Moving from the City to the Countryside: Why is it Taking So Long?

3 years have passed since I first started dreaming about moving from the city to the countryside.

In that time, I have made a lot of progress in the direction of my dream. From my explorations of off-grid projects in empty Spain and my involvement in the community garden, to completing my first permaculture design certificate, quitting my 9-5 job and starting teaching online, I have made concrete steps in the direction of where I want to go. 

However, three years later, and here I am, still writing this blog post from a café in city centre Madrid. 

the city to the countryside
Café Colonial, Lavapiés, Madrid.

Sometimes, comments from well meaning yet impatient readers come in: 

“How long will the transition take you Olivia? Or will you settle for writing about seeing it all up close and then returning to the ‘comforts’ of ‘civilisation’?

Or well meaning but disbelieving family members: 

“You’re never going to do it…it’s never going to happen”. 

Whilst such comments may seem harsh, they are also understandable. How long can you keep talking about doing something, without actually doing it, before people begin to get bored by it and lose interest in your progress? 

“When we are in the countryside….” seems to be a phrase I hear myself saying often. I too, am beginning to get bored by it! 

It is no wonder then that, three years later, people begin to think “oh yeh, when you’re in the countryside….that old chestnut! Call me again when you have actually made the move!” 

Or maybe, in your case, dear reader: “Write to me again when you are finally there!”

Luckily, I don’t get (so) down hearted by such things. I understand how this looks from the outside: like I am kidding myself. 

Or, like I just don’t have the impetus needed to actually make it happen. 

Both of which are great sub-estimations of the extent of my determination and the strength of my vision. 

Yet, despite this, the fact remains that we are still here, in Madrid, with no clear path for getting out of this city and into the countryside. 

city life Madrid

“But why is it so difficult?”, you may ask. “Now that you have quit your job, why can’t you just move out to the countryside?”. 

Well, let me explain my current situation more clearly. Here are some of the things that are holding me back from up-ing sticks and making a break for it:  

1) I need a steady income

As I have already mentioned, since I am an English teacher, I have the opportunity to teach classes online, which is what I am currently doing. However, as of yet I still need to build up enough students to be fully comfortable with my financial situation. 

I am in a process of trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn’t; what I like and what I don’t like and just generally surveying the lay of the industry to decide what is my best way forward. 

It is true that renting a place in the countryside is cheaper than the city, but right now it would be difficult to show proof of earnings in order to get a contract. So even though I have got no ties to the city, I can’t move from here just yet. Of course, in time this will change. But as of now, I have no other option than to continue to get a steady stream of students to be able to be freer later down the line.

2) What about my partner? 

The other important thing to point out is that I am not in this journey alone. My partner Sergio is also coming along with me. And unlike me, he doesn’t have a way of earning money online. As he continually reminds me when I get impatient: “What am I going to do in the countryside to earn money?”. 

It is true that there is an argument for saying: “Well you won’t until we go and find out!”. Especially since, unlike me, Sergio has a lot of skills that are very useful in the countryside.

Off-grid Spain
Sergio hard at work when we went to visit Paul and Hermin at their off-grid project in Eastern Spain

However, it feels a little bit premature to take the radical step to move out to the countryside just yet. Especially since: 

3) We don’t have tonnes of money in the bank 

Unlike many people who take the plunge and move out to the countryside and start off-grid projects, we don’t have the luxury of a nice, big nest egg in the savings account. Indeed, if this were the case, we would have done it already! 

Indeed, when you have the means, it is very easy to make a plan and follow it. In fact, this whole dream is nothing short of ridiculous when you consider our lack of financial capital.

Yet as I wrote about in my post “An Off-Grid Life with Less than 14k: Is It Possible?”, I don’t see this as a reason to give up our dream. But it is true that it does limit us as to knowing exactly how we are going to make this dream a reality. 

I guess you could see this in two different ways: 

  1. as a pipe dream that will never happen or 
  2. an opportunity to use our imagination.

