Throughout human history, as long as people have been clustering together in fairly sizable settlements, a debate has been raging: Which is better, city or country?
In most cases, general consensus seems to fall in line with the moral found in Aesop’s fable “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” (available online courtesy of the Library of Congress), in which its assumed city life provides more amenities, while country living is safer, more peaceful, and thus ultimately offers a superior way of life to anyone who’s outgrown their thrill-seeking stage.
Well, far be it from us to contradict everyone’s favorite fable, but it seems things may have shifted a bit over the past few millennia. A 2017 study published in the medical journal The Lancet found that urban residents are on the whole not only in better physical shape that their rural counterparts, but that the additional factors of “centrality, accessibility, and social capital” found in metropolitan areas tend to reduce rather than contribute to the stress levels of city dwellers.
You can find your inner peace in the midst of a crowd
Despite what old Aesop may have thought, it turns out you don’t really need a bucolic setting in order to make peace with the world. HuffPost spoke to a New York City minister who told them that cities offer a wider range of spiritual offerings, not to mention far more diversity than you’re likely to find in a rural area.
Speaking of her own congregation, Rev. Winnie Varghese of St. Mark’s Church-in-the-Bowery stated, “Every kind of person you can imagine is represented on Sunday morning.” She also noted that her congregation is inclusive of people regardless of gender orientation (something that may unfortunately be less likely in some small rural parishes).
Even if you’re not a churchgoer, you can still feed your soul with all of the amazing art and architecture on display in most major urban areas. You can also improve both your mental and physical health by getting more exercise. When you live way out in the sticks, you might have to travel half a mile or more just to get down the driveway, and jobs, schools, and other activities may be many miles away. Cities, on the other foot, tend to be far more walkable, which is one of the reasons the Lancet study put forth to explain why urban residents tend to be healthier than their rural cousins. Plus, having ready access to high-quality healthcare sure doesn’t hurt, either.
Country life can be claustrophobic
HuffPost also spoke to several people who had deliberately abandoned country living later in life to return to city living. They all seemed to agree that it’s not only the opportunities offered by the city but the wide range of people found there that can allow for greater personal growth. Conversely, country life can be…well, rather limiting in scope, since there are only a few places to go and you’re bound to see all the same faces every time you venture out.
One woman in the U.K. who’s been “living the dream” for 20 years after relocating out of the city told the Eastern Daily Press that she’s never stopped regretting that move. She describes her pastoral idyll as “two decades of feeling uncomfortable, awkward and like I don’t really fit,” and says she and her country-raised kids find small-town life “stifling” and can’t wait for the day when they can all move back to the city where they find freedom in having easy access to transportation, services, and housing as well as entertainment. While she still feels some affection for the countryside, this “town mouse” thinks it’s best “as a retreat, somewhere to go but not live.”
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