The pros and cons of rural Vermont

I love it here. Coming from the Tampa Bay cess pool, I am constantly amazed by how much better things are here. Of course no place is completely perfect and I thought it might be interesting to lay out the pros and cons of living here in a northeastern rural state as opposed to the bustle of a southern city with a population that is actually larger than the enitire state of Vermont. Since I’d rather end on a high note and I can’t figure out how to do a side-by-side comparison on my blog page without it looking completely weird, I’ll start with the negatives…

  1. Ahhhh… Good Times.

    The weather is unpredictable, extreme and very often crappy. I’ve been living here for about 5 years now and it still blows my mind how much the weather can change from one day to the next. It was -4 degrees at my house when I left for work this morning. Last year by this time we had several feet of snow by January and were expecting a lot more, this year, we’ve had a total of just a few inches and the upcoming forecast is not looking particularly winter-like. Winter is ridiculously long here, lasting most years from the end of November to about mid-March, spring is wet, gross and brief, summer ranges from super hot to nights in the 50’s and autumn lasts about 2 weeks if you’re lucky. A couple years ago over the course of an entire year we had lows reaching -45 and highs reaching 103. Thats about 150 degree range. That’s a lot for an average person to adjust to. First VT saying I learned? “If you don’t like the weather here… Wait 5 minutes.”

  2. Multi-cultural is not a reality here. When my dad moved up here 6 years ago, he actually changed the demographics for the %age of black people who live in the state. This is not a great thing for Princess Punk who is very obviously of different ethnicity and even myself who was generally seen as white in Florida, am seen as somewhat exotic. Weird.  know people here who had never even met a person of color until their 20’s or 30’s.
  3. Because ofnumber2, there is a severe lack of diversity in the food choices up here.

    Dream on… Now I’m hungry.

    Being a total foodie and loving a wide range of different types of cuisines, I really miss being able to get good chinese, Indian, Cuban or even a decent deli within a mile of my house. Even the fast food choices are limited. Did you know there are only 3 (I think) Taco Bells in the state? And Montpelier prides itself on being the only state capital in the US that doesn’t have a McDonalds. Burlington, being a college town has a little more diversity than the rest of the state but even there, most of the ethnic restaurants there are mediocre at best.

  4. Rural life makes shopping difficult too. We have to drive over an hour to get to a decent mall or even a Walmart and there is not a single Target in the state. So sad.
  5. It’s pretty much impossible to make it without a car here. Most everything is beyond a reasonable walking distance away from my house. Even if you live in the center of town, you will need to make use of a friend with a car at some point because most towns are small and can’t possibly have everything you’re gonna need just for regular everyday life. The public transportation is lacking… A lot. The town I live in is a bit bigger than most surrounding towns and we have a Big Lots, 2 groccery stores and a small (overpriced) department store. I still have to drive pretty far to buy clothes, more specialty groceries (say, gluten-free stuff) and any kind of electronic anything that isn’t supremely marked up.
  6. Ice sucks. I am clumsy on a good day. Add to that a super-slippery walk and driveway that is stubborn to resist any type of ice-melting application, it takes me several minutes to walk the hundred feet to my car without falling on my ass. Not to mention, my parents’ house is at the bottom of a fairly steep, fairly long driveway. Even with brand new kick-ass snow tires on my all-wheel drive car, I’ve gotten stuck there more times than I’m willing to admit. I dread going over there in the winter since I’m always afraid I’ll never get out again or I just park at the top and walk down which is somwhat unpleasant if the temp is below about 30 degrees. When I lived there I had frequent temper tantrums (seriously… I am such a damn baby when I’m frustrated) when I was unable to get out for work in the morning.
  7. “What? Wait a minute… What???? Crap.”

    Availability of electronic communication is limited. High speed internet is not widely available and even cell phone converage is limited and in many places, completely unavailable. You know those sweet new 4G phones they’re advertising? Totally useless here. We’re lucky if we get in an area that has 3G service. I can’t tell you how much I love driving to Montpelier on route 12 which is windy, twisty, icy and frequently populated by moose (the animal kind) without the ability to call for help if I crash or something. (That was sarcastic if you couldn’t tell…)

  8. There is a whole different level of “poor” here. People struggle everywhere that’s a given but the fact that this is such a small and rural state, when people are not lucky enough to have jobs or folks that work on farms or people that have large families to support, it is that much more difficult to get any kind of public assistance and it’s damned scary to go through a winter here without money for food or heating fuel.
  9. Anonimity is not an option. Everybody knows or is related to everyone else. If you desire to have privacy and not have other people all up in your schmidt, live somewhere else. Not to mention people have looooong memories here. I remember going to the “town bar” when the Zen Master and I had been dating for only a few months and I met a girl who went to high school with him and proceeded to tell me how he was such a total dork (he still is but I love that about him) who never showered (okay that he has changed) and he had a total crush on her. He’s 33. Seriously?

