Believe it or not, I receive inquiries almost weekly from folks contemplating a move to Vermont. Many of them are intrigued by the fact that we moved from Southern California, and almost all are curious as to what we think of the weather. In an effort to consolidate responses, I compiled a list of the things that are markedly different in our lives now:
- Winter is coming.
Don’t move to Vermont if you don’t appreciate winter. It’s not just a cliché - winter in Vermont is looooong. Even when it’s not winter, we spend the rest of the year strategizing how we’re going to survive the next one.
My impression is that some folks are attracted to the idea that land and housing are more affordable here than many other parts of the country. But I tell those who inquire not to discount the actual cost of winter. Whether you heat with wood or a fossil fuel, have a driveway that needs plowing, and don’t already have snow tires/snow shoes/spikes/name-your-winter-sport-equipment, all of it combined means a significant cost that can surprise those who didn’t expect it (that would be us our first year). We’ve had winters where we spent over $2K in plowing and half that in firewood. A thousand dollars on WOOD! Not to mention our backup heat/propane bill. I cannot imagine what our heating bills would be if we hadn’t insulated and installed a wood stove.
Last, don’t forget to factor in the cost of a vacation (or two!) someplace warm – because escaping winter at some point is a very real and necessary component of keeping one’s winter sanity IMHO. A lot of coffee talk here is spent deliberating on the best month to escape – schedule your escape too early or too late and the entire season seems unbearable.
- It’s still New England.
The culture here is different from other parts of the country. I like that it is, but at first it was a real shock for this native Californian. On the one hand I love that, if you’re having car trouble (i.e. slide off the side of the road into a ditch, because WINTER), without fail one of the next 3 cars to pass you will pull over and offer to help. But it was also difficult to adjust to folks in our first school community keeping us at arm’s length for quite a while (and this was a system known for its community). Same with the town.
I’ve since been advised that it’s common for people to move here and then hightail it back to where they came from if their first winter is a bad one. This leads people to not want to invest in a budding friendship if they aren’t sure you’re going to stay. It took us 2-3 years to really feel like we’ve found our tribe and that was hard, but I’m so glad we stuck with it and encourage others to do the same.
3. There is very little pretention.
Isn’t that wonderful? We happen to live in a town that relies heavily on tourism, and one can usually distinguish the tourists by the way they are dressed, the cars they drive and the fact that they don’t stop as readily for pedestrians at crosswalks. (Note: this is my observation, not a criticism. Although I believe everyone should stop at crosswalks.) Life in Vermont is weather dependent, and Yankee-practicality bleeds into one’s sartorial choices. If you live in a city or have a career in an industry that is driven by image, moving to Vermont can be very freeing.
- It is a wonderful place to raise a child.
Our family most likely would not have relocated to Vermont but for our child. We happen to have been given a son that loves to climb trees and now says that when he grows up he is going to live on the top of a mountain in a log cabin he built himself, where no one can bother him. (This is a real possibility.) Our son also happens to love to ski – he would do it all day, every day if he could. He has said that if moving to Mars becomes an option he is going, because it has winter temps year-round.
[For those who may not be familiar with our story, the quick summary is that we came to Vermont on vacation, fell in love, and within 5 months left our big city jobs/life to relocate here. There’s more at: http://ayearinvermont.com/it-all-started-when/]
Sometimes I daydream about the path his life might have taken had we never taken that first trip. That practice elicits tremendous gratitude for the life we have now. We live in a small town with a community that looks out for one another, where children can walk to the library and ride their bikes to the general store and experience a freedom that just isn’t feasible in a big city.
Friends have said “I understand why you like it, but I could never live there.” To which I respond, don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it. If I need a city fix Boston is only 2.5 hours away, which usually sends me hightailing it back to the country, amazed by how we ever put up with the traffic/noise/litter/pollution, having to keep track of one’s keys and waiting in line.
So if you’re contemplating a move in pursuit of a simpler life, surrounded by the beauty of nature, I highly recommend checking out Vermont.
Just be prepared for winter.