In his book, Zen Dust, writer, human rights lawyer and Buddhist teacher, Antony Osler, recalls an encounter with a petrol attendant whilst on his way home, to the Karoo:
‘That dry place,’ he says.
‘Yes. Dry and quiet. And tonight I’m going to sit on the stoep with my wife and a glass of whiskey and watch the sun go down.’
He looks at me with those great shining eyes, ‘Like church,’ he says, ‘But without the choir.’
The attraction of the countryside hasn’t faded for modern city-dwellers looking to settle down and trade the smog for fresh country air.
According to the latest Census, domestic migration is not only something that people do when they retire – in 2011 the most people that moved within the country were between the ages of 20 and 30, mostly to improve the quality of life of said migrants. Migration trends show that a large proportion of migration is temporary.
We often think of “quality of life” as referring to the amount of money one has to live comfortably, so, naturally, Gauteng and the Western Cape are the provinces that have the biggest gains in terms of lifetime migrants, as opposed to the other 7 provinces, because of the economic prospects many migrants see.
However, there is also a growing number of young people who make the decision to move to the countryside for a different quality of life that has less to do with rands and cents, and more with getting away from the noise and bustle of the city, and undertaking a journey that is entirely focused on a sense of purpose and making a difference – even if it is just in a personal sense.
Into the wild
So, you’re tired of the corporate scene. There’s this thing you’ve always wanted to do, that you believe will make an impact and give you a sense of purpose outside of a work environment where you constantly have the sense that you’re wasting your time. You lie in bed at night and think that there is surely more to everything than the daily grind. One life – live it, right?
As idyllic as breaking away from a traditional 9-to-5 sounds, it’s a cold, harsh world out there. According to labor statistics in the US, only 50% of new businesses make it into their fifth year. According to the Small Enterprise Development Agency, five out of seven new businesses started in South Africa fail within the first year. If you’re going to pack up and quit a “stable” job, you’d like to know that it is a sustainable long-term career pursuit.
The millennial’s role
In a recent article on Mashable, David Infante proposes the rise of a new type of millennial who is neither hipster nor yuppie. Infante calls this person the yuccie – a Young Urban Creative. This person is the quintessential entrepreneur, pursuing creative and personal endeavours, even if it means sacrificing the financial gain of a more “traditional” corporate career.
Simon Sinek’s recent viral interview about millennials in the workplace has the same take – he specifically mentions a millennial response to an inquiry as to how things are going at work: “’I think I’m going to quit.’ And we’re like, ‘Why?’ and they say, ‘I’m not making an impact.’”
Pursuing a life in the countryside
Aside from the obvious appeal of little to no morning traffic, wide open spaces and a night sky that will blow your mind, moving to the countryside offers the budding entrepreneur unique opportunities. Compared to those in the city, your mouth will drop at the low rentals, and a small town takes away a lot of the potential competition you might otherwise encounter. But deciding to pack up your entire life, including the cat and kitchen sink, requires a plan.
Before making any significant career change and turning off onto the entrepreneurial road, consider the following:
• Is there a market for what you’re selling?
• Do you have a business model?
• Is your marketing cost-efficient and effective?
• Do you have enough cash saved to get you through the lean times?
• Do you have the business skills that your start-up requires?
It might be a good idea to test the waters with your entrepreneurial idea before you make a final decision about leaving the city lights.
Recent statistics in the UK suggested a 6% increase in the population in rural areas in the UK by 2025. The overpopulation of those provinces believed to be the economic strongholds of the country – especially Gauteng – and the generation that is likely to be doing the moving’s changing attitude towards work, might very well lead to similar trends in our own country.