get an apartment and “real” jobs in Stockholm. We planned on keeping the house as a vacation home for weekends, summers and holidays – much the way it was used during my (Sophia’s) upbringing.

But then we loved it so much and found ourselves not wanting this era to end. Sure, our savings were thinning out after a year of no income so we knew we’d have to figure out a way to make money – ie the gap year would need to end – but we also wanted to… stay. We looked at each other and basically said “do you want to live in the city?” and answered “no” unanimously. And so we stayed. We’ve now lived here for 3.5 years, and it’s hard imagining living anywhere else.

So what is it that we love so much?

How it makes us feel, to begin with. When immersed in nature, we feel grounded and calm inside. We take more lightly upon things we can’t do anything about and let very few things upset us. At the same time, we’re quick to act and take charge when we see something that needs to be taken care. We feel at ease with whatever the weather and whatever the season. Each type and each one fills a purpose, which becomes ever so clear when you witness all the changes and cycles so closely, and that, in turn, means we’re never bothered by the arrival of fall, darkness or cold temperatures. We like it all.

“When immersed in nature, we feel grounded and calm inside.”

When living in a quiet place, we hear our own thoughts and can better listen to each other. We sleep very well at night, really only ever hearing two things: the occasional boat horn in thick fog and the unmistakable male deer bark once or twice per summer. Oh, and one more thing of course – rainfall. Back in New York, that was the nightmare sound to wake up to. It never rains lightly in New York – nor without accompanying wind – so you instantly knew what you had in front of you: an inside out umbrella threatening to poke you in the eye, completely soaked clothes because said umbrella was busy doing other things and even more soaked shoes because of the floods at each and every crosswalk. Now, rain makes us happy (for the most part). Fast lane to falling in love with rain? Start growing your own vegetables.

But there’s so much more living here makes us feel. We feel capable as we take down trees, chop firewood, clean the gutters, paint the facade and grow vegetables. We feel safe and content in our perfectly sized home with just the right amount of comforts – clean and neat and equipped like most modern homes (except a dish washer, which we don’t want anyway) but without any excess and without “the latest”. We feel fortunate – fortunate to live in a place where we crack the window open in April and a cacophony of bird song immediately trickles in and fills every nook and cranny with bubbly spring joy, fortunate to be able to walk barefoot straight out through the door and feel fresh grass underneath our toes, fortunate to step outside even though it’s freezing cold in the middle of winter after the sun has set and lean back, look up and be completely mesmerized by the stars. How many times I’ve brushed my teeth out there, switching from one foot to the other to not get too cold, just before bed. It’s the kind of thing you can’t not do, simply.

We feel happy and at peace. Stress free and always in our element. Stimulated and creative. We feel good here.

We also love how affordable it is to live remotely. There are the obvious downsides – you’re more likely to have to commute farther, public transportation might be limited and your options for, let’s say, restaurants are likely few – but to us, life here is an upgraded life. We think about all the things we can give Theo thanks to living here – a property with a lawn, trees and a garden, only a short stroll away from the ocean, complete with a small beach and a dock. We can work less because it costs less, and thus spend more time with him as he’s growing up. We can go for mini adventures by foot or bike right outside the door, walk out barefoot if we choose to, swing as if life depended on it, pitch a tent underneath the oak, teach him the names of the constellations of the night sky. It feels like we can give him such a rich life here, in so many ways.

And we love that there aren’t people everywhere. It feels good, to us, to have space, privacy and freedom. That there are no expectations to socialize several times every week. That we can go for a long walk and not have to interact with others. Our introverted personalities thrive in a quiet, calm environment. Living here feels like being constantly plugged into the charging station – there are no energy leakages, no rushing or stressing or sharp elbows to drain our reserves. Most of the time, it’s just us. And that’s wonderful.

“Living here feels like being constantly plugged into the charging station.”

Also, when you don’t have immediate access to a boatload of friends, co-workers and acquaintances, you automatically end up with a network defined by quality instead of quantity. It surfaces pretty quickly who you truly like, enjoy staying in touch with and want to entertain your relationship with. At least to us. And if the nightmare for an introvert is a big party with lots of small talk, the socializing dream (because being an introvert doesn’t equal being asocial) is an arena where there are only a few people present, where it’s rather quiet (for example no loud music in the background) and where you primarily engage in conversation one on one. Enter: having a good friend (or two) come visit for a day or weekend. This concept makes so much more sense when you live far apart, obviously, and it suits us perfectly. We love visitors! We love that it’s planned, that there’s plenty of time to hang out and therefore no stress to power through “the latest” quickly, that we get to cook and eat good food together and that there’s more to it than “just” meeting up for a chat – perhaps running, swimming, berry picking or lawn games. And once we’ve had one of these weekends, we feel up for some decompression and returning to our more quiet life for some time.

On a more regular basis, we see my mom and stepdad – they split their time between a house only a few kilometers south on the island and an apartment in Stockholm, and we get together at least once a week. We also have a small network of neighbors and friends around us that we appreciate a lot, and we believe that is only to grow now that we have the parents feelers out and are looking for prospective friends for our little guy. But can you believe this? On our little road of ~20 properties, we had five 2020 babies?! It’s just incredible. The other kids are summers and weekends only, but still. We’re thrilled.

Another thing we love about living far from it all is that we’re automatically left to fend for ourselves a little more and the feeling you get from that is immensely rewarding. It could be anything from learning how to make our own pad thai (Vegan Pad Thai), embracing bread baking and mastering homemade ice cream to chopping firewood, and building things out of seemingly nothing. We can’t just pop by the store, and that has sparked a new level of creativity in both of us. And not just creativity, actually, but also a way of never giving up, of getting stuff done and of being much more mindful with our resources. Ultimately, it has made us so much better planet keepers, as our consumption has dropped to practically zero and our upcycling skills have skyrocketed.

We’re also living where we actually want to spend our time (and free time, more specifically). Instead of having to pack up and leave for another place (and perhaps spend money as part of it) as soon as weekends and vacation times roll around, we’re content where we are. We can do most of the things we love to do right outside of our door, and that’s huge. There’s a lot less longing and a lot more being and enjoying for us this way. Of course we get the itch to explore new places, travel and go do things elsewhere and we do so joyfully, but time can also pass without us leaving (such as this past year of COVID-19) and we’re totally content with that. A dream weekend for us could very well just be an “ordinary” weekend at home, with our normal shenanigans. Good food, running, a dip in the ocean. Baking. Soaking up some sun outside. A walk in the woods.

Is there anything we don’t like? Not really. When we crave ice cream but lack the energy or ingredients to make our own, we can definitely joke around about how nice it’d be to be back in New York and be able to just walk down the block and pick up a pint or two, but those are really just jokes. We do wish, however, that a few more likeminded families would make the permanent move out here and form an awesome community with us – and we think the prospects are looking positive, considering how 2020 showed almost everyone how doable it is to work remotely, and also how there’s a fast growing interest for a more downshifted, close-to-nature lifestyle in the countryside.

Living remotely is awesome. To us. What your dream is you know best, but we’ll say this: we moved from Manhattan’s East Village straight to here and have loved it since day one. Sometimes the most unexpected proves to be the missing piece you’ve been looking for, and our task as humans is to be open minded enough to be able to spot it in front of us and not dismiss it because it’s not the color or shape we thought it’d be.

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– Sophia & Michael

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