Life in a small town: 'I have never been happier with less'

Monika Elias has no regrets about leaving city life behind.

Monika Elias has no regrets about leaving city life behind.

Published Oct 27, 2023


Carola Koblitz, a freelance writer, gave up her Cape Town city life in 2018 after promising herself – and her former employers – that she would move to the country to work remotely by the time she turned 60.

When this milestone arrived she sold her 14th floor 72m² city apartment and bought a new home in Napier, a village at the foot of the Soetmuisberg, between Caledon and Bredasdorp, in the Overberg region.

Almost three years later and Koblitz has “absolutely no regrets”, although she acknowledges that life in a small town comes with its own “special quirks”.

“This is because everyone knows everyone else’s business and you need to tread very carefully as a ‘newbie’. But as far as missing the ‘big smoke’ goes, I can still do the occasional excursion to Cape Town for business and get my mall fix if I need it.”

However, she is needing it less and less.

“What I have learned to do is cook a lot more (and better) than I ever did before, and I get a lot of joy out of shopping for fresh produce, meat from local butcheries and other things from farm outlets. Plus, my friends from Cape Town love to visit, when lockdown allows.”

While Koblitz still works the same long hours, her retired friends in Napier talk about life being gentler in the country town. They also feel much safer than they did in their former homes in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Pretoria.

Debbie Atkinson, who has just sold her childhood home in Durban – the property in which she raised her family – has been hunting for property in the Southern Drakensberg area. She wants a place with a small stream running through it, after a lifelong dream to live in the countryside.

“I have always loved the mountains and the countryside. I just love being there. I find it refreshing and relaxing. Throughout my life I have visited all regions of the Drakensberg, and the Southern Drakensberg has always drawn me. To me it is almost wild. I just love the space and relative isolation it offers.”

The week after accepting an offer-to-purchase on her home she viewed homes and land in the Himeville and Underberg areas and noted that some of the properties lined up for her to view were sold before she could see them. This, agents say, confirms the demand for property in these areas and the dearth of stock available in some price brackets. Nonetheless, she found a property she loves – with a dam at the bottom, and her offer to buy it was accepted.

“I just love the house. It is unique and exactly what I was looking for,” she says.

For Capetonian Monika Elias, a six-month sabbatical in Redelinghuys, on the Cape West Coast, in 2019 made her consider moving there permanently.

“When I went back to the city I felt things were bit off but life carried on, and then Covid hit. After the first three months I was done with the city and headed back to Redelinghuys where I stayed with a friend.”

Two months later she decided to make the town her home, although admits that there was a “big adjustment” . It was different staying there as a visitor to becoming a resident of a town where the nearest Pick n Pay is 100km away.

“There are no shops here,” she says.

Also her sabbatical had been in winter, while living there in summer – with the heat, insects and bats – was difficult.

“Being a single middle-aged woman working remotely, is also challenging in a very small, very Afrikaans town.”

However, Elias has since found “her tribe”.

“I have zero regrets even though it has been challenging. It’s taught me to be present and live in the moment – I say yes a lot more. I live connected to nature. There are no distractions and I am learning new things about myself every day.

“There no coffee shops, gyms, or retail therapy. It’s just you and your daily choices. I have never been happier with less...”

Her days are also “full and balanced”, and she does not feel as much stress and anxiety as she did in the city.

“Busy has taken on a whole new meaning.”

* This article was originally published in 2021

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