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Jun 062012
 

Choosing a retreat location involves lots of variables.

So you’ve decided to take your prepping to the next level.  You’re graduating from merely having lots of dried food in the basement to deciding to now invest in a retreat; somewhere you’ll relocate to if/when society crashes and crumbles.

Congratulations.

Now let’s guess what it is you’re doing.  Our crystal ball suggests you’re doing two things.

You’re looking at a map, with your current residence more or less centered, and you’re trying to work out how far is far enough away from the city you normally live in, and also how far becomes too far away.  Are we right?

And you’re also working through your financial position, working out what you can afford to put down on a retreat, and how much a month you can afford to make in payments.  Are we right again?

Now – your turn to guess.  Can you guess the huge assumption that you’re making?

You are assuming that your ‘normal’ life will continue unchanged – indeed, you’re desperately hoping that will be the case.

And in doing so, you’ve massively reduced your options in two important areas.

First, you’ve all of a sudden made most of the country out of reach and impractical to consider as a retreat location.  You’ll probably agree that, best case scenario, you can’t plan to travel more than 500 miles from where you normally live to a retreat, and ideally, you’d not want to go even half that distance.  You probably want to be at least 50 miles from your city, and 50 miles from any other major city (ie with a population of 100,000+), so when you first draw a radius of maximum distance away from your present location, then start taking out big holes in the middle of this around other cities that might come within the maximum distance radius, all of a sudden you’ll see there’s not a whole lot of much left.

Second, although you’re hopefully doing reasonably well, financially, and are able to support your current household and living costs, you’re probably looking a bit anxiously at the new idea of now having to double up on all these costs.

Why not think outside the box.  We have two suggestions for you – a relatively easy one and a harder one.

Make Your Primary Residence Now Your Secondary Residence

Our first suggestion is the relatively easy one.

Instead of continuing to own your present home as you do, why not sell it, and rent a smaller less expensive apartment (or buy a smaller condo)?

Indeed, as part of this transition, you can also choose a more optimized location within your current city region that will be best positioned for bugging out from – it can be on the same side of town as the direction of travel towards your retreat; and far enough from the center of the city as to have a head start on things if problems start to develop.  It can also be away from local danger areas and ‘hot spots’.

If you do this, you’ve reduced your monthly outgoings for your main residence, and maybe you’ve taken some cash out of the property too, either by downgrading or converting from owning to renting.

This puts you in a much better financial position to have a greater downpayment for your retreat, and better able to afford the ongoing monthly costs of ownership for your retreat too.

Even if you swap from owning to renting a property for what was formerly your primary residence, you’re not losing out, because you’ll now have a property you own at your retreat location.  So you are still participating in the property market, just at a different location.  There’s no financial penalty associated.

We of course don’t know how long you’ve lived at your present primary residence, but maybe things have changed since you moved there.  Maybe the neighborhood (and/or neighbors) have changed, maybe you’re now empty nesters, maybe many different things have changed.  Why not use this as an opportunity to update your primary residential lifestyle.

Choosing a nice place for your retreat will also mean that it is a place you actively like visiting.  This means you’ll be more likely to evacuate sooner if things start to go wrong – there’ll be less perceived ‘pain’ in making a transition and more willingness/eagerness to go there.

It also means you can get value from your retreat as a place to stay at over long weekends, for some of the summer, and so on.  The more time you spend at your retreat, the more opportunities you have to test everything out there, and find out what works and what doesn’t work, what else would be useful, and so on.

Plus, the more you’re there, the more you can become part of whatever local community there is in the area, too.

Change Jobs and Change Cities

Now for the big one – but really, for most of us, it is only big because we seldom face such things head on, and usually when we do, it is not in a time and situation of our own choosing.  This time, however, it is on your terms.

We are suggesting you start off with a blank sheet of paper, and choose the best location in the entire US for your retreat.  Then, and only then, choose possible locations to live in and work in that are reasonably close to your retreat.

Ideally, you might be able to accept a career change – although that might involve a downgrading of income – and work somewhere close to your retreat, and make your retreat your main and only dwelling.  An ideal type of retreat job would be as a farmer/market gardener/orchardist.  Or alternatively, perhaps you set up a general store in the nearest town.  In good times, it will be a regular general store, and in hard times, it will be your survival warehouse, full of what you (and others in your community) need to survive.

If this is not practical, you might be making a poor choice of location for your retreat.  While you don’t want to have too many people too close to you, we urge you to become at least an outlying part of some small community, so you have people to turn to for occasional assistance, and people to trade with.  And you want your land-holdings to be capable of supporting and sustaining some sort of agricultural production, whether it be livestock or cropping or whatever.

One very important thing.  Don’t quit your present job until you’ve lined up a new job.  People who are currently employed are viewed as being much more desirable by potential future employers than are people who are unemployed.

If you’re asked why you are making the move, there’s no need to give a long lecture about society’s vulnerabilities, etc.  Simply say that it is a lifestyle choice, and you want to move somewhere you feel more comfortable in and where you can better merge together work and home environments, to be more productive at work and happier at home.

Most people who live anywhere feel it to be a good place to live, and so this type of answer won’t need any further explanation, and will be positively received by the person interviewing them – it affirms their own choice to live there, too.

Summary

Choosing your retreat is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make in your life, and may have the greatest impact of any decision on your future.

Now is not the time to start making huge compromises that will reduce the effectiveness of your retreat choice.  The reality is that many parts of the country have nowhere appropriate as a retreat within a convenient traveling distance; so why not consider moving your primary residence as part of selecting a retreat location.

About 20% of the US population move every year.  You’ve probably moved in the past.  There’s no reason why you couldn’t again, and lots of reasons why you should.

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David Spero[suffusion-the-author display='description']

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