A few years ago we began to tire of endless daily meetings, high density living conditions, and 2 hour commutes and decided to leave Silicon Valley and head East, me hoping to begin a post corporate career as a writer/woodworker and Gretchen to continue her corporate career as
a telecommuting Senior Project Manager.
For us, the party was definitely over.
We held our final yard sale, and disposed of car, furniture and exercise equipment. Then we took one last look down our long street of tiny houses with tiny yards and drove across America to a new future.
We settled in an idyllic lakeside community called Lake Monticello, a few miles away from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
We enjoyed the peace and quiet after San Jose, but decided after a few years that we weren’t cut out for the idyllic life in a gated community.
I fed the deer, which was against the rules, and worked in my workshop at all hours of the day and night, which was also against the rules. I wanted to build a bigger workshop, but that would have also been against…well, you get the idea.
Nice neighbors, friendly kids, but a development that started as a rustic retirement dream was morphing into a neatly groomed suburban bedroom community like the ones you find outside almost every city of any size.
Except for the size of the yards, it was beginning to feel like our old neighborhood shown in the second picture above.
We decided we were done with bedroom communities and we went exploring to find a place with plenty of landscape and industrial strength high speed Internet connections. We found what we wanted in Southwest Virginia.
This is not everyone’s cup of tea, which is fortunate, as this unique and colorful county would otherwise be overrun with new settlers. This particular area has great scenery, lots of local talent but only a handful of job openings, so it is wise to bring your own business, preferably one that brings money into the county from the world outside.
This is an ideal place to live if you do business over the Internet. If you are a writer, or a CEO of a virtual corporation, or a knowledge worker, you have instant access to everywhere and you can watch cows while you have morning coffee on your deck.
If you are up to the rigors of country living, you can have the best of
both worlds. You have daily access at the local coffee shops to people
with fresh ideas and lots of business savvy, while through the Internet
you stay connected to your old business partners and clients.
Country living means wells and septic fields and emergency generators and woodpiles and all sorts of things you do not concern yourself with when you live in a city. You keep your pets inside at night so they don’t get eaten by coyotes.
It also gets dark at night as there are no street lamps and your nearest neighbor may be a mile away. This shot was taken just after sundown and I captured the moon and the last rays of the day.
The beauty and the isolation are acquired tastes and not for everyone. Some new settlers stay only a few months and find they miss the press of humanity and the all-night deli’s. We find the quiet space around us gives us more time for creating.
We found this to be kind of community where there are a lot of opportunities to serve the community in some capacity plus there is ready access to professional training in the arts.
We have seen new settlers dive immediately into service work such as rescuing animals from being put down or joining Amateur Radio Emergency Services. Gretchen and I became involved in the arts and in the local library association.
Many of the people we know have farms and a job or a career as an artisan. These are not gentlemen farmers as they raise food for their families, but manage to be contractors or musicians or painters as well, or potters, or woodworkers, or even teachers. It is not unusual to meet someone who has four jobs, so you soon get the idea that this is an area where personal industry is recognized and rewarded.
The net result for us is that we are probably working longer at more challenging tasks than when we were "employed" but we have more freedom and more opportunity for self-expression than ever before.
This last may be a result of the fact that when you are surrounded by self-employed and self-motivated people, there is this tremendous synergy which results in you getting inspired to explore new ideas and new business opportunities every day.
We do not yet have a significant base of industry for economic development of the conventional kind, but we may be reaching the tipping point as far as having enough talent in the area to achieve critical mass for a creative economy, which is the business of making money from ideas.