One of the most popular tenets in the survival/prepper world is the requirement to relocate to an extremely rural location, or, if you must, to a town no larger than population 800, per survival blogger James Rawles.
I have no beef with this except that many survival/prepper experts and their followers exert pressure on those of us not living in Prepper Nirvana, aka Idaho, as though this “strategic relocation”, the title of a book authored by Joel Skousen, is the cornerstone of any and all expectation of survival.
A couple of years ago I even got a handful of emails that urged me, “Lisa, I beg of you. Get your family out of the big city.”
Eventually we did decide to leave Phoenix, and here’s what I have to say about strategically relocating: it’s been the single most difficult challenge our family has ever faced. Any expert or even a well-meaning amateur has no idea what they’re talking about when they urge anyone and everyone to just up and leave. Leave a steady job. Leave loved ones. Leave a community that you’ve been a part of for many years.
“Leave, and leave now!” they say.
As long as you make your way to Idaho, or maybe Montana, then all will be well.
I agree with these experts that in some SHFT scenarios some cities will become hell on earth and having urban survival skills will be of little use, but others may provide more survival options and be far more hospitable to long-term survival than you might think. But that’s a topic for another post.
Let me take you step-by-step through our family’s relocation process and my advice to you, the prospective relocate-ee.
1. Before relocating, we first had to make the decision that relocating is a better choice than staying put.
This requires some hefty consideration and long discussions with your spouse. If you have a steady, well-paying job and are surrounded by a community of family and friends in an area that you know well, maybe that’s where you should stay.
Consider this: what, exactly, are you running from? What do you seriously think is going to happen? There are so many bogey men in the prepper/survival world from chemtrails to the Illuminati that too many people overlook the security they already have and focus on potential events that, truly, may never occur. A few that come to mind:
- Peak oil
- Economic collapse
- Eruption of the Yellowstone caldera
- Electro Magnetic Pulse or other cause of a long-term electrical grid failure
If there is an economic collapse, are you really better off in a town of 800 people out in the middle of Wyoming? Might not your current location afford a better cushion of support and supplies as well as the most potential to find a job, any job?
Also, are you making this decision based on fear and what other people are telling you to do? Please understand that NO ONE ELSE IS LIVING YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES.
I remember back when my family was on “Doomsday Preppers“, the pilot episode, and their survival expert turned out to be someone who lived in a big city, far from our hometown of Phoenix. He criticized our evacuation plans based on his own template rather than our set of circumstances. We didn’t need an expert to tell us that there were only 3 highways that lead out of Phoenix and that those highways lead into hundreds of miles of desert. We knew far better than he the risks of heading out of town on a busy weekend, much less on a Walking Dead kind of day.
So if you’re feeling judged by the well-meaning folks on survival forums and the like, just smile, nod, and make choices that are in your family’s best interest and not so you can join some sort of elite, virtual survival club.
Ultimately, our decision to move was based on very mundane things, like wanting our kids to experience a different lifestyle, wanting to be surrounded by green stuff and big trees after a lifetime in the desert, and wanting a career change for my husband.
You may want to read this article I wrote a while back for my newsletter. It’s probably the least popular article I’ve ever written based on the number of hate emails I received, “6 Reasons a Rural Retreat May Not be the Safe Refuge You Might Think.”
2. The next step is to decide where to go.
Once we made the decision to move, or relocate, we started looking and planning family vacations that were, in reality, recon missions. We checked out north central California. We fell in love with parts of Oregon and Utah. I had my heart set on Park City until I discovered that the median home there costs around 700K and quickly set my sights elsewhere.Strategic relocation: It's a whole lot harder than you might think! Here's my story... Click To Tweet
Making this decision is huge. Where your family lives will affect every part of your life for the rest of your lives. If your new location doesn’t provide the employment you need, for example, your life savings will disappear in a matter of months and you’ll be facing a future without that cushion. Your kids will grow up in this new area and that’s where they will likely find their future spouses. You may very well end up establishing a flourishing branch of your family tree, complete with grand kids, in this new location.
If there was ever a decision to be made that involved 90% of your brain and just 10% of your heart, this is it.
As we traveled and did our research, we began eliminating entire states.
Nevada? Nah. Same desert/lack of water issues as Arizona.
New Mexico? Ditto.
Montana? My husband, the island boy, would have had a very difficult time dealing with heavy duty winters. That also elminated Wyoming and the northern half of Idaho. The wife of a friend complained about the long, gray winter season in her part of Oregon.
Tennessee? It’s supposed to be an awesome state but we had no contacts there and no real reason to pursue it as our family’s next home.
It took us 2 years and about 15,000 miles to visit most all of these locations and nothing really fit. My husband and I honestly thought we would drive through a town, look at each other, and say, “This is it!” That never happened.
For us, it was really divine intervention and a well-placed resume that brought us to Texas. Bottom line, we’re here because of my husband’s job. In a way, we didn’t pick Texas. Texas picked us.
