❍ Get a four-season picture of an area by renting a place for a year before making your final decision. You’ll get to know people and the lay of the land.
❍ Spend some time in your chosen community during the busiest
time of year. Is this a livable place? Is the weekend traffic too much
❍ Do the same during the quietest time of year. Does your little town close up five months of the year?
❍ Consider the weather. Spend time there at the worst time of year. Drive to a local store as if you’ve run out of milk. Take a trip to town and stop in at the library and coffee shop. Do the day-to-day things you wouldn’t think twice about when the weather is pleasant.
❍ Subscribe to local newspapers. If you’re interested in what’s going on, this is the best way to find out what makes a community tick and how spirited it is.
❍ Take a walk and start up conversations with people you meet. Are they year-round residents? If so, what do they like best, and least, about living there? Most people are keen to share their knowledge of an area and want to help ease the way for newcomers.
❍ Consider transportation. How many hours will you have to drive to pick up family from the airport? Is there easy access to the freeway system? What’s the travel time to a big city?
❍ Decide if your vehicle is right for your area, the terrain and your new driving habits. Rough roads and steep climbs? Think about 4WD or front-wheel drive vehicles. Also keep in mind it may be difficult to obtain parts for foreign-made cars in a timely fashion.
❍ What’s the healthcare like? Many rural communities rely on volunteer rescue squads and have clinics staffed by one or two doctors. Others are hooked up with larger healthcare systems that offer visiting specialists and remote diagnostic facilities. Be sure you know where the closest hospital is located, and check the place out either online or in person.
❍ Find out if there are interesting classes or group activities. Might you teach at the local community college? Is there an active arts organization to join?
❍ If you’re a traveler, you might consider renting out your cabin for part of the year. Find out if there’s a rental service that can manage your property while you’re gone. If none exists, you may have just found yourself a little business!