Seeking Advice on Choosing a Retreat Location

Hi, MD. Thank you so much for your articles. They are quite informative. At this point, I’m trying to decide between buying land in the Cumberland Plateau towards Chattanooga or North Idaho near Sandpoint or Priest River. I’m currently in Nor Cal, but from the Midwest originally.

In a year or so, I’ll be finishing a Master’s in Oriental Medicine. Not only do I plan to homestead, but will be setting up a clinic, as well. The area would need to be open to alternative medicine and also have affordable land for being off grid. The crime, drugs and high unemployment in East TN does concern me. Also the violent storms the Plateau can get.

I read your blog re TN’s good, bad & the ugly, but based on my situation, do you have any further advice?

Thanks again for writing your blog. It’s been really helpful.

With gratitude, Natalie

M.D. Replies: It depends on what you need and want, ​because both have positive and negative factors to consider. I suggest that you buy Strategic Relocation: North American Guide to Safe Places, it’s full of well researched information. A few of the factors for me choosing north-east TN was weather and growing conditions, plenty of water sources and rain fall, plenty of trees and cover where you can set up a hidden retreat – for example anyone passing by my place on the gravel road can not see anything that I’m doing, my garden, animals, buildings or anything even in winter.

Also read:

Local news report : Survivalists deem TN Plateau prime prepper property

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.


  1. Since you plan on setting up a clinic, do a lot of research in that area. Many states will not allow alternative medicine as a stand alone clinic. I had gone to a ND for years in Maine, but was very disappointed when I moved to Florida. In Florida they no long license Naturopathic Doctors, thanks to a large medical doctor lobby group.

    • Great comment…that’s the first place to start. Only 12 states licensing Alternative/Naturopathic Doctors, Alaska, AZ, CA,
      CT, HA, KS, ME,MT, NH, OR, UT, WA and DC.

      Currently Medicare as well as most insurances do not support Naturopathic medicine. In an economic collapse situation, have you considered barter vs money for your services?

      If you’re from the midwest, KS, a strong consideration. You have support, family there. Each person will need to be in a village of at least 15 like minded folks to survive.
      My next thought would be Alaska, again due to licensing and another consideration Refugee influx in the USA.. Alaska is not
      a state with many refugees.

      Best wishes in your new venture

      • I’m thinking Alaska for what you want to accomplish, as well. But it has its challenges. Daily life among them. It’s a lot more difficult to live in Alaska day-by-day than in the lower 48 where most of everything you need is readily available – well, for now, anyway.

        I visited Chattanooga last year for the first time in many years. What struck me is how many “Obamanites” were in the city. I know you’re not talking about the city, but, I’d be very suspicious of any large southern city – and I’m a southern gal!

        We’re in the TN Valley: NW Alabama, SE TN, NE MS, which is “moderate” in climate: we get snow, but not lots; it does get hot and humid in the summer months, but there are far worse places for heat and humidity in the country. However, I can tell you people here are , as a whole, don’t take easily to change: perhaps they are not “advanced enough” in their thinking to NOT follow the traditional American medical model, trust in Big Pharma, etc. Just not that “enlightened”, as a whole.
        “Tradition” runs deep here, and so do roots – big on family (which is a very good thing), but not quick to accept newcomers or new ideas. You have to earn the right to be accepted and/or be heard. But very good people. The best, by and large. And the kind I want to be surrounded with post-IHTF.

        But here’s another thought: if some of us are correct in our thinking that “it” (whatever “it” turns out to be) is about to hit the fan, then, the “rules” will have little to no meaning anywhere, so, it won’t matter – so, go where you want. You may just be the most important person around, second only to the farmer, post-IHTF!

        • Hello – I live in Sparta TN off the beaten track. I wouldn’t live in eastern TN unless it was in the NE corner. I love where I am – farmers around me who have been there forever and know everything I want to know. Good people, I haven’t met a liberal yet around here. Good water and weather. I have a year-around spring on my farm.

