Well, little did my husband and I know we were trendsetters. I thought we were getting too old for that, but apparently not. Anyway, it seems that moving to the country in search of a simpler way of life has caught fire amongst the Baby Boomer set, and is all of a sudden trendy. I’m even old enough to remember when it was trendy the last time around. Country living and/or the rural lifestyle has achieved such cult status that it now has its own term: “ruralpolitan.” What follows was first published as an op-ed a few years ago in AOL News, yet it seems current today:
What, Me Ruralpolitan?
Well, that does it. Now Baby Boomers are embracing the idea of heading back to the land in search of a simpler way of life. They seem to think this idea is one they thought up all by themselves. As usual. As if “Baby Boomer” isn’t a silly enough term, now the American lexicon has to deal with “ruralpolitans,” and the “rural rebound,” such as: “After a decade of decline, many rural counties are growing again.” —Sharon O’Malley, “The Rural Rebound,” American Demographics, May, 1994 And it’s still goin’ on. Here’s the latest definition from Paul McFedries’ WORD SPY: The Word Lover’s Guide to New Words http://www.wordspy.com/words “ruralpolitan n. An urban dweller who moves to a rural area. Also: rural-politan. [Blend of rural and metropolitan.] —adj.—ruralpolitanism n.
Example Citations: In days of yore, a ruralpolitan might have been called a “gentleman farmer” — think of Eddie Albert’s character Oliver Wendell Douglas on the 1960s show Green Acres. But in modern parlance, a ruralpolitan is a professional who has abandoned the urban dwelling for a rural lifestyle and lives on three acres or more, typically within 40 miles of a city.”
The times they are a’changin,’ and the trend toward rural living and working is being fueled by—you guessed it—the Baby Boomers. The same folks that gave us the personal computer are now able to take those machines pretty much anywhere they can find an Internet connection. Wireless computing and the Recession have combined to cause many Boomers to become more entrepreneurial. Americans who couldn’t find jobs decided to start their own businesses, and soon realized that a virtual business can be run from anywhere. Quality of life became more important than owning a lot of stuff, and words like “sustainability” “voluntary simplicity” and “eco-friendly” crept into the collective consciousness. Now creativity is the norm. There is apparently no reference in the media to ruralpolitanism before 1994, but we were ruralpolitans long before that, and we didn’t even know it. Unfortunately we were a little ahead of the times (no Internet connection), and in our mid-fifties, a bit older than the Boomers. We weren’t within 40 miles of a city, either. More like 150 miles. We’re talkin’ rural.
Here’s a pretty self-explanatory rural excerpt of my own: “In 1990 we heard the wilderness call to us, and God help us, we answered.” So begins the memoir, Accidental Cowgirl: Six Cows, No Horse and No Clue, and so began our rural adventure. It changed our lives for the better in ways we still cannot speak of without crying. We raised beef cattle that all became pets, with names like Buttercup and Pansy and Big Mama and Hamburger (please don’t ask about his fate), and I tried to grow organic herbs—the legal kind. It was a hell of a lot of work. It was cheap, though. We had a half-acre vegetable garden, spring water and sunshine, and more wildflowers than I’d ever seen in one place. And peace; peacefulness. We hung in there for twelve years, and fell in love with the land, the animals, the people, and the all-pervading quiet.
I’m sure our neighbors—the real ranchers—had many a hearty belly laugh as they watched us doing everything (and we did everything) wrong, and then graciously stepped in to help us out. Finally, though, the lifestyle wore us down, and sick of our own cooking, we headed back to the suburbs where we could enjoy fine dining once again. I’m still not sure that tradeoff was worth it, but there you are. Lots of people are still moving to the boonies. My advice to Baby Boomers: hold a garage sale, and get rid of your Stairclimber, your Blackberry and your Rolex before you strike out for the hinterlands. You won’t need them there, as to most country folks time is a somewhat foreign concept, and is mostly reckoned by the sun. Trade in the Beemer sedan for a four-wheel drive pickup you won’t mind getting muddy. And do it while you’re young and can still bend over, can peaches and shoot straight, because here in the Wild West, at least, these are a few of the skills you’ll need. —Mary Lynn Archibald, © 2010 ###
[References: The North American Rural Futures Institute http://narfi.org
Faith Popcorn: The Popcorn Report, © 1991, 1992: “For the first time ever in the history of mankind, the wilderness is safer than civilization.”
Word Spy: The Word Lover’s Guide to New Words
High Plains Midwest Ag Journal: Doug Rich article on changing rural demographics:
“From Versace to Chainsaws,” article by Gwendolyn Bounds: Wall Street Journal online, December 5th, 2009:
SoHoDoJo (current): “Our focus is serving the needs of solo and family-based entrepreneurs in rural and distressed urban communities. Our goal is to help our constituents create sustainable independent livings without the need for full-time, career-oriented jobs that are disappearing from our communities.”