City or country: Which are you?

Times Square, February 2012.
Flickr user Shavar Ross

Many New Yorkers enjoy their weekend escapes outside the concrete jungle. I appreciate this the longer I live in Manhattan. A beach or a mountain house creates the balance needed to remain a city dweller over the long haul, and it eases stress. Some may split their time evenly between the New York apartment and the country home when schedules permit.
Why do people prefer the city to the country or vice versa? Perhaps it is the environment where we grow up, where we go to college, or the location of our first job that makes the decision for us. Or maybe just blame it on the parents. That’s a logical solution.
Personally, I have been citified since my pre-teenage years, or possibly earlier.  New York isn’t merely a place where I hang my hat; it’s also a big part of who I am.
I grew up in an urban environment in Pennsylvania, even though geographically it was not in the city. Being raised in a row house with neighbors on all a sides and limited privacy may have contributed to my life as it is now. I spent a good amount of time in my teens in New York and Philadelphia. Living in Philly twice, I knew it wasn’t my cup of tea. But when I landed in Manhattan for the first time, I said to myself, “Now this is a city!” I knew it was the one for me.
As a result of that early urban exposure, I feel more comfortable with many people around and I relax in tighter surroundings. I am like a fish out of water in the suburbs. But occasionally, I need a short break to recharge my city battery. Short means a couple of days, although I enjoy the beach for longer periods of time.
Recently, I took a trip to Copake, New York, for a weekend. I like peace and quiet, but this particular area was too rural for me. With the exception of the wind howling, the house creaking, and the wilderness happening outside my window, it was total silence. Homes were acres apart, and there was no waving to the neighbor, or walking down the lane for a cup of milk. I felt isolated, disconnected, and out of place, until I drove to town.
Copake is about 20 minutes outside of Great Barrington, which is a quaint old village in the Berkshires, just over the Massachusetts border. Great Barrington is a historic, country town with shops, restaurants, coffee houses and galleries. In certain ways it resembles parts of New York City, but it’s smaller, cleaner, and is without horn blowing and cursing. It offers all that a city slicker would need when taking a break from the hectic lifestyle of Manhattan, and it’s not as remote as other destinations.
I overheard a local who made a comment while looking at a car turning around in a village parking lot, “That person must be from New York. They don’t know how to drive.” The next comment was more interesting, “This country life isn’t really working for me. I need to get back to the city.”  Some who require a break from city life and its vibrancy will return eventually.
Although I enjoy leaving every now and then, I miss the energy and life that happens around the clock in Manhattan—the trashy, overcrowded, noisy madness of the place I call home.  While others find the city stressful and even dangerous, I feel safer with eight million New Yorkers than I do in a nature preserve. Call me crazy, because I might be. I like the country enough; it’s a great place to visit. I just wouldn’t want to live there.
Which do you prefer, the city or the country? Post a comment below and tell us.
For more, follow me on Twitter  or on Tracy’s New York Life.


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