At about age seven, my favorite movie was Baby Boom, featuring Diane Keaton as a fancy New York City businesswoman who inherited a distant relative’s daughter, moved to the ‘country’ (well, Connecticut) and learned to can applesauce. I’ve never quite approached fancy businesswoman status, and I’ve yet to can anything, but last week I moved to Lafayette, Indiana, after years of living and working on the east coast, and I can’t help thinking that seven-year-old-me would approve. The so-called good life is bound to be easier here, with no dirty subways, crowded commutes, tiny railroad apartments or exorbitant rents, right? Or will I perish for lack of constant movement, new faces and ample vegetarian restaurants? I suppose I’m about to find out.
Home of humongous Purdue University and just two hours from Chicago, Lafayette (pop. 67,140, + another 30,000 or so residents in West Lafayette, just across the Wabash River) is hardly country—but this sure isn’t city living either; ‘small town’ is probably the best descriptor. And, frankly, I’m pretty excited about it. Just before the move, I quit my job to work exclusively as a freelancer/consultant, something that always seemed impossible in places where renting a mid-range studio apartment costs upwards of $1300, and beers go for six bucks a pop (everyone knows writers like alcohol, second only to lawyers). Now, my boyfriend Fredrik and I are living in a fluffy-carpeted, light-filled rehab in downtown Lafayette, and it only costs $850/month. We’ve got two bedroom closets, one of which (i.e., mine) is a walk-in, and a kitchen that puts my galley kitchens of yore to shame. The tags were still on our appliances and window blinds when we moved in. And thanks to a full-size washer and dryer (in an actual laundry room!), I can finally avoid lugging big blue Ikea bags full of clothes to the laundromat once a month. Yes, we can see six church steeples from our front lawn—but we have a front lawn, plus a back one. And I’m already discovering benefits beyond cheap rent: I can walk to a farmer’s market three times a week, and my new neighbors are the county arts center, a YWCA and a park.
My boyfriend and I have taken to calling Indiana ‘The Land of Good Habits.’ Here, Fredrik says, he plans to bike everywhere, learn to make Parmesan cheese, eat less meat, and not live out of a laundry basket. I will always wash my face before bed, finally start brewing kombucha, start new herb and vegetable plants from seed, take tap lessons at the YWCA, cook prodigiously, make interesting cocktails for visitors, walk or bike everywhere, quit smoking once and for all, make awesome furniture/home decor out of repurposed thrift-store/curb/antique shop finds, read all the books I’ve been stockpiling, not keep my clothes in piles on the floor, and bake more flaxseed muffins. Not that I’m necessarily hanging up my Ikea laundry bag permanently: We’re here because Fredrik is teaching and finishing his PhD at Purdue, so that’s only a few year commitment to the Midwest—just enough time for a little experiment in whether health, happiness and quality of life is easier to come by in a small town versus the big city.