Eighteen months ago, my boyfriend and I took a big leap and moved out of our cute one-bedroom rental in the centre of Brussels and bought a house in the countryside of Flanders. Neither of us had ever lived in the countryside before – he grew up in a medium-sized city near Ghent, Belgium, and I in one of the suburbs outside of Toronto, Canada. But after four years in Brussels, we were both simultaneously craving the peace and calm of the country.
Now, I do suppose we are lucky here in Belgium. If I had wanted to escape to the country in Canada, we would have had to have gone much further away from a major city. In Belgium everything is still so close; we are thirty minutes or less away from several major Belgian cities, including Brussels.
Basically, we were tired of the city. Of all the people, the hustle and bustle, the traffic, the searching for parking spots, and the narrow and always busy aisles of our local grocery store. While we had countless options of where to go if we wanted to eat out, we had few options for purchasing food and generally they were one grocery store chain or another or else over-priced due to their city-centre locations. None of this bothered us when we first moved to Brussels, but overtime we felt our priorities shift. We would go on Saturdays to a farmer’s market outside of the city, but we started to crave having local produce as readily available to us as restaurant-fare was at that time.
No, we didn’t move because of the food, but that has definitely become one of the best perks of the decision. While countryside living is generally considered a bit more inconvenient for amenities, we are 200 metres from a local butcher, 800 metres from a bakery, and on our weekly grocery store run we are easily able to swing past a dairy farm for fresh eggs and raw milk. In the region there are also local goat and sheep farms where we can pop into to buy fresh products when we would desire. It’s more stops overall to get the food we want, but we enjoy visiting each place and getting to know the people who work there.
Living in the countryside means that when we come home after work and have downtime on the weekends, it feels like a small escape or a holiday. I can relax and disconnect much easier now that I ever could living in the city. One of my favourite things to do is to get outside for a walk, visit the animals out in the field, and see our village changing through the seasons.
Would I ever live in a big city again? Sure! When I travel, I’m always evaluating our destinations on whether or not I could see myself living there. I would just be more picky now than I would have in the past. I realize how much nature and green space mean to me, how important it is to have access to locally produced food, and how no matter where it is, my home should always feel like a peaceful retreat or escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.