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Aug 20, 2015

5 Things I've Learned from Living in a Small Town

Today I'm welcoming Hannah of Just Bee to the blog!  Hannah lives in a small town and is stopping by today to share some of the things she's learned living in a small community!  I love Hannah's heart and her photography makes me swoon!  So many of these pics are reminiscent of nearby Lancaster, and I love looking at these images from her life and the things she gets to see every day!  Enjoy!

Hi there! My name is Hannah and I blog over at Just Bee. I'm thrilled to be joining you here today at Heavens to Betsy! I have admired Betsy's blog and her heart for a long time, so this is an honor. :)

Just Bee is a lifestyle blog with a unique perspective: I talk about small towns and the country. Quite a bit. I can't help it - I love anything rural, plus it's my reality! Currently, my husband Bjorn and I live in a very small (as in, population 600) town in Minnesota. In fact, it's so small that when we say we're "going to town," we actually mean we're heading about 10 miles over to the larger small town that actually has a grocery store and a Wal-Mart. ;) We're renting a house in town now, but we do have plans to build and live in the country (yup, no neighbors and all). Most of the farm pictures you see on my Instagram account are taken at my in-laws' nearby farm, where we spend a good amount of time! Either way, whether we're hanging out at that farm place or at our house, we're surrounded by beautiful farmland. Acres and acres of corn and soybeans soar out from the road on both sides. So instead of a stunning city skyline, we've got stunning country sunsets. And I'm not complaining!

Coming from an upbringing in the suburbs - in small cities, I've had to adjust a bit to small town life. I'm not here to bash it or glorify it today - I just want to share with you honestly what I've learned thus far.

5 Things I've Learned From Living In a Small Town

1 // Pretty much everyone knows you…but that's okay. You will recognize people, often. And people will recognize you. You will start saying "hi" to people you've never officially been introduced to, because you vaguely know each other's stories anyway! I moved down here as a new teacher in the community, and even if there hadn't been that newspaper article written about the new hires in the district ;) , people still would've known who I was. My husband grew up here so initially I could feel eyes on me everywhere I went, even when people didn't strike up a conversation. I used to be a bit uncomfortable with this fact, considering I felt like I had an image of a put-together, young professional to uphold at all times. Plus, growing up, I was used to running errands at Target with the chance of seeing someone I knew, not the certainty. But after living in this small town for almost 2 years, I've come to realize that people think about you less than you think they do (haha), and most of all, they know you just have to live your life. So gone are the days when I cringe walking into Wal-Mart behind a student and parents I know, because I haven't got makeup on. Gone are the days when I cringe because I'm buying toilet paper and a toothbrush and I'm at the register in front of my co-workers. They know I'm a human and I have to live my life - whether it be a tired-in-the-evening or a makeup-less or an I-just-worked-out life. And you know what? They're humans too. They may be wiped from their day and not all that eager to chat or be recognized either. So I've learned to smile, chat if they'd like, and then just move on. It took a lot of pressure off when I finally realized this.

 2 // Not "treating yourself" becomes easier. You know the pulled-together Saturday look - I go to yoga class, I get my nails done afterwards, and then I stop by Starbucks on the way home. Although I never got that intense with luxury before, without all of those options around me now, I don't have the opportunity to treat myself to countless little treats/outings I may be tempted to try. And I've learned, "treating myself" doesn't have to be the norm. I never thought I'd say this :) , but living without a Starbucks is actually not the worst thing ever. Incidentally, I've also learned that a frothy, classy drink isn't a "right" I have or something I "deserve" at the end of a hard day. Sure, I really miss it (I spent many years of my life getting in the habit of doing homework or blogging at coffee shops), but I've discovered that simply heading home after work is not only great for my wallet but also for my mentality. We do have a DQ in town, but living 10 miles away makes it a LOT easier to avoid the temptation to drop $5 here and there each day. Instead of Starbucks, I've really learned to settle into our home and allow that to be my quiet, inspirational space to get things done - something that I've struggled with for a long time. It's a breath of fresh air to realize that I'm saving money and enjoying productivity in the comfort of my own home.

 3 // It brings me closer to the Maker. This is my personal experience, because I know that every person's faith journey is different and your relationship with God may be affected by different things. But for me, living out here - every day brings with it a new glorious wonder pointing right back to our Creator! Being this close to the land gives me new opportunities to worship God. All you have to do in rural Minnesota is lift your eyes up, and immediately you're struck with awe. Daily we are blessed with quiet fields, gentle breezes, peaceful dirt roads, hidden creeks, mourning doves, brilliant colors, and endless skies! The heavens and the earth declare His glory!

4 // Driving is totally different. The lack of traffic is amazing. Not having a rush hour is even more wonderful than I had anticipated. Growing up in a city, I've always been accustomed to traffic - whipping around corners, accelerating and braking quickly, rush hour madness… In fact, Bjorn had to reteach me quite a bit when it came to my "city driving" tendencies to rev the vehicle and slam on the brakes, even accelerating when I had to go up a hill to a stoplight! I have to say, my gas mileage is much better now - and I'm being more respectful and responsible with our cars, too! Even parking situations are great in our town. I started out constantly asking Bjorn, "Is it okay if I park here?" "Am I allowed to park on this street?" It turns out, people aren't super uptight about where I park my vehicle, as long as it's out of the way. ;) It's so low-key and it's wonderful not worrying about possibly being towed. My first 2 years of teaching, I had a 30 minute (19 mile) drive to work, and I rarely had to slow down, let alone stop, for the whole drive at 55 mph! I loved that consistency and having absolutely no tension with watching other unpredictable drivers on the on and off ramps. Bjorn and I do still get up to the Twin Cities sometimes for different events, and I'm comfortable driving around larger cities…but the traffic is still just maddening and the hassle of parking can frustrate even the most easygoing driver! So I never considered my long rural drive to be a negative thing (except in the winter), because every morning I had 30 minutes to watch the sun rise and splash oranges and pinks all over the fields surrounding me. Not a bad way to start a work day and get my heart in the right place!

5 // It's a great childhood to have.
Back when Bjorn and I were dating, I'd visit his family's farm for the weekend, and one of his sisters graciously let me stay in her room. And that is when I truly began to fall in love with the land my husband grew up on. Every morning, I'd slide out of bed early and tiptoe to the window so I could look across the fields. Over and over, I'd whisper praises to God for this stunning scenery, sometimes with a pang of jealousy for this rural childhood Bjorn had...but mostly with a desire for my kids to have the same. "What a blessing to have this life," I told myself. "Once I live here, I'll never take it for granted."

My husband and his siblings and cousins grew up playing outdoors, like I did - but they had an entire farmyard to explore and enjoy! They've learned many skills that I didn't - things like showing animals at the fair, taking care of farm animals, riding horses, driving various equipment, and learning a lot about farming just through exposure and experience. Another blessing about childhood in towns like this is that family is often nearby - usually in town, in the area, or a couple hours away. I love this aspect. Family is so valuable to me and I want that same experience for my kids someday! I often find myself thinking, This would be a wonderful place for a kid to grow up! This thought is really encouraging and exciting as we imagine the wide-open, adventurous life we'll get to have with our kids someday!

Thanks for reading along! I hope you learned a few new things about small town life…or perhaps some of these points resonated with you! Do you live in a small town? Or come from one? I'd love to hear about your experiences below! For more glimpses into our rural Minnesota life among other topics like food, tips & tricks, travel, and marriage, come follow along at Just Bee! You can follow Just Bee on Bloglovin’Facebook, and Instagram!

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