by Robert Maxwell
I live in the country, and have all my life. Except for a brief period in my teens, I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else. There are many reasons for this, and most of them boil down to the simple fact that I love it here. There’s nothing quite like waking up each morning next to my wife in our remote cabin in the woods, far from blaring car horns and police sirens. Instead, we wake to bird calls, squirrels chattering, and the rustling of leaves. We wouldn’t want it any other way. But quite apart from our love for the country lifestyle, I appreciate rural living for its difficulties. Why appreciate difficulty? I value hardship because it makes me a better man, and self improvement should always be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. I've observed that men who live and work in rural situations are very often stronger both physically and mentally than their urban counterparts. Take offence if you wish, but I believe I can back this up pretty solidly. Here are four reasons rural living makes better men.
More Practical Skills
Obviously I’m not saying every man living in an urban setting is a pencil pushing office worker who can’t change a lightbulb. By and large though, country life is tougher, because you’ve got to do a lot more for yourself. Clearing long driveways with your own equipment in winter, cutting and splitting firewood to keep you and your family alive, hunting, fishing, and working with your hands. They’re all traditionally rural activities, and getting good at them makes you a more versatile, capable man. The benefits of rural life go beyond these skills, too. Your whole approach to life changes for the better when you’re forced to solve big physical problems caused by a lack of insulation from the natural world. Cities are designed to ward off as many of these harsh realities as possible, and urban dwellers often complain bitterly when this insulation occasionally fails. Like physical training, living in a harsher environment weeds out the weak, and makes the strong stronger. Us rural dwellers know the purpose of life isn’t to be comfortable. It’s to conquer.
More Supportive Communities
Although cities are big on population, they’re not so great for warm, genuine human interaction. I’ve got family members living in the city who've told stories about next-door neighbours remaining strangers for years. Or worse, hostile strangers. Although we certainly have our share of bad apples in the country, too, there are, on balance a lot more people who know and genuinely care about each other in rural communities. Maybe having so few people around means we have to stick together more. Perhaps it’s just country tradition. Most likely, it’s a bit of both. Whatever the reasons, having a community know and support you is very empowering. Where I live on Manitoulin Island, it's not uncommon for dozens, and sometimes hundreds of people to come to the aid of those in trouble. House fires, for example, always result in dozens of home-cooked meals, clothes, and even furniture donated to the victims. I am all for being my own man, but I do prefer to know my next-door neighbours.
More “Real“ Stuff to Do
Growing up as a country boy with cousins my age from the city, family get togethers were a lot of fun, but sometimes a little tense, too. Some of my relatives were (and perhaps still are) convinced that I was a poor, bored simpleton missing out on the world of activities the city offers. For a while during my formative years, I bought into this idea, and it hurt. It wasn’t until I became a man that I realized how good I have it here in the country. Sure, my cousins might have easier access to movie theatres, shopping malls, fancy restaurants and public transportation, but I don’t really consider any of these benefits. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and mine is that I’ll take guns, forests, clean lakes, lots of space and wildlife over the concrete jungle any day. The very existence of cities is proof that untamed land offers more possibilities. After all, every city in the world started off as untamed country in which people saw potential, then did something other than seek entertainment.
More Physical Activity
This point ties in closely with the first one. I’m not saying there are no sedentary country people, or active city dwellers, but one of the main attractions of urban dwelling is the ease of lifestyle and opportunity. Work of the non-manual sort is abundant in cities, while reasons to exert oneself physically are few. Winter’s wrath is cleared by a few shovel strokes along a short bricked driveway, or simply by waiting for the neighbourhood snow removal service to make their rounds. Country life is different. Many folks in the city who want to get fit do so with memberships to health clubs or by attending yoga classes. In the country, fitness is built into life. You can't can optimally strong and fit on manual labour alone, but it sure sets you ahead physically to cut, split, and stack 20 cords of firewood, fix a pasture full of cedar rail fences, or drag a deer you harvested out of the bush when your 4-wheeler fails. Canadians indelibly made their mark in history during both WW1 and WW2, by sending soldiers who quickly gained a reputation for remarkable resilience and stamina. These brave men were, by and large, young farmers and labourers from rural communities. There's a reason they were successful in capturing Vimy Ridge during WW1, where no other force had been. Rural living makes you tough.
There are lots of good men living in cities, and I'm certainly not saying only rural men are real men. Truth is, I enjoy the occasional city visits my wife and I make. There's a lot to admire about a thriving city. That said, urban living definitely affords greater opportunity to grow soft mentally and physically. If the only time you push your body physically is 3 times a week at the big box fitness centre, you're not doing and being all you could as a man. Us men are designed to be strong, and use our strength to build and protect our realms. Sure, this sounds a bit archaic, but it's built into our DNA. A primal need. If you live in a city, and feel you've got an unscratchable itch to get more physical and "real", perhaps it's time to adjust your lifestyle. You could do what my father did as a young man living in the city – have firewood logs delivered to his suburban yard for splitting with an axe, despite the fact they didn't heat with wood. Or you could just move to the country.