6 Things Nobody Tells You About Leaving the City for the Mountains

After watching a dozen episodes of “Doomsday Preppers” on a lark with my husband, it occurred to me, a longtime city dweller, that I had no “escape plan.”

“What if the power grid inexplicably melts, or an asteroid crashes into the New York Stock Exchange?” I wondered out loud over a large order of nachos. My husband rolled his eyes. But as the weeks passed, my whimsical musings became more compelling.

“Should we buy a getaway home?” I pushed. The idea had also crossed my husband’s mind, and he’d gone one step further — he’d secured a potential location.

The Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, located just one-and-a-half-hours west of our tiny NYC abode, seemed ideal. It was a straight shot on route 80, taxes were low, and a large, relatively magnificent home could be purchased to the tune of $100,000.

We took a weekend jaunt out and toured some houses, quickly settling on one that spoke to us. Over the coming months and years, we made it our sanctuary. On weekends and holidays, we ventured there to nest. We welcomed a son six months after our closing date.

I grew up in a small mid-coastal Maine town, and the vibe wasn’t terribly unfamiliar from my childhood digs. Still, if you didn’t come from that kind of environment, there are some notable differences.

People moving into wooded areas over time have displaced the bear population. You see, bears have learned that sticking around results in major Dumpster-diving scores. Hot and gross tip: they especially love baby diapers, which are, to them, a delicacy — like caviar. While bears don’t typically attack humans, a momma bear with her cub might.

Feeding bears, either on purpose or accidentally, is bad news, and often results in bears behaving like bears and then being shot and killed. New woodland homeowners can prevent this by making sure all food and garbage is kept out of bear range, securing trash containers with bungee cords, and dousing garbage with ammonia.

Finding Friends Isn’t Easy

We had been homeowners in the Poconos for a good five or so years before we really made any friends. It wasn’t that we weren’t trying, it was that a home in the mountains doesn’t exactly invite excitement. Our neighbors were nice, but not exactly people who we shared common ground with. So, those seeking community in the boonies may have to make a concerted effort. Once we joined a local CSA, we developed some wonderful friendships of like-minded folks and are going strong with barbecues, garden parties, and all the things you’d hope to have anywhere you call home. I also joined some Facebook community groups focusing on my interests, which helped expand my circle.

This has certainly changed some since the pandemic started, but even now, everything costs less than it does in the city. Homes, groceries, restaurants, activities, babysitters — it’s all cheaper. It’s not unusual to find free or inexpensive things to do, and, of course, there are loads of great thrift stores and yard sales. An added bonus: when people have easier access to plentiful necessities, life is less of a rat race. As a result, the atmosphere feels easier, and not as stressful.

The Food Is…Not as Good as City Eats

Ok, so trying to get excellent bagels or pizza in the Poconos isn’t exactly a simple task. Finding truly spectacular restaurants has been a treasure hunt, though we have found a few special places, like Sango Kura, a noodle house and izakaya pub, and Pennsylvania’s only sake brewery in Delaware Water Gap. That being said, we load up on city favorites (Chocolate Babka from Kossar’s Bialys, anyone?) to cart out to the mountains and freeze, hoard, gift, or share with friends. As time goes on, new restaurants have been planting themselves in the community and our options have been expanding.

City Acquaintances Become Pals

It’s interesting — people who I might not have hung out with much in the city have purchased real estate and moved to the area, and then, here — we become friends due to proximity. It’s happened a few times. Maybe I didn’t know them until we coincidentally met in the community, maybe I heard they’d moved here from a friend, but half my BFFs are now people who relocated to the mountains who I had lived alongside in the city for decades, but never really spoke to.

Both Spots Rock in Their Own Ways

This is not a, “X is better than Y” piece, nor is it a New York City hit piece. I moved to NYC in 2001 and have a love-hate relationship that almost anyone who spends a long time there may eventually develop. The city will always have a special place in my heart, and I love being able to toggle between the environments within the time span of a short car ride. Both areas have their pros and cons, as any locations do. But if you are looking for a nice place to run away to after a long bunch of tough years and high rent in the city, Pennsylvania has much to offer. And if you make your way an hour and a half west of the city and like good food, live comedy, hiking, writing and #momlife, well… look me up.

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