Inevitably, when I hook up with someone from any of my previous lives, they ask about life here in Floyd County. Even though I’m, for the most part, retired and money is not the issue it once was in our lives, the questions usually center around: “How do you make a living out there in the sticks?”

My flippant, but true, answer is: “Well, here you have to work twice as long to earn half as much. Fortunately, it only costs about a third as much to live here.”

After 23 years in Washington, where money is made and spent in large amounts, the economy of a small Blue Ridge Mountain community may seem like peanuts. As Oddfellas Cantina owner Rob Neukirch likes to say: “Open a business in Floyd. If you’re successful you’ll make hundreds.”

But it’s all a matter of perspective. In Floyd it costs $45 to get a seat in my Jeep Wrangler reupholstered. I remember spending $1,100 dollars to get a small tear repaired in the seat of a Porsche while living in Northern Virginia.

In Arlington we thought nothing of spending $200 on dinner. In Floyd (or Roanoke or Christiansburg) the fanciest of dinners seldom costs more than $50. The last pair of shoes I bought in Arlington cost $150. Amy bought a pair of Rockports for me from Angels in the Attic in Floyd a couple of weeks ago for $5.

Plumbing work that costs $1,000 or more up north costs $75-$100 here and the quality if usually better here.

We sold a 1,320-square foot, one-story condo in Arlington for three times what we paid for a 4,000-square foot, two-and-a-half story house on five acres of land here.

There’s no doubt that the cost of most things are grossly overvalued in Washington and other urban areas just as there’s little doubt that the cost of living here in the mountains is undervalued.

The real benefit, however, is the enormous return we get in quality of life. When I get up and take my morning walk I realize it cannot be valued.

It is priceless.