Which one is more likely to bring you closer to your dream? 

The first one would undoubtedly take you nowhere, since this belief would stop you in your tracks and would deem any action in that direction a waste of time.

The second one is an invitation into courageous action in the face of the unknown. It invites you into your own artistry and creativity and challenges you to turn the problem into the solution. It pushes you into trust and faith in the Universe and helps build the muscle of your perseverance and determination.

It invites you to be brave and say “where there is a will there’s way. And if there isn’t one, I will make one. One way or another”.

It invites you to dream big and not limit your dreams to the confines of what you know about the world already. Which brings me to the next audacious part of our dream: 

3) We don’t just want a house with a garden in the suburbs 

It is true that maybe the sensible thing would be to admit our limitations and opt for renting a house in the suburbs with a garden big enough to have a vegetable patch and be content with that. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, if that is your heart’s desire. 

However, whilst this is a tempting idea that could offer me relief and happiness in the short term, in the long term I don’t think it would bring me the satisfaction and joy I am seeking. 

And that’s because it would be like a watered down version of the life I know I really want. 

house in the suburbs city to the countryside
Not my dream

It would be like drinking weak, insipid tea. At first it may quench your thirst but soon it begins to taste pretty poor. Your mouth curls at the sides as you swallow it in a grimace of distaste. 

I want my life to be flavourful and full-bodied; deeply satisfying and warming to the spirit. I want a smile of deep contentment on my lips when I take a sip and taste the fruit of my labour. 

And that means no watering down. No settling for the easy route. No half-arsing it. 

I am an ‘all or nothing’ kind of girl. I am in or I am out. I put my all in, or none at all. 

You only live once, after all. I will give up when I am dead. But whilst I am still here, alive and kicking, I am going for gold. 

This also means the following: 

4) We don’t just want to camp on someone else’s land 

Over the course of this journey so far, I have received many kind offers from very generous and open, fellow back-to-the-landers, who have invited us to spend time on their land with the possibility of staying there long term. 

Whilst it may be a good idea in order to get more experience of off-grid life in different areas around Spain, we don’t feel like staying on someone else’s land is a viable option for us in the long term. 

Our dream goes beyond living the simple life, with a house and a vegetable path. We want to create a multi-disciplinary space that can be used for a variety of different purposes; something that can grow and evolve and provide us with a sustainable income as well. And for that we need space and the ability to be the authors of our own project.

Whilst the vision does involve collaborating with other people, who or how remains to be seen. As I have mentioned various times before, I am guided by my intuition. My heart is leading the way; inspired action is the order to the day. 

In my experience, that often means doing the opposite of what the logical mind says! Indeed, back in a blog post in 2020, I called this a ‘Radical Dream’ for a reason. It is taking me radically away from all logical reasoning, and common sense thinking. 

What if that is actually the key?

To achieve the seemingly impossible, maybe what is really needed is uncommon sense thinking; that which takes you beyond the known, predictable and controllable and into realms of synchronicity, miracles and magic…

Yet, as inspiring as this perspective maybe, there is another harsh reality that it also stopping us from making the move from the city more quickly:

5) Life in Rural Spain is Tough 

Rural life in Spain is increasingly difficult and even more so without a nice, big savings account filled with thousands of euros.

In fact, calling rural life in Spain ‘tough’ is most probably an understatement. Many would call it sheer impossible. 

empty Spain
Views from our explorations of Eastern Spain

Sergio often reminds me that he knows many people who have moved to the countryside to start projects and within a few years they have ended up returning to the city. Sometimes it is not because the project failed but because they found the solitude of the empty Spanish countryside too difficult. Other times, it is due to financial difficulty and the unsustainability of such a lifestyle. 

Others have different reasons. For example, one friend of mine moved out to the countryside with her partner and two children. She told me how they had the vegetable garden, the chickens, and the green space for the kids to play on. She said it was an idyllic place to bring up her children and for a while they were happy. But, although they made friends with the local community, they found it difficult to meet like-minded people. 

