Green Acres Is the Place for Many

March 4, 2007 — -- Chaotic and fast-paced, city life can wear you down and wear you out. From coast to coast, people are swapping their concrete jungles for greener pastures.

In what's been called the "Green Acres" effect, Americans are fleeing the cities for the country in record numbers. Eighteen of the 25 largest metropolises saw more people leave than move in, according to a Census Bureau report released in 2006.

From 2000 to 2004, the three largest American cities — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — lost the most residents. The New York metropolitan area saw an exodus of more than 210,000 residents in those years alone, with a significant portion likely attributable to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

One of the main reasons for the move is land. Real estate experts say the hunt is on, creating a boom in the rural real estate market.

"We are seeing rapid growth in the mid-Atlantic area, the Carolinas, Texas, and the Rocky Mountain area," said Dan Duffy of United Country Real Estate.

Another reason is simplicity.

"Many folks are finding that moving into rural America makes it easier to simplify your life," Wanda Urbanska, author of "Moving to a Small Town," told "Good Morning America."

Getting Back to Basics

Jonathan and Sharon Keener are part of the urban flight. The couple and their six children left the densely populated Northeast for a five-bedroom house on 21 acres of green pastures in Surry County, N.C.

"Before I was working so hard just to get ahead. I wasn't home enough. [We] came here and the cost of living is lower and there's more stuff we can do together," Jonathan Keener told "GMA."

Security was also a priority for the Keeners. They lived in a suburb of New York City during 9-11, and the experience left them looking for a place to raise their children without the fear of a terrorist threat.

"You start thinking about where can I put my kids that they are going to be safe… After 9-11 I was just looking for a place that I could settle and be safe," said Keener.

Not only do the Keeners feel safer in the country, they also feel a connection to their community that they've never had before.

The adjustment hasn't been without sacrifice. Jonathan gave up a six-figure salary as a salesman to move to North Carolina. The family now runs a coffee shop with some big city flavor.

But for the Keeners, trading more money for a better quality of life has been worth it.

"We want a slower pace. We want to just enjoy life and take care of our kids and be able to do our business and do our shop together," said Sharon.

The World's Still at Their Fingertips

One reason country living has become more viable for many urbanites is the ability to access the Internet from almost any front porch in the country. It allows people to be outside the big city but not be "out of it."

"Any part of the country is a viable place to live and do business, and many people are looking to small town and non-metropolitan America for its quality of life," said Urbanska.

It's a lifestyle that more and more Americans are finding enticing.

"We feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves. There are a lot of people trying to do this," said Keener.