Which Road to Follow?

We all have a path to follow. 

Is your path calm and serene?  Or is it stuck in a traffic jam with a hurricane approach?

ft myers news-press

Evacuation from Irma in Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers News-Press image).

Merri and I lived in Naples for over 20 years.  Our house was less than a minutes walk to the beach (9 inches above sea level) so we know what it’s like to evacuate and wonder… “Will there be a home on our return”?

Today we are concerned about our children and grandchildren who are sitting in the storm, but there is a certain comfort knowing we are safe here in the mountains, able to help evacuees and in a position to help rebuild after any losses.

This message had been posted before Irma arose.

The timing could not be better because… sometimes we cannot avoid hurricanes and disasters in our lives.

The consequences of storms, earthquakes and disasters are some times hard to avoid.  This will create stress but there are ways to make sure that such tension does not become a habit.


The road to our North Carolina Farm.

Should life cause unrelenting stress?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, one in five adults in the U.S. has a mental-health condition.

Take for example, the case of Madalyn Parker, a 26 years old web designer who has been living with depression and anxiety.  When she had panic attacks during business meetings she excused herself just long enough to go to the bathroom, take a Xanax and return to the gathering.

Really… do we have to take Xanex breaks just to get by?

There are better ways to spend our days.


Avoiding stress is one reason to live in Smalltown USA.  I know.  Here is the entrance to our house.

The story of  Madalyn Parker comes from a Wall Street Journal article, “Some Companies Want You to Take a Mental-Health Day” (1).

Big business knows how bad they are to their employees. Some are trying to help.

According to the article: Ernst & Young, has an initiative called “r u ok?” that encourages workers to check in with each other and offer support to those who might be struggling.

Boston software company HubSpot Inc. has taken a different tack. It offers its roughly 1,800 employees flexible hours and unlimited vacations so they can take time off without feeling forced to explain why, says Katie Burke, the company’s chief people officer.

Give me a break!

Business are so bad to their employees that they are now forced to provide staff with mental health breaks?

No wonder there is an opioid crisis.

I come across so many examples… of how big business treats its staff inhumanely.  I was recently talking to the employee of a large automaker.  He started with the firm right out of college.  After 40 years of work he feels like he has a target on his back, because of his age.  The company can plug in a younger employee at half the wage.

An employee of a big environmental firm told me, “You always feel like you are standing on a trap door.”

One friend who is high up in a huge chemical concern said that he tells all new employees, “Plan to be here three years. Build your CV and then move on”.

What happened to loyalty?

Companies chew up employees.  They discard  people the second they find a cheaper deal.  Employees watch their back instead of having the company’s back.

In-depth research by the Rand Corp., UCLA and Harvard Medical School found that nearly one in five workers face a hostile or threatening environment at work including bullying and sexual harassment.  The study called the percentage of workers who found the workplace grueling and stressful, “disturbingly high”.

No wonder the Dilbert comic strip has had such success online and in 2,000 newspapers.

These problems go beyond the job.  

Work may be a rat race.  Getting to that stress and back can cause as much stress as the work.

Merri and I figured this out long ago and started living in small towns.  After living in a couple of the most crowded cities in the world- Hong Kong and London, we used technology to help us move to Smalltown USA.


Road leading to my Hong Kong home.  “Bye Bye island’, I said.


Road leading to our London house.  “Sorry old chaps, we are outta there”.

First, we made Naples, Florida our base…  when it was a small town, but as it grew we left for North Carolina.


Highway to our Naples, Florida house.


Road leading to our North Carolina home.

Advances in broadband and cell phones allowed us to make this move.  Our fiber optics connection here is better than in most cities.

We spent winters in uncrowded villages in Ecuador.

Finally, we traded Ecuador for Mount Dora in Central Florida and can have just about anything that urban city dwellers have even though we live in secluded nature.


X marks the rooftop of our Florida home.

Our website and messages are about how we live, what we do and how you can benefit from our experience.  We live where our environments reduce rather than add to stress.

You can live without the traffic, the hectic pace, filthy air and the noise.

City living simply can change you… for the worse.

A Times article “Stressed in the City: How Urban Life May Change Your Brain” explains.

The article says: City dwellers tend to be more stressed and have higher levels of mood disorders and psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia than those living in rural or suburban areas. And now researchers say they have uncovered certain changes in brain activity that could potentially help explain why.

In an international study, researchers at University of Heidelberg and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute at McGill University report in the journal Nature that people who live or were raised in cities show distinct differences in activity in certain brain regions than those who aren’t city dwellers.

Those who currently live in the city, for example, showed higher activation the amygdala, the brain region that regulates emotions such as anxiety and fear.  The amygdala is most often called into action under situations of stress or threat, and the data suggests that city dwellers’ brains have a more sensitive, hair-trigger response to such situations, at least when compared with those living in the suburbs or more rural areas.

A huge trend is snowballing, fueled by technology and by simple economics.

Big business knows that stress is costing them big time.  Policies to reduce stress in the world, don’t just reflect employer benevolence.  A 2015 study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that major depressive disorders alone cost companies $78 billion in lost productivity in one single year.

Businesses know that costs go up and profits go down if employees don’t show up to work because they struggle with depression, anxiety and stress.

Improved roads and especially great advances in rural broadband make it possible for businesses to develop work forces outside stress-filled cities.

The public is catching on as well.

One reader outlined the shift when he wrote me this note (before Irma).

Gary, I thought your letter, “How to Rise From the Fall” was spot on.  In it you mention the move toward Small Town America. I have written you in the past explaining my view that there will be a migration from coastal areas toward higher ground in the not too distant future, in particular out of South Florida.

We were in a small community a couple of weeks ago in preparation for our move there this coming November and spoke to a number of furniture sales/design consultants. They are all telling me that the migration out of South Florida has now begun in earnest. But rather than moving because of rising water levels the migration is due to congestion and crime. People want out of the jungle that South Florida has become. They are looking for just what you describe, a more peaceful life in a smaller community.  Keep up the good work, you remain ahead of the trend.

That’s what we need… a trend we can grab onto that provides opportunity and reduces stress.

Look for areas of opportunity as the maddened crowd and businesses move out of big cities into Smalltown USA.

Look for ways to gain the Smalltown benefits yourself.   Have a slower pace, eliminate traffic.  Breathe fresher air.  Drink purer water.

Live better, earn more, spend less.  That’s the essence of being a Pruppie.  See how to make your life better, in this way, below.


(1) www.wsj.com/articles/why-some-companies-want-you-to-take-a-mental-health-day-1502789400?mod=itp&mod=djemITP_h

(2)  healthland.time.com/2011/06/22/stressed-in-the-city-how-urban-life-may-change-your-brain/

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