RU Home for the Summer: Rural Retreat, Va.

Where I come from, I get a newspaper twice a week — and I always know at least one person in the newspaper. I run into at least one person I know whenever I leave the house. I can always see a bunch of people wearing boots and sitting in trucks while they hang out in the Walmart parking lot. I had less than 100 people in my graduating class, but always plenty of gossip. 

I live in Rural Retreat, Va. If you haven’t heard of it, I’m not really surprised. It’s a little town in good old southwest Virginia. I’m originally from Ohio, but I’ve also lived in Staunton, Va. and South Carolina — so I don’t have very strong ties to Rural Retreat.

Living in a small town has its perks and its downfalls. Boredom is a constant struggle. When I moved here in high school, one of the first things that people told me was that the Walmart parking lot was a popular hangout spot. I thought they were joking.

They weren’t.

To make things worse, Walmart (and anything else you might want to do, other than camp or fish on the lake) is about 15 minutes away from Rural Retreat. There’s nothing actually in town except a McDonald’s, Subway, Food Country, a couple of gas stations and a few small businesses.

Wytheville is normally where I shop or hang out with friends. What exciting things do we do? Usually, there’s a trip to Sonic to get some mozzarella sticks or half-priced slushies. We might get an ice cream cone from King’s, a little produce store. Other times, we catch the latest flick at the movie theater.

The shopping options aren’t that great, so we usually drive to Christiansburg for the mall (another hour away from Wytheville).

A few weekends ago, my friends and I mixed things up a bit and went to Marion, Va. instead (which is about 20 minutes from Rural Retreat and 40 minutes from Wytheville). We spent the day at Hungry Mother Lake, and then we finished out the trip by going to a drive-in movie.

You might be able to tell that I’m not the biggest fan of living in a small town; however, there are some things that I’ll admit that I like. It’s nice to have a close-knit group of friends. Traffic is not an issue,

My view. Photo by Monica McAfee.

and people around here are pretty relaxed. They tend to appreciate the little things in life — like eating ice cream with friends or sitting on the front porch during a storm. Doors don’t have to be locked. If I go outside at night, I can look up at the stars.

I live near a cemetery, and (as morbid as it sounds) I like to wander around there on occasion. It’s surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. At sunset, it’s gorgeous. There are plenty of places to think.

There is also a strong sense of community here. People are there for each other — they aren’t just rushing around, only concerned for themselves. While I may move away to a bigger place someday, I will always appreciate knowing what it’s like to live in such a small place, where people take time for one another.