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Why I Moved to a Small Town in South Africa | Andrew Macfarlane

Andrew Macfarlane
Why I Moved to a Small Town in South Africa | Andrew Macfarlane

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It is going to be strange to talk from experience rather than research. But I followed many South Africans who, after the lockdown, realised that they needed a change. It wasn’t just me, but my wife as well.

We both work remotely from home with our four dogs and cat, and during the early days of the lockdown when we were stuck in our house, it became apparent that we needed more.

But let’s talk about where we lived.

How It Started -- From City Life to Rural Living

For roughly ten years, I lived in Woodstock, Cape Town. I lived with my wife in her semi-detached home for around five to six years.

Woodstock is a vibrant suburb which is truly a cosmopolitan neighbourhood. There’s always something exciting happening.

While living in a small cottage in Woodstock, I discovered my love for plants. Shortly after moving into the house with my wife, I built my first hydroponic system.

Hydroponics South Africa

My ambitions for new projects grew over the years. Eventually, I had a grow-wall and was trying to establish an urban farm with a beehive.

But the lack of space and access to land became a problem that threw me into a slump. There’s only so much that vertical gardening can replace overgrowing produce in the ground.

Also, while living with my wife, I went from working in an office to becoming a full-time freelance writer - more time at home to tweak things in the garden.

Then the Pandemic Happened…

When the pandemic hit, I was well-prepped to stay indoors.

But as the weeks passed, being locked inside our charming cottage became more like a green prison. The boundary walls in our semi-detached home were high, and the outside area was small.

As soon as the lockdown eased up, the wife and I took it upon ourselves to explore more and find dog-walking spots that weren’t busy to avoid catching anything.

This led to us finding new green belts around the mountainside neighbourhood of Constantia. Then the wife and I started to eye out new homes outside the city, as we wanted to see more sky, sunrises and sunsets, and access more space.

After exploring a few towns, we settled on the small town of Riebeek West and bought an old, neglected vineyard.

This is a brief recap. There is a whole bunch of stories I’m skimming over, but at the core of it, my wife summed it up nicely:

“During the lockdown, there was no noise. I loved the silence and calm,” said Mrs Macfarlane.

So, we got the ball rolling. And here’s what sold me on why I moved to a small town.

I Work From Home

Remote work South Africa

Being a remote writer, all I need is an internet connection. During the lockdown, meetings that I’d normally have gone to in person went online and stayed online.

Also, I started to work with more international clients. The only requirement I had was a stable internet connection.

While the village I moved to had no fibre, the direct line of sight service was excellent. A 30 Mbps connection is more than sufficient for all my needs.

It’s Not A Huge Distance Away

Benefits of small town living South Africa

Petrol is not cheap. And if you still want to see friends, you need to think about the ease of the trip.

Our prominent national highway is the N7, which is a dual carriageway, making it possible to put your car in cruise control and relax.

Also, our home was built to host couples comfortably as we understood it’s a bit of a distance for visitors to cover in a single day.

Cost of Living

The cities in South Africa have to mark up all the produce on their shelves. It’s not malicious; stores need to transport food from the farm to a warehouse, then from the warehouse to a store, and it must all be trucked in a cold storage vehicle and stored in the shop chilled until it can be placed on the shelf, where you buy it.

I’ve missed a few logistical steps, but you get the picture.

So there are a lot of steps before it reaches your table. In a remote town like mine, where farmers produce citrus, grapes, olives, lamb, pigs, and a whole bunch more, I can sometimes pick it up at the farm itself.

Also, at times, our local stores will buy in bulk from the farmers, passing savings onto us.

And more land means I’m able to grow my own. For example, I’ve not had to buy tomatoes for around five to six months due to our crop.

Another factor is many of the larger nearby towns have stores where I can purchase items not available in the village, so there is no need for a long journey into the city.

And now that I mostly shop in the village, I cycle to the shops.

No Traffic or Masses of People

West Coast Living South Africa

Commuting to work is also very stressful in the city. There’s no such thing as rush hour traffic in the village.

According to the last census results in 2011, there were 4,350 people in my village. That’s gone up a lot, we’re waiting on the latest census information.

Even on a day when half the town appears, that’s so few people that if it was for a concert at the Cape Town Stadium, event organisers would cancel.

This is great as it is one less stressful element to my day.

Space

Andrew MacFarlane Small Town Living

The most significant factor is space. There’s no way I could afford an 1100-square-metre plot in any part of the southern suburbs.

But in rural areas, you can pick up land at a bargain. Just be prepared to do some serious work.

Noise

And finally, the lack of noise. If there’s any noise, it’s usually a passing car or farm-work related. Often when my wife and I watch something on our devices, we usually put on headphones to minimise noise pollution in the house for the other partner. However, the dogs do let down the team.

To Summarise Why I Moved To A Small Town In South Africa…

At the end of the day, we moved because we wanted to grow more produce and ornamental plants. We wanted more space. We wanted to hear nature not cars. We wanted more freedom.

Also, we were lucky to have a reliable friend who owns a moving company, Ambassador Storage and Removals, to make the entire process of moving a breeze. Otherwise, I might have thought twice.

Moving is one of the most stressful life experiences, and to make the entire process less painful, make sure you use a platform like Wise Move.

Wise Move makes moving anywhere in SA just so much easier. One request connects you to the best local movers who will all send you a fair quote. It’s almost like ordering an Uber, but for your home, car, boat or whatever you need to get to where you’re going.

If you’re considering moving to a small town, the benefits are enormous. Don’t let anything hold you back.

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