The dynamics of the cities and how week, after week, people keep populating them searching for a better life is a popular topic. But what about the opposite? City Quitters: where people go after the city? How is their life once they abandoned the concrete jungle?
Karen Rosenkranz is an ethnographer and trend researcher who investigated to understand what it means to leave the city behind. We reached out and asked her some questions about her latest research, turned into a book “City Quitters, Creative Pioneers Pursuing Post-Urban Life, ” published by FRAME.
Eclectic Trends: Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Karen: I’m a trend forecaster, ethnographer, and author based in London. My background is in product design, but I’ve always been more interested in the research stage of the creative process, so it was a natural progression to move into the fields I’m working in now. I grew up in Frankfurt, but my parents are from rural Austria. I’ve lived in cities all my life – mainly Amsterdam, New York, and now London – but I always had a strong connection to my Austrian roots. This ambivalence towards rural life has also fuelled the origin of my book ‘City Quitters.’
Photography: Courtesy of Claudia Rocha
ET: How did you come across the idea of investigating who the city quitters are? Also, tell us a bit about the research as a whole.
Karen: A couple of years ago, some friends of mine working in the creative industry started to move to rural areas. It struck me as a new idea that people were moving to protect their work rather than purely for lifestyle reasons such as bringing up their kids near nature, for example. I was curious about how this new environment might impact people’s creative output.
I saw an opportunity to portray life in the countryside in a way that isn’t tinged with nostalgia or an idealized concept of nature. My goal was to show alternative visions of rural life that combine the traditional and innovative in fresh ways.
The idea started in my immediate network, but then I realized that it’s happening in many places around the world. I ended up with 22 stories of people from 12 different countries and spread across five continents.
ET: A lot is said about the number of people that weekly moved from the countryside to the city, yet not enough about the contrary. Which were the first signals that made you understand that there was a counter-trend there?
Karen: On top of causing financial anxiety, big cities have become overstimulating and distracting, leaving little time and space for reflection. They are also plagued by a certain ‘city sameness,’ a global homogenous aesthetic fuelled by social media.
I feel there is a lack of experimentation. I realized that people are ditching urban constraints in search of greater freedom, looking for alternative ways of living.
Photography: Courtesy of Gartnerfuglen and Mariana de Delás
ET: As an ethnographer, what is the most surprising discovery you made while interviewing city quitters?
Karen: Urban and rural life is not so different on a day to day basis. The perceived dichotomy between the city and the countryside doesn’t really exist. The two worlds are more interwoven than we might think.
ET: Can you tell me three main reasons why people leave the city?
Karen: Financial pressure, stress, and symptoms of overworking, and a longing to reconnect with nature and its cycles.
ET: And what difficulties did they encounter, they might have underestimated initially?
Karen: It depends on people’s character and particular living situation. Maintaining a regular income can be challenging at first or finding your feet socially. Often people face very practical problems such as being without electricity or the internet for days, or animals breaking a garden fence or things like that.
In the city, we are used to getting help immediately, but in rural areas, you have to get used to a different pace.
ET: What do they appreciate the most that they could not imagine before?
Karen: Most people realize that they miss the city a lot less then they thought they would. Everybody appreciates meeting people from different walks of life. In the city, we often surround ourselves with very like-minded people, and it’s refreshing to step out of that.
ET: Under a more personal tone, are you a city quitter? If not, has this research prompt to put this topic on the table?
Karen: I’m very much a city person. I love the vibrancy of London and also the anonymity. For us, as a family, London is still a great place to live, but I also feel myself craving nature and wild places more and more. Also, the idea of organizing your life more community-oriented feels very appealing to me.
What I’ve learned from the book is that you have to have a good reason why you’re leaving the city or moving somewhere else. I guess we’re still figuring out what the purpose of a move would be, and whether this would be permanent or a more flexible set-up.
Photography of all images of not stated otherwise: Courtesy of FRAME
Does this research resonate with you?
