Urban OutQuitters

The mainstream media isn’t talking about this, although we can bet the 6 and 7-figure talking heads have already got their well-stocked comfy hideaways locked and loaded, the best of those boasting private airstrips and fuel tank caches topped off with high test. They’re not talking, but across America, middle class folks are quietly bugging out. Sure, they’ll tell the Realtor they’re looking for a “weekend getaway place” and hope their rising sense of dread and anxiety isn’t too noticeable. Is it because prepper has a slight stench of crazy about it, or just that nobody wants to confess, even to themselves, the dark fears lurking in the corners of their consciousness?

I’m seeing it firsthand, in the small rural community where we put down stakes six years ago. Back then, raw land would sit unsold for months and sellers could be lowballed. Not any more. A rocky hillside that nobody would look twice at jumped 30% on Zillow in under a year. Properties all around me have been snapped up by city folk of all stripes: gay and straight, young and old, Trumpers and never-Trumpers, composers and construction workers. A government guy close to retirement — he says I can’t even tell you what I do. A couple of camp counselors give up their island home for the redneck sticks to be close to family. The first thing they do is buy a sawmill.

Land in the country is the ultimate in social distancing.

One guy is building an underground bunker – fireproof, earthquake proof and covered in forest litter so neither Google Earth or a drive-by county inspector will ever know it’s there. Others throw up tiny sheds or haul in trailers. Those with deeper pockets spring for custom homes with barns, animal pens and fenced gardens. Some are making a permanent move, but more are giving themselves a hedge, a place to go if/when the shit hits the fan, and they’ll admit it once their guard comes down and the straight talk starts,

The exodus went into overdrive just months into the pandemic. “Stay home – save lives!” the governors implored. Anybody with a piece of land for sale knows that advice was ignored. Able to work from home, Americans are leaving cities and shopping the suburbs for larger digs with home offices – that story has gotten plenty of play. But Realtor.com reports that while homes in suburban zip codes had a 30 percent jump in views from June 2019 to June 2020, homes in rural zip codes saw a 34 percent increase in views. June 2020 is just around the time that the looting and burning really ramped up. Wonder what the figures for June 2021 will look like, especially if the biggest roadblock to rural living is removed?

The one roadblock to living off the beaten track is the paucity of decent internet service in the boonies. Slow satellite internet and 4G cellular (if you’re lucky) are the only choices. Forget streaming Netflix and Hulu. Zoom conferencing and VPN connections need generous bandwidth. But that could change as Elon Musk launches Starlink, a high-speed global satellite internet service that uses low orbit birds and promises speeds to rival cable, all for $80 a month. And when that happens, all bets are off. The trickle of urban ex-pats will become a flood.

Nobody wants to confess, even to themselves, the dark fears lurking in the corners of their consciousness.

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