10 Signs It’s Time to Leave Your Town

Sometimes, you’re better off moving on.

You’re feeling ill-at-ease, and you just can’t quite put your finger on the cause. You’re uninspired. Stifled. Frustrated. It’s time to examine your life, starting with the town you live in. Is the home you’ve chosen holding you back? If any of these 10 signs apply to you, from lack of enthusiasm for eco-friendly programs to intolerance of the differences of others, a fresh start in a new place might just do wonders for your well-being. Or, if you’ve got the stomach for it, maybe you should stay and fight for the things you believe in. Either way, it’s time for a change, baby.

There’s no recycling program

When private recycling companies won’t operate in your moderately-sized town because there aren’t enough residents willing to pay for the service, you know you’ve got a problem. Even when city-run programs are free, many people choose not to go through the “hassle” of recycling, but paid programs often fail spectacularly in areas where such practices are seen as “hippie stuff.” Sure, you could haul 50 pounds of recycling to the nearest big city once a month if you really care about recycling, but you shouldn’t have to.

The people just say no to solar panels

Some say renewable energy projects are ugly. Others are devoted to fossil fuels unto death. And even in towns where there’s some measure of support for them, solar power farms and wind turbines are all too often stifled by the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard). Nearly half of all renewable energy proposals are stifled because of local opposition, and while not all of the protests lack validity, it can be incredibly frustrating to see a promising project killed because your neighbors don’t want a turbine poking into “their” skyline. When they stop you from putting solar panels on your own roof, you’ve definitely got a legitimate reason to get the hell out.

There’s no public transportation

America’s sprawl is legendary, and for many parts of the country, personal automobiles seem like the only way to go. Nobody’s going to build a commuter railroad 100 miles out into the country to ferry a few dozen rural residents to the nearest city five days a week. However, cities and suburbs have no excuse for a lack of decent public transportation. With few routes and infrequent stops, poor public transit systems make this greener way to get around virtually impossible to rely upon. And if your town’s not bike-friendly, your options are even more limited. It’s no fun to be forced to drive to work and fight for a parking space when a bus would be so much more efficient.

Health care is conventional or bust

Got allergies? Go take some Sudafed. Ear infection? We’d better give you some super-strong antibiotics, just in case. Oh, you want to find the root cause of your health problems instead of just treating the symptoms? [Blank stare.] Yes, in many towns, you’re hard-pressed to find a health care practitioner that will even consider alternative treatments, even if they’re as benign as vitamin therapy. These attitudes often stem from the patriarchal directive to bow to a doctor’s authority, even if said doctor’s education is four decades out of date. If you can’t find a doc that will delay your child’s vaccination schedule, consider natural childbirth plans or condone the use of herbal supplements, you should look elsewhere.

Pharmacists refuse to carry Plan B

In many states, it’s perfectly legal for pharmacists to flat-out refuse to carry or sell birth control methods like Plan B due to moral or religious objections. Such practices more than likely lead to an increase in unwanted pregnancies, and when these women subsequently seek abortions, they’re not likely to find local services for that either. State laws are shutting down Planned Parenthood branches and other women’s health centers left and right, so many women find it difficult to even get physical contraceptives, low-cost health exams or counseling that isn’t pro-life pressure in disguise. One could argue that such conditions are anti-woman, but there’s no question that they’re anti-choice.

Racial segregation is still the status quo

There are still towns in America – and not just in the South – where a local resident’s tour of the countryside will introduce you to “the white swimming pool” and “the black basketball courts.” Unofficial racial segregation is common even in the most liberal of cities, including the outer boroughs of New York, but it’s a little different when a mixed race couple can’t attend church together, when high school students have “black proms” and “white proms,” and when country clubs have unwritten policies against admitting members of color.

Small biz lost the battle against corporate chains

You’d love to shop local, if only there were places to do it. Your dining options are limited to fast food, Olive Garden and T.G.I. Friday’s, and if you want household essentials, Walmart is the place to go. Mom and Pop shops were plowed under a long time ago to erect another sprawling retail warehouse, and locally-made products are hard to find. Sadly, some towns have opened their arms to big business in the hopes of receiving more jobs and cheaper products, but they’ve lost their identities in the bargain.

Freedom of religion

We are a diverse nation of atheists, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, agnostics, Christians and dozens more religions and spiritual traditions, but in some towns, you’d never know it. That’s because the people who don’t attend twice-weekly church services and quote scripture in every conversation are often shamed into staying quiet about their beliefs. If you don’t fit in, you’re not just a heathen, you’re probably a devil-worshipper, and no one will ever loan you a pound of sugar or give you a ride when you’re broken down on the side of the road. Every group is guilty of occasionally marginalizing those who are different from them. That doesn’t mean you have to accept intolerance.

Every other car has an NRA bumper sticker

Sitting behind a monster truck at a traffic light, you’re staring at no less than a half-dozen highly offensive bumper stickers with slogans like “To get to heaven, turn right and go straight,” “Waterboarding works,” “Welcome to America, now go home,” and “I’ll keep my freedom and my guns, you keep the change.” This isn’t an isolated incident; they’re everywhere you go, even on vans full of children. You’re almost afraid to put up your meek little equality sign lest your car get keyed. If only people wore these slogans on their chests every day, you’d know just who to avoid.

Your town just won’t let you be great

You can’t find a good job. Nobody laughs at your jokes. All the single men you meet are behind on their cell phone payments and literally live in their mother’s basements. Sure, these could be signs of your own character deficiencies, but you’d probably prefer to believe that this place just isn’t for you. Don’t let your location stifle your self-expression or hold you back from doing great things. Either get out of dodge, or do them anyway, no matter what anyone else thinks.


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Photo: Maxime Guilbot

Stephanie Rogers

Stephanie Rogers currently resides in North Carolina where she covers a variety of green topics, from sustainability to food.