It does show that our society is in a quest for balance, that there is the need to find a more accommodating pace. City quitters have found out that a calmer pace and a connection with nature enable a deeper relationship with themselves, enhancing creativity. It is applying the “Marie Kondo method” but to all the aspects of your life, not only to our homes. If you are interested in further investigating how interior design is interpreting the need for a more mindful lifestyle, you can take a look at our last trend report, Ceremony 2020/21.
HOW TO PARTICIPATE IN THE GIVEAWAY?
Please leave a comment below if you’d like to win one City Quitters book.
We are giving away two copies.
You can join the draw until this Sunday (March 01), 8 pm (GMT+1).
We are selecting two winners via an impartial and random procedure.
The lucky winners are contacted on Monday (March 02) via email.
Best of luck to everyone!
Update: The giveaway is now closed and we have notified the two lucky winners. Thank you all for participating!
Looks like a beautiful and inspiring book – would love a copy to read as we pack to move and make a home in the moroccan countryside
The book looks great! I would love to have it. I need a lot of inspiration right now like this. Success to me and !
What you say is true: “A lot is said about the number of people that weekly moved from the countryside to the city, yet not enough about the contrary.” I would add about what motivates them, and how they find a new community having a mentality that is, oftentimes, different and more open-minded.
Being based in Northeast Italy, and in the countryside (if you can call Pianura Padana, the countryside), I find this fascinating. I lived in cities for many years, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Moscow, and I love the energy of cities. At the same time, I’d say that I’ve been able to feel grounded and truly creative once I’ve been away from the hectic urban life. The best would be to find a balance between urban and rural.
I’d love to have a copy of this book to learn the stories of all these fellow city quitters. Thank you for the opportunity!
I hear you!
Everybody needs a bit of quiet inspiration. I would love the copy to share the inspiration.
What a gorgeous giveaway. I work in workplace design, which is also a creative field, and bringing nature in and trying to find ways to access nature for more inspiration in our lives and work is a hot topic and something we talk about a lot. Thank you for sharing.
Would love to hear more about your work:)
Being in the process of finding a new home, I would really like this kind of inspiration at the moment! Looks like a very inspiring book.
It would be amazing to deep dive into these inspirational stories!
Since becoming a dog owner my desire to be more in nature has grown immensely. I would love to win this book Might also pick it up for a couple of people I know feel the same.
Looks like the most inspirational book Gudy! And I’m so with you. Being outside a big city make me enjoy the simple pleasures in life plus being surrounded by nature gives you that ahhhh feeling nothing else can give you.
It took me a while to see that for myself, Mette, but you are so right! xx
I’ve been struggeling for quite a while now whether to leave the city or not and if moving out, how far.
Maybe this book would help coming to an conclusion :)
Thanks for the input and the lovely give away!
I decided that a max ride of 45min towards the city would be my goal. I take the train, it makes it easier except for the night time, then I would drive myself. I’ve been wanting to leave for 3 years really badly, and the end this house showed up, I had no wish to move to the Northern area, but here we are:) xx
I’m an artist born in countryside, center Portugal. I’ve lived for a long time around the world, cities, but I returned to my little village of 100 people, located inside an eco park. I just love it! The silence and the nature truly inspire me. I go to the city all weeks but I need this peace.
I would love to win the book most because I would like to know more about the people around the world that made this sane decision. Hope I’m on a good luck these days! :) PS: I love your work! Truly inspires me! Thank you!
I am thinking to quit. So this is a good chance.
I’m dreaming of being a city quitter myself. I would love to win this book.
Dear Gudy, it was a pleasure to listen to your talk on IMM Cologne, thanks again for the invitation!
We are almost to buy a piece of land in the periphery of Berlin. Yet it’s just a piece of land but I have a vision of an open house for family, friends, and guests. I would love to have a closer look at this inspiring book.