In the end, they returned to the city. Now she tells me that she wouldn’t try it again. The community of like-minded people in the city is a strong enough reason for her to stay in the city for good and not look back. 

Then there is the problem of returning to Madrid, if it indeed did go wrong. The city is fast becoming an unsustainable place to live, with rising rent prices making it difficult for newcomers to find a place to live. What if we move to the countryside and it goes wrong, and we find that we are unable to find suitable accommodation again in the city? 

the city to the countryside Madrid al campo
Madrileño life in neighbourhoods like this come with a price tag

Indeed, we would be wise to take our time and avoid any false starts. As much as I am more than ready to leave, I don’t want to take impulsive action that could actually shoot us in the foot. 

I remember a Buddhist quote: 

There is a perfect time to eat a banana: too early, and it isn’t ripe. Too late, and it has already gone bad. 

The trick is to intuit the right action in the right moment. And that is something that cannot be planned for or controlled, only respected and surrendered to. 

Behind the scenes action 

That being said, Sergio and I do have some ideas for taking some concrete steps forward- I don’t want to give you the impression that we are sitting around waiting for someone to knock on our door with the deeds to a lovely plot of land somewhere! 

We are making some plans behind the scenes that I will share once there is something to tell. You don’t want to count your chickens before they have hatched after all! 

There is one thing that I know for sure though, and that this journey is a slow burner. I continually remind myself of the permaculture principle ‘slow solutions’. The solutions are so much slower than I originally thought they would be!

I have to admit that my impatience sometimes gets the better of me, and I find myself feeling frustrated and impotent. But maybe this is just a great spiritual lesson in practicing patience and an opportunity to unlearn the ‘things on-demand’ mentality of Western society. 

There is no fast forward button on Life; no Amazon Prime dream delivery service. And let’s be honest, would we really want there to be? 

The fact of the matter is that right now there is no other choice but to enjoy the journey and accept the present moment of my life, city lights and all. 

Rather than give into fear and uncertainty I chose to see the fertility of a new dawn approaching. It’s an exciting time; a time of great possibility.

When I choose to see it as such I feel joyful, courageous and strong. When I fall off the wagon and give in to the doom and gloom, I am sad and low. What good can ever come of that? 

city to the countryside

Final Thoughts

 When I first started building this blog in late 2019, in the ‘about’ page, in reference to this dream, I wrote: 

“How I am going to do this I don’t know. I am far from rich and I certainly don’t have any skills that would be useful for a back to basics life in the countryside. Right now this seems like a crazy, impossible dream…

But my heart knows what it wants and will not accept anything less. And I have enough experience with flow and synchronicity to know that anything is possible and that miracles exist!”.

Three years on, I still stand by these words. 

For me, this whole journey has been nothing short of a miracle; from the places it has taken me, the people I have met, the people who have reached out and helped me on my path. 

Whilst some may scoff at my trust and declare me naive or off my rocker, I know that faith and trust in the universe are key ingredients for collaborating with the unseen forces that make synchronicity and co-creation possible. 

If I felt that my only tool for achieving this dream was the logical mind, then I would have never even started out on this path; it has been illogical from the beginning. Nothing about it has been sensible or in line with conventional thinking. 

But the breakthroughs always come from the fringes. Opportunities often come like curve balls out of nowhere. I plan to keep putting myself in the right place at the right time to catch those curveballs when they come and use them to my advantage. 


I am grateful to be on this path, regardless of the obstacles, challenges, frustrations  and seeming impossibilities. 

Because I know it is my path. 

In a world of pretense, inauthenticity, and keeping up with the Joneses, 

I feel blessed.

Let’s co-create a more beautiful world!

moving from the city to the countryside

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Olivia Grundy

Join me as I transition from the city to the country, following my hearts desire for a more sustainable life based on respect for the Earth and all the creatures in it.

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