  2. I have not spent more than a week in the KY/TN area over the last 40 years, but I have spent 15+ years in MT/ID. I like the cooler weather and generally lower humidity of the areas I’ve been in. There are also lots of places to get “lost from the road” without being too far off it.

    Generally our population of “benefit dependent” people is low. The Winter climate is not suited to much homelessness.

    I have visited the Sandpoint area a number of times and have liked what I’ve seen, although living without a sales tax in MT is very nice.

  3. What the other have said so far is good.

    One consideration for oriental medicine – being able to grow your own herbs. You should check the climate, frost dates, and other issues through the USDA to make sure you can provide your own needs. Between government regulation and possible inability to import due to grid disruptions and similar, you should consider this as well.

    Your in a slightly different situation than some. You need a sufficient population to provide clients, but not too many to become an issue in an event. You can’t live out in the sticks like some of us can. This will play heavily in successful business placement.

    Another key book recommendation: “Starting A New Life In Rural America: 21 Things You Need to Know Before You Make Your Move” by Ragnar Benson.

  4. there is going to be much land for sale in my area sometime soon. With the wildfires lately some of the people are going to take there fire insurance money and spend it elswhere I can see a good percentage relocating. People could buy a lot that was burnt out and maybe further into the sticks since much of the sticks are gone now.

  5. I believe Chattanooga was just rated the best city to live in these United States by some arbitrary poll or other, if that will have any influence on your decision. It is a lovely city no doubt and the area around it is beautiful.

    I’m a big fan of Tennessee and highly recommend it, but like others have said, it all depends on what you are looking for. Rural Tennessee is much different than urban Tennessee. The locals do call Nashville “Nastyville” for a reason. You couldn’t pay me to live downstream of Nashville on the Cumberland. Which is a shame because it’s a beautiful river.

    Crime does pop up in the most unlikely of places, just human nature I guess. Most of the crime we see in the rural area in which I live revolves around fraud–food stamp and disability. There does tend to be a lot of child abuse and neglect among certain populations, mostly the addicts and the impoverished, but that rarely makes the papers. I doubt this is much different than anywhere else, unfortunately. Other than that, we see the occasional person busted for drugs. Usually meth, pain meds, or pot. But the dopeheads tend to stick with their own kind and don’t bother others and, frankly, aren’t even noticed by decent folk. We don’t see a lot of robbery or home invasion, which I suspect has a lot to do with the fact most people have guns, lots of guns, and they know how to use them.

    To put it in perspective for you, rural Tennessee is still one of those rare areas where you don’t have to worry about locking your doors (car or home). People respect other people’s property and their lives. They’ll know what your doing, but they’ll mind their own business, unless somebody who doesn’t belong is on your property. They’ll give you the shirt off their back, help you in your time of need and wave at you when you pass by, once they get used to you. The land is fertile and the water abundant. The property prices are beyond reasonable as well. The laws and regulations in Tennessee aren’t onerous.

    Our little part of Tennessee is centered around farming, so it’s easy to find fresh, high quality meat, fruits, and vegetables at an affordable price–if I’m not growing and raising it myself. There are tons and tons of farmers willing to sell to the public and CSAs for both vegetables and meats. The only complaint I have is the drive I have to make to find a natural grocery store. Sometimes finding specialty items can be a pain, but there are enough natural foods buying clubs/co-ops around to negate this mostly. And if I’m looking for raw milks and cheeses, etc., the Amish live right down the road.

    The one thing you’ll have to look out for is pesticide contamination, especially in areas that grow a lot of tobacco. In some areas the cancer rates can be high (usually because of pesticides, bad genetics, unhealthy lifestyles, or radon), so do your research, especially if you are looking at farming communities or want to live in a mountainous region.

    My life is full of country hilarity, good food and good folks–salt of the earth kind of people. Yes, I come across the occasional bad apple, but you’ll find that everywhere. But I wouldn’t move out of Tennessee for anything. I love it like I was born here.

