Inevitably, when I hook up with someone from any of my previous lives, they ask about life here in Floyd County. Even though Iâ€™m, for the most part, retired and money is not the issue it once was in our lives, the questions usually center around: â€œHow do you make a living out there in the sticks?â€
My flippant, but true, answer is: â€œWell, here you have to work twice as long to earn half as much. Fortunately, it only costs about a third as much to live here.â€
After 23 years in Washington, where money is made and spent in large amounts, the economy of a small Blue Ridge Mountain community may seem like peanuts. As Oddfellas Cantina owner Rob Neukirch likes to say: â€œOpen a business in Floyd. If youâ€™re successful youâ€™ll make hundreds.â€
But itâ€™s all a matter of perspective. In Floyd it costs $45 to get a seat in my Jeep Wrangler reupholstered. I remember spending $1,100 dollars to get a small tear repaired in the seat of a Porsche while living in Northern Virginia.
In Arlington we thought nothing of spending $200 on dinner. In Floyd (or Roanoke or Christiansburg) the fanciest of dinners seldom costs more than $50. The last pair of shoes I bought in Arlington cost $150. Amy bought a pair of Rockports for me from Angels in the Attic in Floyd a couple of weeks ago for $5.
Plumbing work that costs $1,000 or more up north costs $75-$100 here and the quality if usually better here.
We sold a 1,320-square foot, one-story condo in Arlington for three times what we paid for a 4,000-square foot, two-and-a-half story house on five acres of land here.
Thereâ€™s no doubt that the cost of most things are grossly overvalued in Washington and other urban areas just as thereâ€™s little doubt that the cost of living here in the mountains is undervalued.
The real benefit, however, is the enormous return we get in quality of life. When I get up and take my morning walk I realize it cannot be valued.
It is priceless.