If you expected this post to have a Buzzfeed-style list of simple living locations, I’m sorry to disappoint you. There is no single answer for where to move to live a simple life. Luckily, it’s not hard to figure out your personal, perfect place to live simply!
I’ve talked about how the core of living a simple life is living according to your values. For one person, that may mean having a rich social life filled with backyard barbeques and playdates. For another, it could be living low impact in an idyllic, calming environment.
If both of those people moved into a rural mountain cabin in Virginia, only one of them has a hope of being happy and fulfilled. The first person would likely be better off living in a bustling town or suburb of a major city–the kind of place you rarely think of when deciding where to move to live a simpler life.
Running away to the country won’t magically solve your problems or bring you happiness. In the words of one of my favorite simple life quotes:
The only zen you find on mountain tops is the zen you bring up there with you.–Alan Watts
So how are you supposed to make the right decision?
How to decide where to move to live a simple life
#1. Write down three to five things in life you value the most
Life is a lot like a resource management game.
There are only 24 hours in a day, and it’s up to you to decide how to use them. And of course, money is the other limiting factor.
The whole point of simple living is to spend your resources on what you care about most, and cut out what isn’t important.
Here are some things that might be on your list:
- A safe place to live
- Financial stability
- Free time
- Close relationships with family and/or friends
- A meaningful career
- Feeling like part of a community
- Access to a variety of things to do
- Physical fitness
- Time spent in nature
If you aren’t used to self-reflecting, it may take several days to nail down your list. And that’s okay!
The last thing you want is to rush into a decision about where to move to live a simple life, only to regret it later because you’re missing one or more of these elements.
Having our own lists of values was essential when my husband and I were deciding whether or not to move to England from the US.
I used to think that early retirement was my #1 goal in life. But after some serious reflection, I realized that being able to travel frequently and not having to worry about financial ruin due to a medical issue were far more important.
To use another popular example, some people think they want to leave their city life behind and become homesteaders in the countryside. And yet, those same people highly value their free time and the ability to take multiple vacations a year. Running a farm doesn’t leave you much time or money for either of those things.
Once you have three to five values written down, you’re ready to move on to step two.
RELATED: The Beginner’s Guide to Minimalism
#2. Imagine your perfect simple life
I’m not much for “woo” terms and trends, but there is truth in the power of manifesting.
When you create a powerful vision of what you want in life, you’ll be in a better position to make that outcome happen.
Plenty of people daydream about moving somewhere to live a simple life. That daydream might have vague elements, like images of cozy country cottages or a quiet hammock on the beach.
But to turn that passing fantasy into a concrete reality, you need to get specific.
Do you see yourself in that cozy cabin waking up refreshed after a restful night of sleep (one of the best benefits of simplifying your life in my opinion)? Perhaps your vision includes a romantic evening dinner and drinks with your partner on a warm Italian terrace overlooking the ocean.
Let your imagination run free and uninhibited. Now is the time for dreaming big–you’ll revisit these ideas with a more practical lens later in the process.
The second, crucial part to manifesting is understanding why you want what you want.
This is why you wrote down your values in step one. They’ll help you see the connections between your dream simple life and your driving desires.
Using the latter example above, why does your perfect simple life include a romantic dinner with your partner? Maybe you deeply value spending quality time with the people you love, and that element is currently lacking in your life. And as for the Italy part, does it really mean you want to live in coastal Italy, or is it just a stand-in for a laid-back place by the water?
You’ll carry on with those questioning reflections as you move on to step three.
#3. Think about practical limitations
At this point, it’s time to get practical. What is stopping you from living out that dream simple life?
Maybe you have student loans or other debts that require big monthly payments. Perhaps you want to move overseas, which means you need to acquire a visa. It could be that your career field limits the places where you can work.
Write down any challenges that come to mind, and make a note next to ones that are particularly major or long-term. For example, you may have a medical condition that needs specialist care, or a beloved pet that can’t make an overseas trip.
Eventually, this list of limitations will help you narrow down the potential places to move to live your simple life.
Save me for later!
#4. Make a list of what you need to support your dream
Yes, it’s time to make yet another list! This time, you’ll focus on what you need to make your simple life a reality.
For example, let’s say your dream is to run a bed and breakfast on a small farm. You also know that you’ll need to help take care of your ageing mother in the next five years, and that you care deeply about your child going to a quality school.
What skills, resources, and circumstances will you need to make that happen?
- A suitable property for the business
- Money to start the business
- Small business knowledge (accounting, labor laws, marketing, etc.)
- Applications and certifications from the state to run a B&B
- Farming knowledge
- The physical health/strength to run a farm (or the means to hire it out)
- A location not too far from your mother
- Proximity to quality public schools (or the resources for private school)
Having all of these requirements written in one place may seem daunting. And it should be–this is your last reality check before you start looking in earnest for places to live your simple life.
But it’s also yet another way to narrow down your search. The world is a big place, after all!
#5. Research places that will work for your simple life
Armed with your list of values, challenges, and needs, you’re ready to start the hunt. You’ll be spending a lot of your free time scouring websites, blogs, forums, and social media posts to sort out where to live.
Here are some of the resources I found helpful when I went through this process:
- Reddit’s /r/IWantOut community for those looking to move abroad
- Numbeo’s cost of living calculator
- Zillow.com for scouting out property prices in the US
- Searching Google for “living in [place] blog” will pull up locals’ perspectives on what it’s like to live in a particular area
- YouTube has a wealth of videos on every subject, from the day in the life of a Vermont homesteader to POV walks through Italian villages
- Indeed.com for job hunting in the US and overseas (LinkedIn is another good option for networking and getting in touch with headhunters)
I hope this post on where to move to live a simple life was more helpful than a generic list of destinations. There is no magical location where everyone lives a happy, simple life–it’s up to you to create your own.