- A year ago, I moved from the city to the suburbs – like many other millennials.
- After seven years in New York City, I now live in a town in Nassau County, Long Island, which is about 40 minutes from Manhattan.
- There’s closer proximity to nature, more space, more quiet, and far fewer people – and all of these things have helped reduce my stress levels and improve my sleep.
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It turns out I’m a typical millennial: Like many other people of my generation, after a decade of living in cities, I’ve moved to the suburbs.
The ‘burbs often find themselves as the butt of the joke and, a few years ago, I was probably the one making them. But after living in London for two years and New York City for seven, I moved to Nassau County on Long Island – about 40 minutes from Manhattan – and I can’t help but feel I’ve had the last laugh.
A year later, and I’m a proud advocate of living in the suburbs: I sleep better, spend less (on some things!), and live a healthier lifestyle – while enjoying more space and colliding with fewer people. There’s no going back.
Here are 12 reasons why I love life in the suburbs.
There’s a lot more space.
I swapped a one-bedroom, 800-square-foot apartment – with a shower in the kitchen – for a 2,000-square-foot house with a small front and backyard. Any apprehension I’d had about leaving my neighbourhood in Brooklyn was quickly forgotten as I walked around all this extra space.
My experience reflects the norm. In New York City last year, homes for sale had an estimated median of 884 square feet, but in Nassau County, the median was 1,594 square feet – a 710-square-foot difference – according to data provided to Business Insider by Realtor.com.
And this isn’t a NYC phenomenon: Living in suburbs across the country grants you, on average, an additional 494 square feet of living space compared to living in one of the 100 largest cities in the US, according to Realtor.com.
The price per square foot is better in the suburbs, too. Near my old Brooklyn neighbourhood, $US500,000 gets a 675-square-foot apartment while out in Nassau County, that money gets a 3-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot family home. The same is true across the country.
Not everyone needs or wants a bigger home, but for me, having a larger, lighter living space has made me feel less cramped and contributed to my overall well-being.
Nature is right outside my front door.
There’s no denying that city dwellers walk a lot more than the average suburbanite – 87% of New York City residents live in “walkable neighbourhoods” compared with just 11% of Long Island residents – but now, my walks or bike rides take place at parks, forests, and beaches, rather than on subway platforms and crowded streets. I couldn’t feel further from city life.
Being surrounded by nature has left me feeling less stressed out.
A wealth of studies has shown contact with nature is linked to psychological well-being and has positive impact on memory, attention, imagination, and a feeling of purpose, among other things. One 2019 study found that people who spend at least two hours in nature each week “are significantly more likely to report good health and higher psychological well-being” than those who do not.
I’ve felt this, too. There’s been huge shift in my stress levels since moving to a quieter, less congested place with better access to nature. I still commute to Manhattan every day so this close proximity to nature at home means I feel more rested once the workday starts again.
It’s better for my dog, too.
Whereas my dog, Georgia, used to make do with walks around the block, now she gets to run through the woods, sniff neighbours’ lawns, and snooze in our backyard. According to vets, the move to the suburbs has been good for her health, too.
“With all the extra space, dogs are less likely to be overweight,” Dr. Sara Ochoa, a veterinary consultant for doglab.com, said. “They are also less likely to be bored. Many dogs that are bored will become destructive.”
Extra space can also help keep pets’ behavioural issues in check. “Dogs who live in the suburbs or country tend to be less stressed. This will help with many behavioural problems,” she said.
The supermarkets in the suburbs are bigger and better.
Grocery shopping is no longer the frenzied, stressful experience it was in the city.
In Brooklyn, I’d contort myself to fit in poky aisles, squeeze past other angry shoppers … and find the store didn’t have what I wanted anyway. I’d attempt to leave the way I came in, only to find myself at a dead end of bean cans and boxes of macaroni cheese.
Since moving to the suburbs, I’ve started a love affair with a Long Island supermarket chain, King Kullen, which is spacious, intuitively organised, and never short of what I’m looking for.
But even stores that had locations in the city are better in the suburbs. Going to Trader Joe’s, which I avoided at all costs in New York City because of how the lines would curl around the block, is now an enjoyable experience.
… and I spend less on groceries.
While I’ve found myself spending more money on some things, such as transportation, I spend less on others, such as groceries. In the city, I used to make regular trips for whatever I could carry, but in the suburbs I go to the supermarket once a week and buy in bulk – because I can stock up and put the groceries in the trunk of my car – so it’s more cost effective for me.
Despite what you may think, there’s plenty of culture in the suburbs, and amenities are only getting better.
You don’t need to travel to the city for a good day out or a meal. We’re not short of cultural sites on Long Island, including sprawling Vanderbilt mansions, the Cradle of Aviation Museum, and castles. My town’s walkable centre is also packed with restaurants, late-night snack spots, and even a speakeasy.
As more people of my generation move out of cities, I can only expect more restaurants, retail businesses, and amenities will crop up in the suburbs as well.
My daily commute to the city is all “me” time.
When I lived in New York City, my commute involved two congested, uncomfortable subway rides, usually spent under a stranger’s armpit.
Now, my commute involves a quiet 40-minute train journey, which I mostly spend reading. It means I spend more than an hour reading every day, which has made me feel much more relaxed. It’s no wonder: One study found reading can reduce stress levels by 68%.
Everywhere is less crowded out here.
As well as trains being less crowded, other places I visit are far less busy than their equivalents in the city. There are rarely lines so getting a table at a restaurant or entry to a tourist destination is a far less frustrating experience than it was in the city.
Simply put, there are fewer people out in the suburbs. New York City, one of the least sprawling metropolitan areas, has a population density of more than 27,000 people per square mile, while Nassau County has 4,700 people per square mile, according to census data.
This is typical of other city vs. suburban environments, like Chicago, where the population density is 11,840 people per square mile compared to Naperville’s 3,660 people.
It’s not just the town that’s quieter — being at home is far more peaceful, too.
There are no garbage trucks reversing right outside my window or parties returning home after a raucous night out. It’s quiet. Really quiet. Which is quite the change from the city, where “folk are lullabied to sleep by the sound of sirens.“
And it doesn’t smell.
That famous New York City hot trash stench has been replaced with the sweet smell of freshly cut grass.
All this — and it’s far more convenient than you’d think.
No, it doesn’t take me hours to get home. Yes, I can get pizza at 2 a.m. if I want – and I don’t have to join a huge line to get it.
The suburbs might not be for everyone, but for me, there’s no looking back.
All this means I feel calmer, healthier, better rested – and I’m not rushing to move back to the city anytime soon.