And the positives;

  • Even though they’re unpredictable, we have actual seasons here. I was always bummed in FL because it was the same all the time. There was no cycle, no change, no renewal. It kinda sucked.
  • Although diversity is practically non-existent, racism is minimal. People here are (mostly) tolerant and liberal about race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. I think the general consensus is “as long as you handle your business and don’t screw with anyone else’s we don’t really give a crap who you sleep with or what you look like.” Works for me.
  • Lack of ethnic food sucks but the availability of fresh foods including produce, eggs, meat and dairy (especially dairy)is AWESOME here. Have you ever had a farm fresh egg? It really doesmake a difference.

    Need I say more?

    Oh yeah, have I mentioned the Ben and Jerry’s factory is about 2 minutes from my job? We get flavors nobody else gets (nana nana boo boo… heehee).

  • I like the fact that shopping is farther away from my house. My town is small (in comparison to any other state) and I like it that way. Things are more relaxed, driving is safer, there’s WAY less crime and I can send Princess Punk out to play without worrying a pedophile is going to snatch her up and do something horrible to her.
  • Speaking of lack of crime… I love the fact that the big story on the news is a car accident that closed the highway for an hour instead of the excaped fugitive or cop murder or major drug bust or all of the above that were a daily reality in Florida. And the news channel covers the WHOLE STATE. How friggin awesome is that?
  • It is incredibly beautiful here. Even in the crappy times of year, the expanse of the farms, the majesty of the mountains and the overall connection you feel with nature here cannot be beat. Plus, no poison ivy, fire ants or even cockroaches. WIN!

    Damned idyllic isn’t it?

  • People are in each other’s business here but they actually CARE about each other. Even people who don’t know each other will be quick to lend a helping hand if they see one is needed. After Irene kicked our asses last year, the outpouring of community support for the people and businesses that were so completely wiped out and devastated was astounding. I remember falling hard in a supermarket parking lot in Tampa with a dozen or so people hanging around and a few people laughed and not a single person offered to help me. Here? I’ve had total strangers offer to carry my bags to the car just to be neighborly. People say hello to each other on the street and while gossip runs rampant, if someone is in trouble, everybody knows that too and will often go out of their way to help. Community dinners are a common thing and every year most towns have at least one jacket drive to supply less fortunate with warm jackets, hats, gloves and scarves to get through the winter. Fuel companies are willing to work with you with your bill instead of just cutting it off and can even assist you getting fuel assistance from the state if you qualify.

I’m glad I’m raising my kids here. I’m glad that Princess Punk has less than 30 kids in her class. I’m glad that she can walk from school to the library without an adult. I love that she can play outside in our yard with Fairy Dog and not have to worry about getting hit by a car or bitten by a snake or swarmed by fire ants. I love that we can go barefoot in the summer without stepping on broken glass or a used syringe. I’m glad that the Princess is going to graduate high school with the kids she goes to school with now. I’m glad that I met my husband as the teacher of Princess Punk’s Tae Kwon Do class and not in some skeevy bar. I’m glad that my kids’ in-state college choices are smaller good schools and not massive party schools. I’m glad that I could afoord a house here because my mortgage for my 3-bedroom 2-bath is less than my rent in Tampa for a crappy one bedroom in a BAD neighborhood (and that’s including taxes and insurance). I’m glad that with my job here and I like the people I work with.

Oh yeah… and I grew up here. Not in the physical morphing from a child to an adult kind of growing up but the coming of age, becoming responsible and handling my own schmidt kind of growing up. Somehow I doubt that would have happened in Florida. Or at least it would have been a lot more difficult.

It’s nice to know you are where you’re supposed to be.

For an update- 4/2/14


21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: My nemesis… « newlifeinvermont
  2. Chris Timberlake
    Jun 17, 2012 @ 18:43:32

    This is a WONDERFUL post. My husband and I live in suburbia of Phoenix and we can’t stand it one more minute. I grew up in NW PA and I miss the seasons. I also can’t handle the politics in AZ anymore. It’s a dry hate. Thank you for this. It has struck such a cord with me.


