Moving Upstate: A Cautionary Tale

Lots of us New Yorkers dream of moving upstate for the fresh air, the nature, the interior space to roam around in. Well, the folks over at the great site Reclaimed Home had the same dream, and, frankly, it was so nightmarish that they are Brooklynites once again. When they switched from weekenders to full timers, they were met with nosy neighbors, a stand-offish community, plagues of insects, the unpleasant reality of car dependency. Yikes. The question is, what can we learn from their journey to the dark side? Hm, I’m not sure yet. Just puts a bit of a kink in my fantasy.

About lisa

I'm a freelance writer (and thus, not a homeowner), specializing in real estate, urban planning and sustainability. Also, I just like looking at pictures of houses.

Posted on January 5, 2012, in upstate new york. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Funny, the same issues drove me from brooklyn; a corrupt & nepotistic democratic machine, nosy, materialistic, & competitive neighbors; vermin, roaches, and MTA dependency; not to mention the lack of dignity a middle class salary achieves in NYC these days…

    Never been happier in Hudson NY.

  2. Oh, my. Now I’ll forever be the one who put a kink in your fantasy.

    We were happiest when we lived in Brooklyn and traveled up on weekends. We reached too high when we tried to hack it up there full time. Not everyone comes running back to the city. Country life just wasn’t for us.

    I’m born and bred Bklyn. It was calling me back by day 3.

    See now, if you get a bungalow colony….

  3. Lisa,

    Don’t give up on the dream. Or even get a kink in your fantasy.

    I don’t know the folks at Reclaimed Home and I am sure they are really nice people (they also have a nice blog that is well written) but I read the piece and it seems they decided that the country life wasn’t for them. Doesn’t mean it won’t be perfect for you or someone else. My sense is that people make a decision–city or country–and then they bend reality to support that decision. Again, nothing negative at all toward the Reclaimed Home folks but if you read that piece it sounds like they missed the city and rationalized why they wanted to move back. There are plenty of people who did the move they did and would never come back to the city. Again, don’t give up on the dream.

    As for us, we currently do Brooklyn and the Catskills. I would do the Catskills full time but the wife would do Brooklyn full time so we compromise. But we are not just weekenders. We’ve spend several months at a time up in the Catkills and that is the best way to figure out of the move is for you.

    As for nosy neighbors, it honestly seems that a good, old-fashioned conversation over a cup of coffee could set that straight.

    I do get concerned when I hear things like “I tried to get involved with the locals.” I’ve had a number of friends move the Catskills or become weekenders and I can tell you the ones who have a much better time don’t refer to their neighbors as “the locals.” Not a criticism of the Reclaimed Home folks but some people mesh and others don’t. As for me, I enjoy spending time with my neighbors in the Catskills and the contractor who helped on our house has taken my wife and I to fish in his favorite fishing holes (and he knows some seriously great fishing holes). But he’s not a local, he’s just Rob, someone I really like.

    I’d take the risk of the black bear over the cars and crime any day. By the way, black bear almost never bother people. It is the coyotes you have to watch out for. And the mosquitoes? Really? I am thoroughly convinced no place has worse mosquitoes than Brooklyn. I mean, seriously. I use my deck in the winter because it seems the only time I can avoid those flesh eating monsters.

    As for driving, not every town upstate requires a car for small errands. A bicycle will do just fine for most short trips to the store.

    Keep the faith…stay strong on the fantasy…and keep searching for that perfect country house…I am sure it is just around the corner.

    Oh, and one other thing. I am totally amazed that my little DSL line in the Catskills is far more reliable than my very expensive TWC modem. It’s true, I swear. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • JP! All good points. Thanks for commenting and please keep sharing your thoughts…and perhaps your contractor’s info! In the future, we need to write more about how to live an almost car-free country life. What towns do you think are most bicycle-friendly?

  4. Oh, when you are ready I have a contractor for you!

    By the way, for the record, we are in Roscoe, which is a tiny little town in the Western Catskills. I really love the Catskills and especially love the Western Catskills where there may not be as many fancy restaurants but the hiking trails, fishing holes and rivers are great and generally never crowded.