If you’re serious about relocating for whatever reasons, you will probably have to go through a similar process of research, elimination, and evaluation. Be prepared for this step to take some time, and do not underestimate the importance of having a secure job lined up at Point B, wherever that might be, which brings me to Step 3.
3. How will you earn a living in this new location?
This is possibly the most important question to consider. In fact, you should probably give this some thought even before you start checking out new locations. We did.
Unless you have a secure and steady income from sources other than a job and a hefty savings account, you will need to earn a living in your new location. That may require working in a city and dealing with a long commute twice a day. For sure, it will require getting to know a new area very well and finding out what job/career opportunities exist.
Don’t plan on making the move and then figuring out how to earn money unless, again, you have that monthly income and a large pile of money in the bank. By the way, if you are many months or years away from making this move, following Dave Ramsey’s money advice, starting now, can help you get to a financial position in which a strategic location has fewer drawbacks.
As well as income as a factor, consider the health, physical condition and ages of each family member. Health issues may be a determining factor — something you may not have thought of and another reason to have that job nailed down before the big move. That isolated homestead may be alluring, but if there’s a good chance you’ll be making frequent visits to see a doctor or go to the hospital, you’ll probably want to find something closer to civilization.
Definitely consider renting once you get to your dream location, just to make sure that exact spot is going to work for you.
4. Once you’re past Questions 1-3, the really hard work begins
Yeah, that statement discouraged me, too. It also surprised me.
My husband had a great job lined up, we even knew where we needed to live in order to make his commute bearable, but then came the issue of getting our house ready to sell. If you own a house, you can either sell it or rent it.
We wanted to sell and I spent a lot of time marketing our home as a For Sale By Owner. Long, long story short, our house sold in early September. That sale fell through, which was devastating to me since my husband had moved out of state for his job.
I was a single mom for over 4 months.
One funny note, or at least it’s kind of funny now, is that I wanted our house to be in 100% pristine condition for showings and that meant dealing with 2 elderly dogs, 4 cats, 3 litter boxes, and cleaning up poop in the backyard. Prior to a potential buyer showing up at the front door, we staged a cattle drive of sorts to get our 4 cats into their individual crates, lug the crates to the Tahoe, load our 2 elderly, deaf dogs, and then, as sort of the cherry on the sundae, grab all 3 litter boxes and load them up as well.
I spent a lot of time driving aimlessly around my part of town with our vehicle filled with meowing cats, confused dogs, my 2 kids, and litter boxes.
The house finally sold for real in mid-October. Our closing date was the day before Thanksgiving, which was also my son’s birthday. Naturally he expected a lavish event, and I set up a party at a nearby pizza/video game restaurant.
We had to put our beloved Basenji, Delcie, to sleep that same day. I still haven’t had time to grieve, everything happened in such a rush.
Moving forward, we left Phoenix the day after Thanksgiving, and if you haven’t chauffeured 4 cats and a nearly senile dog 1300 miles, then you just haven’t lived. Once we arrived in Texas, we didn’t have a place to stay, so we landed in a pet-friendly hotel for 2 weeks. Thank God for disposable litter boxes and understanding hotel maids.
That was interesting, to say the least.If there was ever a decision to be made that involved 90% of your brain and just 10% of your heart, this is it. Click To Tweet
A wonderful family invited us to stay with them and that’s where we spent the next 5 weeks.
“Accept and adapt.”
I’m glad I adopted that as one of my life slogans a couple of years ago! It kept me sane and optimistic while living in one bedroom with 5 animals. Six counting my husband.
Your relocation, if you’re brave enough to tackle this project after reading my tale, will consist of making the decision for the right reasons, finding a specific location, securing a job or having the means to live without one, and then going through the actual moving process, from packing up, selling the old house, and moving into your next home.
Is there a right way to strategically locate?
At the end of the day, the only way to know if your strategic relocation has been a success is how you and your family fare once the move has been made. I’m not judging our new location in Texas based on the frustrations that came with selling our house or having to eat at a different restaurant three times a day!
We’ll know if our decision was sound and whether it was the right one for our family months and even years from now. Did we move to a location that will be more survival-friendly in a worse case scenario? We won’t know that until something dire happens. Will our kids thrive in this new location, making friends, and becoming part of a supportive community? So far, so good.
Relocating is a popular theme on survival forums and websites and is very often promoted by people who have never relocated themselves! I believe our family’s experience is more typical than not, especially if you are somewhat cautious in your life-changing decisions.
Have you thought of relocating specifically for reasons associated with survival and preparedness?
Resources mentioned in this article
How to Do More With Less During Tough Times by Michael J. Sparks
How to Sell a House Fast in a Slow Real Estate Market by William Bronchick
The Modern Survival Manual by Fernando Aguirre
The Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey
Peeking at Peak Oil by Kjell Aleklett
Strategic Relocation by Joel Skousen
The Survival Medicine Handbook by Joe and Amy Alton
Urban Emergency Survival Plan by Jim Cobb
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