    Here in north Tennessee, the country folks are very open to natural medicine and they trust it. There are natural healers that are well known throughout the local area. The most famous is an Amish healer. His herbal concoctions are carried by a variety of health food stores in this area. We also have quite a few iridologists and reflexologists that practice here. Not to mention the locals that are known for having a “healing touch” and those with the ability to heal by faith. All in all a very interesting dynamic here.

    • Shay,

      Since you mentioned addiction, I thought I would ask if you’ve seen problems with flakka or krokodil yet. Both are becoming concerns here in Florida.

      If you want to see what the zombie apocalypse would look like Google Image “krokodil”.

      • Also, around here there are several good Mennonite communities I have learned a lot from. I have a Jersey dairy near me and he sells raw milk for $5/gallon (you just sign a form and don’t have to pay the cow fee like all other raw milk dealers do). There are great salvage grocery stores here (a wonderful one run by Mennonites were I come in and buy up all the organic stuff). I have had great luck bartering with people – like a guy works on my new Kubota tractor for a case of beer (he works on them for a living). Nice plain people here – it’s like living back 40 years ago. I don’t make a big deal about locking my doors – but no one can find my driveway and miss my house because it’s way back on the farm

        • We have a small community of Mennonites in the area, but they keep pretty much to themselves.

          I’d love to see a salvage grocery here, but alas there are none.

          Barter is a big deal in all segments of our local community. As are garage sales and auctions. We locals love our auctions. 🙂

      • Bam Bam,

        Personally, no. But from what I hear heroin is making a comeback in some of the major cities here because it’s cheaper than meth. If heroin takes a hold, that krokodil crap is sure to follow since it is the cheaper more horrific alternative. And of course as it is with injectable drugs, the needle-sharing disease spread will increase, too.

        Being originally from Florida, it makes me sad to hear that these drugs are gaining a stronghold there.

    • Hello – I live in Sparta TN and it definitely is not Nashville, Chattanooga or Knoxville (avoid them like the plague). I am surrounded by farmers who know everything I want to know. My farm is set up great to take care of me and I’ll be getting Jersey cows and piglets next spring. I haven’t met a liberal here yet. Literally everyone thinks like I do and see what’s happening to the country. I would recommend this area – not close enough to a major highway (1/2 hour from I40 but not on a main road anyone would know about – there are lots of them around here!).

      • Not that familiar with Sparta, but I’ve driven through that area a few times when going down to Chattanooga. Beautiful part of the state.

  6. Babycatcher says:

    I live in TN, and the word on the street is that there will be large populations of certain middle eastern groups encouraged to move here. They generally don’t use oriental medicine, and most of them will be locating near the three “capitals” of the state, Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville. There’s not enough land in this state if they start roaming. There’s also a huge contingent in Murfreesboro, so that might be a consideration for you, I’m not sure….

    • Babycatcher,

      I thought about mentioning this, but didn’t. There’s quite a population already in place. We don’t tend to see Middle Easterns in rural areas, and if they do come they don’t stay long because the locals are very unwelcoming. That said, we do have large populations of immigrants from Mexico and South America. They are accepted well because this is a farm community, and they seem to fit in (speak English and work hard) and not cause problems.

    • patientmomma says:

      I am also in middle TN, but 2 and 3 hours from the largest cities and the mid-eastern and EBT groups. I am 1 hour from a small “shopping” city and 15 minutes from the closest gas station. There is not one “non-hillbilly” face in a 12 mile radius of where I live. If something dangerous actually happens, my neighbors (cattle rangers, subsistence farmers and poor retired folks) will block the 1 lane back road by cutting trees and if necessary, damaging the tiny country bridge that leads from town to our area. Only people who live in the area can actually find a 2nd or 3rd way out of this area because it is not on the map and not on a GPS. We would love to have an natural healer in the area but it would be too back woods for a clinic.

      • maybe the natural healer could be like the bookmobile–a day here and a day there?
        my granny, whom i never knew, knew all the plants, and natural medicine was all they had.
        asked daddy why they didn’t go to a doctor.
        he said there wasn’t one but they couldn’t pay if there had been.

        back end of W. Va.

