Commenting on the post about planning a weekend in the countryside, The Walking Map (great blog, check it out), said:
Bringing a book is an obvious one, but I love the suggestion about using public transit. My blog focuses on that, but I still think the country is boring. It’s nice to drive through and take a few pics, but the isolation is too much for me.
It’s too much for me, too, sometimes: the weekends can be particularly hard, as far as I am concerned.
This comes, probably, from the fact that I grew up in a big industrial city – Turin – but also spent time in London and Paris. Such places are always alive with people, events, lights, noise. Growing up in such places, crowd and bustle become normal.
Then you move to the country, and all of a sudden there is only silence.
The people are nice but guarded, and if you come from outside, you are just that, an outsider.
Social life? The local café, where everybody knows everybody else, and you are not one of them. You talk weird, dress weird, and are not part of their history.
Or maybe the market – but on market day you’ll find out that the locals cluster together in small groups, and you’ll end up talking with the sellers and the stall-managers; because they come from outside just like you.
Paradoxically, in my experience, country people tend to be warmer with tourists than with new residents – probably because tourists will get out of their hair in a few days, while new residents will linger, disrupting long-standing, well-worn and amply accepted social dynamics.
That’s the reason why, I think, rural settings are so popular with murder mystery writers1, and are also a staple of horror stories2: because rural communities tend to be strongly interconnected and ordered, wary of strangers and often quite off-putting, and you feel like you are all alone in the wilderness, surrounded by hostile natives, the light of civilization far away and hard to reach.
It takes time, it takes patience.
One needs to get the new rhythm, appreciate the time and space relationship, that are subtly different, in the countryside: the nearest supermarket is three miles away – which might still be “walking distance” when the weather’s good (as long as you don’t plan on buying ice cream), but means walking a twisting, up-and-down country road over which the locals drive their SUVs and their trucks like the devil’s pursuing them.
One trick is to keep in mind that the countryside is really a different place – not just an empty space between cities, not a place where we should expect to find what we find in big towns.
So, for the greater good, here is a list of ideas and strategies to avoid countryside depression (that is a very real thing):
a . find yourself something to do – which is quite easy if you have a nicely planned tour, but even the best planned tours can be disrupted by a rainy day.
Me? I started a blog – and I repair bicycles.
b . don’t let the landscape trap you – seek different vistas, different perspectives. Climb on top of a hill to enjoy the scenery.
Me? I take long walks along dirt roads.
c . take your time – sometimes you just have to sit back, relax, and accept the fact that local buses have a one-hour schedule, and you’ll have to wait half an hour for the next. Use that time to rest, or to take a walk around the village, or to strike a conversation with the lady behind the counter at the local shop.
Me? I use the downtime to do a little breathing and meditation.
As for the hostility of the locals…
Well, unless you are in a murder mystery or a horror story, it is not really hostility, it is just a sort of wary shyness.
Don’t try so hard to make friends, and maybe you will make friends.
And as usual, any other idea, strategy, suggestion or tip… please share it in the comments!
- am I the only Midsomer Murders fan hereabouts? ↩
- rural horror being a sub-genre in itself, also known as folk horror – Wicker Man, anybody? ↩