It is not hard to see that having fewer options and resources is just a fact of life in the countryside compared to living in the city
The last place I would ever have imagined myself living is in the countryside, but that’s exactly where I’ve ended up. I was born and bred in a city and, holidays aside, urban life was all I knew until 17 years ago when we came to live in a small village in Penedès. It was largely an accident, as the house we bought was originally supposed to become our holiday home, but unable to afford two houses, we decided to take the plunge, move out of Barcelona, and begin a new life in rural Catalonia.
As you can see from our feature on page 10, this is something that quite a few people are doing these days, and in some small way compensating for the depopulation of rural areas, which is such a problem in Catalonia. In fact, a recent study carried out by the University of Lleida claimed that around 231 of the country’s 947 municipalities are in danger of depopulation.
It is not hard to see why that may be. Even though we live less than an hour from Barcelona, and we have a motorway and railway nearby, having fewer options and resources is just a fact of life in the countryside compared to living in the city. People often tell me how lucky I am to live where I do, in such a privileged natural environment, with clean air and little noise, beautiful views and terrific walks, the perfect place to raise a family. That’s all very true, but there are also plenty of downsides to living in the countryside.
One of the biggest problems is mobility. There’s not so much as a shop in our village and there is certainly no public transport, which means that just about everything you need to do or get requires driving. I used to like driving but 17 years of doing numerous trips in the car every day has cured me of that. Of course, you also need multiple vehicles, so that everyone in the family can get to school or work, go shopping or socialise.
Last weekend I was visiting friends in London. Talking to them about their life there, inevitably there were complaints, about the noise, about the crowds, about the traffic. It’s true that those are characteristics of urban life that no one likes, but to me their lives seemed amazing. If they need some bread they can just pop round the corner and in two minutes be back home, job done. They can get just about anywhere in the city without going near the car. Their kids walk to school. There are loads of bars and restaurants in the local area, all within walking distance. If they need a plumber or a mechanic they can choose from among dozens. They even have gas piped right into their houses, for heaven’s sake.
Those city dwellers, they just don’t know how lucky they are.