I came to Vermont about five years ago by quitting a job cold turkey back in 2009 during what was one of the worst recessions at the time. I’d always had a feeling I wanted to move to Vermont and that was my chance.
Not knowing what to expect, my husband and I came here because we love the outdoors and had hoped to find a meaningful job in conservation. We had been hired as the Crew Leaders with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) as well as the Park Rangers at Elmore State Park through a parks partnership the two organizations had at the time. Within hours being in the Green Mountain state we pulled into the gravel parking lot of the VYCC with a restored, giant red barn towering over us. This lady with crazy blonde hair, Carhartts and a green Johnson wool jacket came towards us with outstretched arms and the biggest, drawn out, high pitched “Hellllllooooo and wellllllcome” you have ever heard. This blonde haired woman named Agnes, wearing glasses was going to be our boss and came right up to each of us giving us the warmest embrace and did not let go. We were expecting a handshake. This was not a quick, barely even touch each other type of hug. This was a sincere embrace, as if I was being greeted by a long, lost friend.
Without knowing it at the time, that is what Vermont has become to us, our long lost friend, that no matter how long since our last visit, it is always ready to welcome us back with open arms. As world travelers who run a website showcasing our ambitions to live on all seven continents, Chris and I regularly jaunt off to far away places for months or years at a time. Working in VT State Parks is the ideal relationship as most of the ranger positions are seasonal. One fall we said good bye and ventured off to Costa Rica and Nicaragua for a winter and came back in the spring. We took off to Australia to live out of a 1989 Mitsubishi van and ended up staying there for two years. When we returned, VT was still here waiting to welcome us back with open arms. When I am off in some other country, or state for that matter, and my face cringes with dismay at the poor dairy selections in a grocery store, I envision green pastures and dairy cows grazing freely in the fields of Vermont. This is the place I think of when we’re on the road, and as a vegetarian my eating options may be more limited and I’ve sustained eating pizza and sandwiches for seven days straight, I dream of a warm meal from the Corner Stone Pub. When we traveled through South America for four months drinking instant coffee almost every day, towards the end I started a count down until the days I could get back to Bueno Coffee and order my favorite maple latte. And when I’ve had the equivalent of hard tack and peanut butter for days on end, I day dream on long bus rides about wandering the aisles of the co-op and loading up a basket full of tempeh to saute in sesame seed oil.
As we venture around the world, we share these stories of food, friendship and nature with those we meet. On the road travelers often ask about bucket lists or must see attractions to an area. Without hesitation we recommend to every person that once in their life they need to attend the Elmore Town Bingo that only happens during the summer.
“Why?” they ask.
Our response matter-of-factly, “Because it still exists.”
We continue with excitement as we dive into what a night of Elmore Town Bingo is like and how Uncle Dave starts off calling the numbers and then Buster Bingo calls them for the second half the night. But people get frustrated with Buster Bingo because he will talk too fast and frequently turn his head thus missing speaking into the microphone. People can’t hear what he says and the whole room goes into an uproar until after about the third time repeating the number everyone finally understands him. With growing excitement as we relive this experience through our words and we tell this person the best insider tip we can give them is to find out if Martha has made any pies. If so, they need to team up and make sure those are the first thing they grab as a prize if they win. The conversation usually reaches a point where the other people are just staring and nodding politely while we were carried away with the memory. In the end, I know I tried my best to convince them to go.That’s the beauty of story telling and travel. None of us will ever be able to go every where and do everything. But through the art of story telling we can share with others the joy a place and its people has brought to us.
I came to Vermont looking for a job. What I found was a place to call home. This state, full of its creemees, thick accented people, mud season, frost heaves, maple syrup, pot holed roads, flannel, green mountains, art and sideways windows has captured me. Ask around and you will find deep rooted opinions about who is a real Vermonter or not. People I know tell me they have lived here over 50+ years, raised their families and will die here still obligatorily confess they were born somewhere else and are not a real Vermonter. Real Vermonter be damned – this is a place that calls its people here. Whatever number of years a person may have lived here, been born here, even those who can only make an annual pilgrimage, once one has walked upon this soil, the dirt has touched your feet and Vermont is in you. This is a state that affects people in ways that become bigger than ourselves. Having traveled all over the world, we are fortunate to have found and been a part of many special places, its culture and its people. Vermont is at the top of that list and is a place we will forever carry with us. At the end of the day, no greater compliment can be bestowed upon a place and its inhabitants other than to say, I was different before I arrived and I will forever be different after having met you.