Transportation and Commuting from the Country
Moving to a rural community can mean a big lifestyle shift, especially when it comes to commuting. If you opt to work from home, you’ll save time on a daily commute, but it’s likely that the stores where you typically run errands will be more than a hop and a skip away. You may also live further from activities such as the movies, bowling, concerts or sporting events.
Growing your own food in your new country home could reduce trips to the grocery store, but for those longer distance errands, here are a few tips for handling transportation between your home and amenities.
Strategically plan errands and other visits
While the community you live in may have a small-town grocer and convenience store, it’s likely that the prices here are higher than in the nearest larger town. While these stores work for last-minute purchases, try planning all your errands to the nearest large town so you can complete them at once.
Many larger towns also have big box stores with more options available. Try to stock up on essentials that are cheaper at these stores such as toilet paper, toothpaste, canned goods, etc., so you won’t need to make another run for a few weeks or a month.
You can also make running errands into a family day. In addition to shopping, go to a movie or a restaurant that you wouldn’t otherwise go to.
Work remote with occasional visits to the office
If you work from home, check if your employer will expense trips to the office on a regular basis. Ideally, your office is close enough so you can leave and return home in the same day. But if your office is far enough away that you need to stay overnight, plan to make the trip when there are important meetings or key clients visiting. You want to make your night away from family worthwhile, so it’s best to fit in as many events as you can.
If you’re still commuting to work and have a long drive in, is there a neighbor who works in the same area? Or is there a coworker who lives on the way that you can pick up? Carpooling can cut down on fuel costs, give drivers a break and may even help you make a new friend. Best yet, in some cities, you can use the carpool lane to pass lines of traffic.
Rural communities often don’t have extensive public transit systems, but it’s worth investigating in your area. Some towns have park-and-ride bus or train systems that allow you to drive to a station from your home and then take public transit into the city. Though this could still add up to a long commute time, riding public transit gives you time to rest, read, complete additional work, etc., so the time investment isn’t so daunting.
In Minnesota, the Northstar Train travels approximately 40 miles from Big Lake in the northwest to Minneapolis, with stops at suburban towns in between. There is also a Link bus for St. Cloud residents — a town further northwest of Big Lake — to catch the train headed to Minneapolis. In a local news source, one resident says he uses this transportation to reach the VA Health Care System several times per month.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the Badger state has some of the best rural public transportation in the country, with 49 systems providing bus or shared-ride taxi systems for rural residents. The 2016 Wisconsin Transit Report provides detailed information about public transportation programs by county, and includes a statewide map of routes covered by Badger Bus, Burlington Trailways, Greyhound, Indian Trails, Jefferson Lines, Lamers Bus Lines, Megabus, Van Galder/Coach USA and Wisconsin Coach Lines.
In Illinois, 96 out of the state's 102 counties provide some type of transit service. One company serving rural Illinois is Show Bus, serving DeWitt, Ford, Iroquois, Kankakee, Livingston, Logan, Macon, Mason and McLean counties.
Some areas may also have government-assisted programs that offer mobility for low-income persons who need to reach their place of employment, for adults with medical needs, people with disabilities and others.
While living in the country means being further away from stores and other amenities, it doesn’t need to be a big sacrifice with a commuting plan in place.