Would love to win a copy! This book looks truly inspiring ❤️
It seems as if biophilia in the office environment isn’t enough to sustain the soul. We humans have an intrinsic need for a connection to nature, which is only really met by relocating away from frenetic city life and reconnecting to the land.
Perfect timing ! I am actually living between Paris and my country heaven ; and I am thinking more and more of living full time in the countryside and visiting Paris only for meetings… Am I gonna be a city quitter ? I would love to get a copy and discover the book and its testimonies… #inspiring
I’m really curious to see how these people are visually shaping their worlds. The photography is really beautiful, I’d love to see more. Also wonder how they manage their lives financially, indeed the pressure living in the conventional city systems is high.. How do they make work? I wonder.. Very interesting and inspiring!
I can only talk from my experience: you still work with all your clients but the pressure is lower since your natural environment gives you energy. It takes me 40min to get to the city, and I am at least once a week in Barcelona for appointments and meetings. It feels nice to visit, stay connected and even nicer to leave again to go back home:) Talking finances: I spend much less here than in the city. You don’t have the urge to want this or that all the time :)
What an inspirational book! I’ve recently moved to a smaller town but still close to the big city and we already think of moving further away in the future. I feel the closer you get to nature the better you feel even for city lovers like me! I’d love to read all the stories of this book!
Oh, Gudy this looks like an ideal book for me now. As a city quitter, I don’t miss at all living in the center of Barcelona. And more I’m outside a city, the more I love the outer and inner space I gain with the decision.
Thanks for the giveaway.
So interesting! I have always lived in a City, now is a small one but like a medieval town with not so much nature around…I used to live in a place without neighbours in 2 km but close to a town (like half and hour driving) and I love it! I guess nowadays is jobs that can be more complicated to embrace this kind of life. And health emergencies. I would always choose nature if I could. The book has to be amazing and of course decoration trends according to your surroundings are a must! I,m a biologist…so…Nature is my moto
I would love to win this!!
Our family of 5 is hoping to move from the city to a small maritime town or countryside. Im curious to read everyone’s perspective and see if it was the right move, what’s changed and what they miss.
we moved 3 Years ago and now live in a former little curch in a little 300 souls village. A true journey, I would love to learn to know about others and their reasons.
Greetings from Martina, Thuringia, Germany (former Berlin,Frankfurt)
Very curious to learn more about this shift.
Congratulations to all city quitters for being bold and brave! I still need this idea to mature inside of me. Best of luck in the countryside Gudy!
I would love to win a copy of the book.
I would love to get a copy and read through it! Always thinking about leaving the city because I can’t handle looking out of the window and just seeing houses… but also a bit scared that I will miss the vibrant energy there…but what is more beautiful than seeing mountains water and trees?
This statement resonated with me from an interior ‘furnishings’ standpoint .. ‘They are also plagued by a certain ‘city sameness,’ a global homogenous aesthetic fueled by social media.’ .. Fascinating subject, I have lived in cities (here and abroad) and in the country .. I grew up very rural so prefer rural to urban, but am only an hour away from the metro, so it is a nice balance.
First spotted this book in Australia, would love the chance to have my own copy.
I would love to win a copy =) i´m planning to move out of the city
Wow! I love your blog and the inspiring work I read about every week. Such a great opportunity, I’d love to get my hands on a copy!
I am about to be a City Quitter too. My house goes up for sale in March and I am off to live a much quieter life.
This book sounds divine.
I left the city of Frankfurt and my job as a banker. Now I‘m at the countryside of England learning to design and make fine furniture. As said in the interview, I miss the city a lot less than I had thought. Instead it liberated me from conforming with the mainstream of the business minded city. I‘m still about to figure out what‘s the right place for me, but definitely I see the benefits of connecting more with nature by living closer to it…
Hey, this is so interesting, a few days ago I had a conversation about the possibility of leaving town and going to the countryside with my boyfriend. I would love to get this book to give it to him :)
We were asked at work what could be done to promote wellness – all I could think of was “a soft space, a quiet space”. People are inextricably linked with their environment, so what happens to you when your environment is all hard surfaces & noise? Totally planning the move and agonizing over the 2 years we think it is going to take – trying to re-enervate my self sufficiency, the city encourages dependency. I would love to read this book.
