Small Town vs Big City Claustrophobia

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog, knows that I travel a ton. The interesting thing about me is I’ve actually only lived in 3 cities: Marshfield and Madison, Wisconsin and Austin, Texas. Each of these cities are very distinct in their sizes. Marshfield is the small town, Madison is the medium-sized city, and Austin is the large city. With living in these 3 different distinctly sized cities, I’ve gained a ton of perspective on the pros and cons of each city.

One thing I’ve found in living in each location is you will get a claustrophobic feeling. The interesting thing is, there is a big difference in this feeling between a small town and a big city, but it’s there regardless. Small town claustrophobia comes from the feeling of having nothing to do and you feel like the small town is enclosing you in and limiting your opportunities. A lot of this comes from fear of missing out (FOMO). This is what pushed me to move to Austin,

One the other hand, in a big city there is an endless amount of things to do. It’s literally to the point you have to choose what you want to do. I personally take advantage of all the meetups. I like that there’s a variety of restaurants to try and places to go and explore. Where the big city claustrophobia comes in is the congestion and cost you have to deal with in order to take advantage of this variety.

It’s nothing to take an hour to get across town to go somewhere. It’s the main reason I minimized my commute. The constant stop and go traffic can be very stressful to try to navigate. That’s actually why I also take the bus to many of my meetups. Another thing I’ve found is it costs at least double to triple what it would cost in a smaller town. This can be for roller skating or going out and having a drink.

The high costs also apply to rent. When I tell people what I paid for rent in Marshfield, along with the $5-10 yearly increases in rent per month, their jaws drop. In Austin, rent is 2-5 times more, depending on location and it’s nothing to see an increase of $100 per year if you choose to stay at the same apartment and renew your lease. Basically the claustrophobic feeling comes from the fact that to do anything, you are fighting congestion and also paying much more for things. To go to a restaurant, it takes an hour to get across town, half an hour to wait for a table, and an hour to get back. Basically, unlike a small town where there isn’t much to do, there’s plenty to do in a big city, but the barriers to do it are great enough that it makes you feel claustrophobic and feel these barriers are preventing you from fully taking advantage of the city.

In a lot of ways, it’s a matter of picking your poison. Do you want to small town where there isn’t a lot to do, but the cost of living is low and the barriers to do those handful of things is low or does it make sense to put up with the greater cost of living and congestion, but have everything available? Do you want to make up your own fun like we did in Pray, Wisconsin or do you want a huge variety of entertainment available? I guess a lot of it depends on your life circumstances.

For me, would I bring my Cougar to Austin? Hell no. The sheer congestion, and the fact that there’s essentially a multiplier of many idiot drivers, makes me nervous as hell to bring it here. Couple that with the high costs to garage and insure it, the big city claustrophobia prevents me from really wanting to do this. Even if I paid the additional costs of garaging and insuring it, I don’t know if I could fully enjoy it because I would be paranoid that I’d smash it due to some idiot driver. I’ve already had a couple close calls in Marshfield. The Cougar is definitely staying in Marshfield for the foreseeable future.

While I wouldn’t bring the Cougar here, I love the fact there are many meetups and potential opportunities. Cities like Madison have things like High Tech Happy Hour, but their opportunities for other tech meetups are low. In Marshfield, this kind of stuff is non-existent. I actually make it a point to try to attend as many meetups as I can that interest me. You can essentially get a free informal education in many topics, which definitely helps offset the increased costs of living.

For the foreseeable future, I’m here in Austin so I am choosing the big city claustrophobia as my poison. As you can see by my other blog entries, I do make it to Marshfield on a regular basis, so I can always chill out there when I want to get a dose of small town claustrophobia and figure out ways to pass the time. My ultimate goal is to minimize my commute, so living in the City of Austin is my big thing right now, but maybe I’ll find a nice suburb if my work circumstances change and be able to hopefully have the best of both worlds.

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