Home » I might live rurally, but the last thing I wants is to feel is disconnected

I might live rurally, but the last thing I wants is to feel is disconnected

by Narges Mohammadi

Having high-speed internet means our columnist can still stay in touch with her old life

Let’s read the story of Katie, an English woman who decides to live rurally but still wants connection with the 21st century technology

Once, people moved to the countryside to escape. Wild cliffs, wide valleys and mountains were places you went to lose yourself. People ran to the hills to be isolated. I suppose that’s why I first came to the countryside. It seemed like a way to free myself from everything and everyone (not to mention a marriage). But if I came to the countryside harboring fantasies of ­living alone on a cliff, now that I’ve actually settled here it turns out the last thing I want is to be isolated. What’s the point in having all these nice feature fireplaces and views if I can’t share my #cottagecore on Instagram

Country life was perhaps once synonymous with living off-grid, a hippy idyll for people who wanted to opt out of the system. But for my generation of digital natives, living in nature doesn’t mean dropping out. It can be quite the ­opposite. For many of us, leaving the city isn’t a way to shun work but to focus on it, as US tech entrepreneurs in their ranches suggest

I am part of a generation who entered the workforce when remote working was already the norm. We were used to freelancing from our beds in our PJs, running a remote office from our homes using Slack, Teams and Zoom long before the pandemic made such platforms widespread

Many of the people who come to stay with me in Somerset to help do up my cottage – people I found on the Workaway website where travelers exchange labor for accommodation – are subsidizing their journeys by working online, and were doing so long before Covid19 appeared. Those staying in my caravan have so far included a woman working in online book marketing, a freelance illustrator and a man trading cryptocurrencies

The internet hasn’t just revolutionized the workplace but changed every aspect of our lives, and this has never been so apparent in the country. Here, being able to access high-speed internet means, in some ways, my life still resembles the one I left behind in the city

I still go on dates via Tinder. Even if I discovered at Land’s End there were so few local matches I could “complete” it. I still sell my old clothes on eBay, although now I have to drive to the Post Office awkwardly handing over my packages to the same postman every time who remarks on what I’m doing. I still make friends through Instagram and enemies through Twitter. As I write this column my flat-mates are watching Netflix, live-streaming the Johnny Depp trial, and flicking through Hinge

A friend who used to sometimes write a weekend round-up for a news desk, who lives in a rural location, likes to describe the mad morning drive he used to take, as the sun was rising, to get the papers from a newsagent in the nearest village, miles away. Now, I read the latest headlines at the same time as everyone else, on my phone in bed, while the cows move around the fields next to me

I find that some social media is used even more enthusiastically here in the countryside than in cities: Local Facebook groups are a hive of gossip and fights. And apps such as Next Door are full of advice on where to find a plumber or someone to drain your well. Online communities are meeting points where people go to share veg box delivery information and the pub’s opening hours

Now decent phone reception and high-speed internet are prerequisites to country life. If only the real world had caught up. I’m lucky where I live. After an initial hump with BT, I got onto my Wi-Fi network and was delighted to find it runs quicker than my internet connection in London ever did, where I was competing with thousands of other networks. I may live down an unmarked dirt track, surrounded by cows, but I’ve never been more connected

Some rural areas are less fortunate. According to Ofcom there are currently more than 600,000 properties in the UK that are unable to access reliable broadband service from either fixed or fixed wireless networks. As part of its levelling-up ambitions, the Government has pledged £22 million to make the country better connected

The UK Gigabit Voucher scheme, introduced in 2018, entitles eligible rural homes to a £1,500 voucher to upgrade their network – though in some remote areas the internet’s so awful this won’t even touch the sides of what it would cost to actually upgrade to a decent signal

One homeowner in Buxton, Derbyshire, was quoted £40,000 by BT to improve his internet connection. BT got me online but I hadn’t accounted for the other Wi-Fi issues I’d face. I didn’t think about the fact that the half-meter thick walls of my ancient cottage would block the signal from travelling from one side of the house to the other. Or the fact that I’d have an Argentinian staying in my caravan trading Bitcoin who needed a fast connection

Still, I did find a solution. Orbi Mesh routers are big white boxes I plug around my house, which do something miraculous so now the internet works in all ­corners of the cottage, right across the garden and even in the caravan. Which is how right now my flat-mates are watching rugby and chatting on Facebook in the house while the Argentinian is in the caravan checking his investments online, and I have Taylor Swift blaring from YouTube while I upload shots of my pink kitchen to Instagram, where people in America, London and Cornwall reply to tell me what they think

The people I know who’ve chosen to live rurally aren’t necessarily trying to escape. They don’t want to avoid modern life, many of us are just trying to find another way to be part of it. I might be living in an ancient cottage but I don’t actually want to live in the 17th century

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