A woman who spent most of her life in cities was ready for a change – and she found it. Karen Fasimpaur moved from Los Angeles to a quiet spot on the Arizona-New Mexico border. She found brilliant nighttime skies, good neighbors and a lower cost of living that allows her to focus on more than just a pay check.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rural residents have a wide range of reasons for choosing to live or remain in the countryside. Today we’re starting a new series, “Rural by Choice.” We’ll let rural residents from diverse backgrounds discuss their connections to their rural homes. If you’ve got a story about your choice to remain or move to a rural area, share it with us in the comments or via our Facebook page.
Tell us a little bit about yourself- who you are, how you spend your time.
My name is Karen Fasimpaur. I am a writer, a maker and a lover of food. Professionally, I work in online community building, education, and strategic planning for non-profits. I built my own house (with hammers and nails, not by hiring subcontractors) and can often be found growing food, baking, cooking, and canning.
Where do you live? Paint us a picture.
I live in a remote part of the southwest desert, on the Arizona/New Mexico border about 45 miles north of the Mexican border. There are two towns within 15 miles of where I live, each with fewer than 300 people. The closest place to get groceries is about an hour away, and the nearest major airport is 2-1/2 hours away.
The land here is extraordinarily beautiful with two ranges of dramatic mountains and wide open range land in the valley between. The land is covered with an ocean of golden grass. The sky is deep blue, and the nighttime stars more numerous and brilliant than imaginable. The wildlife is diverse and un-shy. With so few people here, one feels a unique closeness to the earth.
How did you come to live where you do? How long have you lived there, and how long do you plan to stay?
I came to live here very intentionally as a part of a years-long process to find a remote place that fits me and my lifestyle. I’ve lived here for six years and plan to stay indefinitely.
In what ways is the place you live now similar or different to where you grew up or have lived in the past?
I’d never really lived in a rural place before this except for a two year stint in the bush in Africa. I grew up in the suburbs of a mid-sized Midwestern city and spent a good portion of my adult life in Los Angeles. I’ve found living in an extremely rural location to be very different from my prior experiences, but also very much to my liking.
Why did you choose to live here? What are the benefits?
Several years ago, I started looking for a place to buy some land with thoughts that I would move there “someday.” While I loved Los Angeles, where I lived at the time, the high cost of living there meant that I would have to maintain my then fast-paced, all-consuming work life indefinitely, which I didn’t want to do. After several years of looking, I found this place, and rather than waiting for “someday,” packed up my life in Los Angeles and moved here within six months. Needless to say, it was a complete change, which is what I was seeking.
Some of the benefits of living here are ones I hoped for, like slowing down the pace of my life, focusing more time on creative pursuits, and developing a keener sense of mindfulness. Other benefits were completely unforeseen, like reducing my carbon footprint (not a part of the plan, but I ended up living “off the grid”) and growing a lot of my own food.
How does work/employment factor into where you live? Does living in a rural place affect how you make your living?
I work freelance and usually at a distance, which fits this place well. There are few or no in-person jobs that are less than an hour away. Before I lived here, I traveled a lot, and one of my goals in living here was to reduce my amount of travel, which became almost a necessity living 2-1/2 hours from an airport. It would be difficult for me to maintain the salary level I had in Los Angeles, but my cost of living has gone down dramatically and the quality of life is much higher here, which for me was a desirable tradeoff.
Do you have neighbors? What’s your community like?
I can see two other houses from mine, though we have four or so neighbors within a mile. While my neighbors are few, my relationships with them are both more numerous and deeper than those I had in the city.
Our community is very small and very diverse. It includes ranchers and research scientists (we live in a world-renowned habitat for birds, reptiles and other animals), young and old, conservatives and liberals. While our ideological views are not always the same, care for our community and the land are values we share. Unlike other places I’ve lived, I wouldn’t hesitate to stop and give anyone a hand if they needed it, nor would I think twice about asking for help myself.
What are the drawbacks of living in a rural place?I find few drawbacks for myself in this extremely rural locale; however, there are challenges with access to basic services like telecommunications and health care. Occasionally the distance from any sizeable population center is also a constraint. As I’ve started growing more of my own food, for example, and realized how passionate I am about sustainable agriculture and high quality food, I have thought about expanding my work in this direction. However, because of the lack of people here, doing so would require driving long distances to an area with a big enough market, which is itself unsustainable.
What’s your favorite thing about your town or home?
My favorite thing about this place is the land and how well it seems to suit me.