You did it! You moved to a mountain town and, dismal odds be damned, you not only found yourself a home with a reasonable monthly rent but also a job that doesn’t start and end with the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. The only delays in your commute are those caused by deer in the road, the only sound waking you up at night is the scurrying of mice between the walls. You do not have to move your car from one side of the street to the other every night because you have a driveway. You do not have to wait in line at the grocery store because the farmer’s market (year-round!) takes place in the local park. Succeeding in a mountain town would be hard, they warned, but you made it; life is good.
I did not make it. My relatively short time living in a mountain paradise that might’ve been Eden, Avalon or Shangri-La was defined by too many roommates and not enough rooms (four of us, two bedrooms), and too many jobs but not enough consistency (zero to four, depending on the time of year).
In the beginning, this was all part of the plan. I was there to ski, to hike, to explore; work was just a means to an end, a necessary arm of a full-bodied lifestyle. But after two years that feeling of temporality began to wear off, and was replaced by a rooted and budding notion that “this was life” and that, unless I became one of its active participants, the seasons would be the only thing to change from year to year. My attempts at leveraging minimal experience to land full-time work in a place where job relocation is actually desirable were met with a failure shadowed over by an empty email inbox — “we cannot respond to all applicants.”
So I retreated: thirty-four hours from one side of the country to the other. When I revealed to those close to me that I would be relocating to New York City, I was met with incredulous laughter. “Well that’ll never work!” they said. But I was determined to see through this experiment in city life — I had once spent 77 consecutive nights sleeping in a tent, I would be able to survive at least that many in a tiny apartment.
And I have. My tenure in the city recently surpassed the time I spent living in the mountains of Wyoming. Nobody believed that I would do this or that I could do this. The change was undoubtedly jarring but not entirely uncomfortable, particularly once I realized that, with a slight adjustment in approach and an imaginative outlook, I could preserve many of the aspects of my bucolic lifestyle. Here are four guidances to help you, if you’ve recently found yourself in a similar situation, to do the same.
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Embrace parks. Parks, however small or manicured, are still wild spaces. I once witnessed a red-tailed hawk kill and eat a pigeon in a park only the size of three city blocks located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan. Bigger parks might offer trail running or bouldering, and at the very least they’ll be an easy, midweek-friendly respite from the pace of the grid around them. Practice Shirin-yoku, the Japanese healing method of forest bathing — it works.
Take trips. In Wyoming, I often traveled hours to reach camping or hiking destinations, but for whatever reason, undertaking such a journey that originates in the city often seems like a more arduous adventure. Taking a trip doesn’t require that you venture too far — in New York there are trailheads that can be accessed directly by trains that depart from Grand Central Station while subways and buses will bring you to beaches. Many cities offer similar access.
Better yet, city airports will get you to far more destinations than the small town version, which will likely require awkward connections and will certainly be more expensive. (It was easier for me to get to Mt. Rainier from New York City than it would’ve been from Wyoming.)
Get a car. As an alternative to the public transport method above, you can always get yourself a vehicle. It will make planning trips near and far a more flexible process. Parking in cities will always be a hassle, and being able to escape a world of concrete at your whim will always be worth it. Or make friends with someone who has one and let them deal with that part.
Find your community. If you’re living in a city and longing for the mountains, you’re not alone. Outdoor enclaves exist in all places, and I’ve found that the passion for wild places is often inflamed by minimized access to them. Go to a gear store and find its events board, attend talks and film premiers. Join a run club or a climbing club or a hiking club. Use apps like Meetup or resources like Mappy Hour. You’ll be sure to connect with others that share your interests (and maybe one of them will have a car).