    Unfortunately, my experience has been that most of the Catskills are not bicycle friendly. But I say that with the caution that it depends on what you mean about bicycle friendly exactly. For example, can you live without a car at all in the Catskills–probably not. But, say you had a house on the edge of Andes (one of my favorite little towns). You could easily bike to town and probably do without a car for days on end.

    I’ve found the key factor that lets you know how bike friendly you can live in the Catskills is how close are you to a decent grocery store? Sure it is nice to be able to bike everywhere for all of your errands and daily needs but realistically the two or three places you most likely need to bike to are the grocery store, a hardware store and the post office–maybe a good cafe, too.

    So in Roscoe that is totally do-able because there is a grocery story (it is not great, but if you need a quart of milk or a stick of butter it will do the trick), a lumber yard for most basic hardware type of needs and a post office. So 50% to 75% of the time you could be on your bike and not need your car. There are lots of places in the Catskills that meet this criteria, I think. Certainly, Roscoe, Livingston Manor, Jeffersonville, Margaretville, Saugerties, Calicoon, Woodstock, etc.

    But to be honest you will want a car because with a home in the Catskills there are the necessary trips to the Home Depot, etc.

    I hope that at least makes some sense. ๐Ÿ™‚ Then you have to balance the desire to live as much car free as possible against the need for land and whether or not you are close to town or far from town. It’s all a balance as you can imagine.

  5. Sorry, didn’t mean to mislead you but I actually don’t think there is a good grocery story in Andes. I was just using it as an example of a town that you could live on the edge of, have a nice country setting and still be near a town that you could bike to to pick up a quart of milk at the convenience store. I think most folks in Andes do their shopping in Margaretville (although I haven’t been there since the hurricane and they used to have an excellent grocery store).

    As an aside, a few sleeper towns worth checking out (all West): Downsville (near the Pepacton), Walton (somewhat bigger), Hamden (go to Lucky Dog and you will know why), Delhi and Franklin (you have to check out Franklin it is an interesting surprise). Oh and Unadilla has a drive in. Just saying. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. I’m sorry, but the article is such a very narrow, limited view of country life. Too personal to construe as advice. The same stereotypical stories can be written about any town… city or country. My family and I used to get bitten alive by mosquitoes IN our apartment in Carroll Gardens. To the point I had netting over the kids beds. I could count the mosquito bites I’ve had on two hands living here in Bovina for 9 years. Maybe it’s the mountain breezes that keep them at bay. But don’t take my word for it, I’m a Pollyanna realtor… : )

    I will say it is impossible to live anywhere in Delaware County full-time without a car. Yes, a 30-45 minute drive can be common for some necessities. But it took me 45 minutes to get to midtown from Carroll Gardens. Why wouldn’t you want a car in the country? One of the great gifts about living here is driving the bucolic country roads on discovery missions… breathtaking landscape at every turn that is time for reflection and just shutting down and thinking about your relation to nature. Try doing that on the subway. A broader view… newcomers living the dream of boutique farms, artisan cheeses, extraordinary local foods… REAL FOOD! room for as many critters as you want, chickens, fresh eggs, Little Pond, Big Pond, actually getting to know your neighbors, community, hiking everyday if you want to remote areas away from facebook, cnn, and extreme traffic and hyper-dense population…. (FYI… black bears are far more afraid of people than vice-versa… and I far more nervous in the last subway car after 10pm)….

    knowing the season changes by the flight patterns of birds, the color of the sky, the smell of the air….

    City folks make the mistake of thinking the country is some easy Beatrix Potter “simple life” world. There is no such thing anywhere. It’s hard work, no doubt about it, and it is certainly more convenient and easy living in the city on many levels. But the rewards from the labor and effort put into a country life are enormous, priceless, and of course “natural” as compared to a concrete jungle existence. Clearly it’s a-way-of-life choice.

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