  7. Sand Point is not a bad area. It is actually quite pretty there. Average incomes are not great, but commuters do live in Sand Point. Property isn’t too badly priced depending how close to town one is. Sample listing:

    Since Sand Point is only about 45 miles from Couer D’Alene, maybe you could find something in between? CDA is a more upscale community and open to more modern ideas.

    If my memory serves me correctly, the temps are not severe like the mid-west. Plenty of tourism, plenty of activities throughout the year. SP has the only Amtrak station in ID. At least it was last time I took the train out there.

    The only concern I would have is the Chinese wanting to build a city there. It was going strong back in 2010-11 and has been on and off since. Not your average city, but a walled 50 sq. mile city.

    I think Idaho is a great place, but then I also love TN. I think a week long visit of the area would be a good idea before jumping into anything. Or…maybe even rent for awhile? Good luck in your search.

  8. Another thought – go visit places. Not short trips, but at least a week, maybe two. Sandpoint, ID; St. Maries, ID; Crossville, TN; Blacksburg, VA; Asheville, NC. Don’t eat at chain places, but family-run restaurants. Walk through the grocery stores. Talk to people, find out what they like and don’t like about living there. And be sure you do it again before you commit to moving and starting a business there.

  9. We live in East Tennessee, in the mountains north of Knoxville. I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. I have lived in New York, Arizona, and Los Angeles, California. When I was looking for a place to move to I bought two books named something like “Best Places to Retire” and “Best Places to Live in America”. I think they are out of print now, but they really helped me decide to take a trip to the area and spend some time in a four state area to see whether I would like it. At the time I was unmarried and could move to wherever I chose. I decided on East TN and have never been sorry. Land and home prices are very reasonable, the growing season is good (Zone 6), mountains are beautiful and change every day. We have four seasons and the winters are not horrible with relatively little snow. The people are wonderful to us even though we are “not from around here”. Yes there are drugs and crime but the good people outnumber the losers by a large margin.

    We are close enough to cities like Knoxville, Asheville, and Columbia, SC for day trips if we miss the high life. No state taxes but sales tax is quite high. We almost never go to medical doctors but there are great hospitals and a lauded VA hospital close by if we need it. We use alternative medicines recommended by a chiropractor or just research on our own.

    Wherever you find to live, check out the building regulations. Our county is particularly good about permits and hardly require anything except a $35 fee. We have built barns and chicken coops and other out buildings and didn’t need permits at all and so no fees! Depending on area, land is selling for around $6000 per acre and not much more for property with a small house on it, but there are mansions in the area also.

    Great fishing and hunting, beautiful lakes for boating or swimming. Just a fantastic area for someone who likes privacy and rural living, but close enough to drive to town for groceries.

    One other thing: kids are a very high priority here. High school football and baseball games are town affairs even for people with no children. Some schools are great, some no so much, but that can be researched if needed. Church life is another big thing here but if you are not a church goer nobody cares if you are a good neighbor and a good person.

    As I said, we wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world.

  10. This is a great blog. I’m curious about where to look for land for people like us in Texas. Looking for a place that has all one needs in one location is difficult at best and the price is something that’s out of most peoples reach during current economic conditions

  11. Berean Betty says:

    Move to Central Oregon, which is included in the American Redoubt. The state is alternative healthcare friendly, no sales tax, cheaper land than Willamette Valley, about 120K population around Bend-Remond, with many retiring here from cities back east, so they are more aware of all their healthcare choices. But the state house and most locales west of the Cascades are run by liberals/progressives/Marxists. I’d consider a sideline business related to your field to bring in extra $$$ and protect against slow business conditions at first. Homesteads up near Madras, Terrebonne can be had cheaper but be prepared to work hard in High Desert country. If your Oriental medicine can help ranch animals far cheaper than big pharma and local veterinarians, you might just have something. Maybe you can teach a course for these ranchers to learn how to help/heal their animals with home-grown herbs?

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