I really want to win this book! I would love to live closer to nature in the countryside ( or beachside, away from a lot of people :)
This is a great book and I’d love to have it since I’m in the process of making the decision to go rural too.
I would love the copy to share the inspiration!
This topic really resonates with me! I’ve been visiting Barcelona a couple of times before, the last time when participating in your masterclass a couple of years ago. It was the first time I realized that the city felt really different and the vibe had changed a lot. Same with other big cities I visit on a regular basis. I had times where I whished I lived the big city life but now I am really grateful for my place – surronded by the alps, a ten min bike ride to the lake and the woods just a few steps away from our house.
What a conforting reading! I’m a city quitter myself but I struggled with the sense of failure for not being able to sustain the costs of living in the city I loved. Now I see mine is quite a common solution to this financial situation. Thanks.
I find the idea of quitting city life more and more appealing for many reasons.
Being close to nature helps balancing out the stress of everyday life.
Ah Gudy you are a generous soul. What a lovely giveaway, and thank you for sharing your own journey from city life to the country.
This book looks so beautiful. And the context is so relevant. Moved to the countryside 5 years ago. But spend 2 months in barcelona every year. Always so good to see your live from the outside. And to get inspiration when it comes to food and art. Would love to hear about other peoples thoughts and experiences with moving out!
I find it fascinating, how the balance between cities and rural areas changes. People I know who dared to take the step to move out of a city simply say they breathe differently, and cannot imagine to regret the decision. Myself I am quite urban, finding a city life an exciting pool of potentials. Which, however, very often stay potentials – having a good feeling to be able to go to the theatre every weekend, and not really doing it. As an artist with architecture roots I like the connection to the city substance. The decision to leave the comfort zone for a different character of space and community might still come, though. A friend of mine said, she had to move out of town, because she didn’t notice the difference between seasons there. I cannot agree with it, as cities are also becoming more and more “planted” and move away from the notion of a concrete desert. And the “slow” life can also be practised in a city. The book – if I were lucky to win it – would be a great birthday present, by the way! Cheers!
Hi! I would love to have a book like this!
After finding a 105 year old farmhouse on Bainbridge Island, WA, it only took me 6 weeks to move from urban Los Angeles. As a retired designer, artist, I find such solace in the oxygenating greenery. I can sit for hours in my studio watching the Douglas Fir trees dancing in the wind, listening to the geese flying overhead, or walking 5 minutes down to the bay with a jaw-dropping view of the spiritually uplifting beauty of snow-capped Mt. Ranier. Island living is sweet. As long as I have the internet, I can connect world-wide. And inspiration is taking a trip off-island, preferably out of the country. But, as America is being caught up in it’s “greatness”, I prefer to be insular on my beautiful island.
Leaving the city was never a problem, except for good street food, but I compensate by becoming a better cook and eating more nutritiously, with farm fresh food nearby. All in all, I have never regretted leaving the city!
Very inspiring! Than you for sharing:)
So interesting! As an advocate of Biophilic Design, I do believe in the benefits of being in contact with nature, and it’s interesting to see creatives are now seeking it! I feel our idea of quality of life will evolve quite a bit in the coming years (it has actually started already), and that’s taking an exciting direction! Beautiful interview and inspiring book! Thanks for sharing!
Two years ago me and my family leaved the center of Barcelona to a quiter village by the sea and 50 minuts from the city where I’ve to go for work meetings.
I would like yo win to book to ser how other people live and feel the change.
Inspiring for me. Thanks.