What It’s *Really* Like to Move to The Mountains Full-Time

Plus some advice and personal stories!
Curious About What It's Really Like to Move To the Mountains?? Here's My Experience + Advice about moving to the country, middle of nowhere in a cabin fixer upper

I’ve held off on writing this post for so long, but now that we’re mostly through our second winter here in the North Cascades I felt like it was time! I’m asked so often what it’s like to move to the mountains and, trust me, I HAVE OPINIONS. Some days feel like they are the hardest experiences I’ve ever gone through and some are so damn gorgeous that everything melts away. So if you’ve ever been curious about what it’s really like to move to the middle of nowhere, this post is for you.

Curious About What It’s Really Like to Move To the Mountains?? Here’s My Experience + Advice

Outages are a fact of life, but preparation helps immensely

If there is one theme you’ll see in this post and on my Instagram, it’s that preparation is the most important of life out here — especially in regards to power outages from storms. At this point, I totally expect for the electricity to go out at least once a month. And because of that, we’ve taken measures to be prepared. In fact, we could most likely sustain being without electricity for a week, more if we needed to. It isn’t fun, but it’s part of moving to the country.

BTW if you want to know more about our emergency kit, I wrote an entire blog post dedicated to it. There is SO much info in that post + links to what we swear by.

Embrace your inner doomsday prepper

And on the topic of preparation… I joke about being a prepper, but that’s really just a big part of living in the mountains. At any given time, we need to have things on hand. That includes food, drinking water, medications

Here are my general rules of thumb for what I keep on hand:

  • Pantry: we keep this stocked and could most likely live out of our pantry for 2-3 months including 3 meals a day (there are no restaurants).
  • Treats and things to satisfy your cravings: Here’s the thing about living in a remote area, you can’t always pop into the shop for ice cream and a pack of Skittles. So instead, I make sure to keep some of our favorite guilty pleasures stocked.
  • Water: we stock potable water for drinking and cooking, but also water for flushing toilets, giving water to our animals, and for cleaning our bodies in a pinch
  • Medications: I’ve built a mini pharmacy including an epic first aid kit, medicines for colds and allergies, plus I always make sure to keep a 3 month stock of any medications we take on a regular basis.
  • Fuel: We keep all of our cars topped off any time we come back from running errands. We also keep extra fuel for the generator on hand at all times (research additives to help extend the life of the fuel).

Trash removal is difficult

If you want to be made painfully aware of how much garbage and recycling you generate, move to the mountains. There is actually trash pick up service offered out here, but it is extremely expensive and sporadic depending the weather conditions. So instead, we have a LOT of trash cans and sort items accordingly… and then take it to a transfer station that’s about 30 minutes away.

This means that at any given time, we are storing a month’s worth of trash… and I’m sure you can imagine what that’s like in the summer. It isn’t great, but it’s something we’re learning to cope with while living out here.

Find a balance between getting to know your neighbors and keeping to yourself

It might come as a surprise, but we do actually have neighbors. We don’t live in a neighborhood technically, but there are other homes on our road. We can actually see some of them from our property. I didn’t want to have neighbors at all, but this is the house we ultimately chose so I deal with it.

In our area, most people keep to themselves and are distrusting of newcomers. Even though we’ve been here over a year, we are still very new to the area and are treated as such. So we don’t try to force our presence on others out here.

That being said, we do get involved where we can. A good example of that was when we worked with Walmart to help people rebuild after the floods last November. We worked with a local organizer to select items that would be of the most help and they helped to distribute them so we wouldn’t be too intrusive.

In general, we keep to ourselves. We didn’t go around introducing ourselves when we moved here (mostly because I’m afraid to walk onto anyone’s property with a ‘no trespassing sign’) and have only recently started waving to people as they drive past (with mixed responses). One day, I hope for a bit more of a community, but that’s not why we moved out here so it isn’t a big priority.

Emotionally prepare yourself to spend a lot more time on Facebook

Most rural communities like ours have extremely active Facebook groups, which I was totally in shock about when we moved here! I’m not exactly a big Facebook user, so this was an adjustment for me. Now that I know, I use the local groups to keep up with news, events, and even what will be at the farmers market that week. It’s become an invaluable source of information!


When I asked people what they wanted me to cover in this post, one of the topics that came up constantly is safety. I’m definitely not an expert and this all depends on your own, personal comfort level, but here are things that work for me:

  1. Apple Watch: I wear mine every day so that I can initiate a rescue if I need to, can monitor my oxygen levels in case I experience another pneumothorax, so my location is tracked, and so that it can make a call in case I fall and am unresponsive.
  2. Dogs: our dogs bark at every little thing. They are the first to tell me when something is going on outside.
  3. Garmin InReach mini GPS: if we don’t have phone service and something is really, really bad, we can use our beacon to initiate a rescue.
  4. Alarm system and cameras: nothing happens around our house or property without me knowing about it (or I’d like to think so!)

I’m sure there is more that I could be doing. One day we want to install a gate at the end of our driveway so that we can monitor/control who comes in and out, but that’s a future project.

Something will always go wrong

And lastly, here’s the thing about moving to the middle of nowhere: something will always test you. Either it’s the power going out, the pipes freezing, or something else entirely. We’ve had our fair share of calamities. But at the end of the day, we have sort of accepted that it comes with the territory. And not just the territory of owning a home, but of being in the middle of nowhere and being way more self-sufficient than ever before.

It’s been especially hard for me to not mentally beat myself up for feeling unprepared when a situation occurs. I pride myself on being a planner and I love knowing that I’m prepared… but this has proven to me that I can’t always plan. Sometimes I just need to ride the wave of our latest adventure and prepare for next time. I’m still very much working on this!

Curious About What It's Really Like to Move To the Mountains?? Here's My Experience + Advice about moving to the country, middle of nowhere in a cabin fixer upper

Honestly, I could write SO MUCH MORE about what our experience has been like since we moved into our cabin… I hope you found this info helpful in case you’re considering a similar move. I know it isn’t for everyone! If you have any additional specific questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer.

Photography by Jojotastic.

Behind The Blog

Joanna Hawley-McBride is a Pacific Northwest-based social media strategist, content creator, and former textile designer. Joanna is the founder and editor-in-chief of Jojotastic, a lifestyle blog focused on Joanna’s work-in-progress cabin, finding the best pair of underwear through #UnderwearThesis, and empowering women to explore nature — all in her signature unfiltered style. Her work has been featured in Domino, CNBC, and Eating Well.

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