  3. Trackback: HOLY CRAP! « newlifeinvermont
  4. NY2VT
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 11:11:14

    Wow, thanks, I have a great job offer in Vt and this really helped! The only problem is figuring out if my spouse will be happy as well. He loves his NYC job.


  5. Patricia
    Oct 28, 2013 @ 00:29:27

    Your last line says it all! After 25 years in the Tampa Bay area I moved to Portland, Oregon, which was a big change as well, but I’m at last where I’m supposed to be. Good for you! And for me! 🙂


  6. miguel
    Nov 06, 2013 @ 15:56:18

    Thanks really nice to read this. I just bought a house in Rockingham and am moving from the SF Bay Area.


  7. Mitch Warden
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 12:40:48

    Great post. Enjoyed reading everything! Got a great laugh out of it also. Thinking about making the move to Vermont with my wife and 1 child (11 years old-boy). We currently live in Orlando and its exactly how you described your city in Florida. We’re deciding now on Vermont and Utah. I like the fact the Vermont is close to Quebec also (The French thing is cool to us). Thanks for all the information. It really helped my wife and I by getting a better understanding of the state of Vermont. Best wishes.


    • newlifeinvermont
      Dec 26, 2013 @ 12:46:06

      🙂 glad to help… If I can say one thing about VT, it’d be that I’m blessed to be raising my kids here. Can’t say anything about Utah since I’ve never been, but I couldn’t imagine anyplace better than right here!


  8. Lauren
    Feb 03, 2014 @ 22:28:57

    Originally from Michigan (another Mecca of farm fresh food), but I’m currently living on a tiny island in the Pacific. We are hoping to make the move to Vermont soon. Thanks for the info and the great blog!


  9. Trackback: Pros and Cons of living in VT… The Sequel | newlifeinvermont
  10. jfsmitty
    Apr 18, 2014 @ 09:32:16

    Love this post. I live in Houston, Texas, but have a summer home in Manchester, VT. We love the laid back lifestyle and amazing scenery of VT! One question…where did you take that amazing moose picture at the bottom of the post? Beautiful!


  11. Ph
    Aug 27, 2014 @ 16:06:35

    I just moved to Vermont from the Bay Area, still living in California over the winter months. I go back and forth to NH for work, but live in Vermont. Have lived in NYC, SF, Orlando and LA and Vermont is a surprise! I really like it here, and NYC is a four hour ride away; Boston is only two. People are kind, friendly, there is a sense of community and appreciation for simple things that make life lovely! I am in tech industry, and find it important to spend part of the year back in the city, and being affiliated with a great college here adds some nice cultural components. Plus, I enjoy painting, and I have to say that Vermont is a feast for the eyes! There is tradition and a can do attitude here. Weather in winter is icky….leave like I do. But come back for a great summer and fall. Overall, pretty wonderful!


    • newlifeinvermont
      Aug 31, 2014 @ 06:13:15

      I couldn’t agree more… Although I don’t leave for the winter. I honestly don’t mind the cold too much, it just lasts a month or 2 too long. And the heating bills suck. But I still can’t think of a better place to live!


  12. Nick
    Dec 04, 2014 @ 02:51:50

    I was living in Vermont for a year, and let’s tell you that it was the most horrible experience of my life. On the contrary to what they claim, it is one of the worst place you can live in the US. It is a poor state, the weather in winter is awful, the roads and other infrastructure are so poor, and the people are often into themselves and ignorant. It is a rural state, not developed at all, and it seems the local people want it so, and afraid of change, technology, development and openness.
    If you are a new immigrant (particularly a non-white), keep away from Vermont. It is definitely not a place for you. Diversity is almost zero there, and you wish to find someone to talk to!
    If you like to be isolated, do not need people, afraid of a diverse society, afraid of development, do not care about modern life and only enjoy of being in a remote natural reserve, then choose Vermont to live, otherwise really keep distance.
    I could not survive there, and could not wait to get out! When I had an opportunity, you could not believe how fast I left that crappy state, and I assure you I never get even close to that forgotten land.
    Thanks God I could escape after a year, otherwise I was psycho by now!


    • newlifeinvermont
      Dec 04, 2014 @ 07:17:55

      Nick, I’m so sorry you had such a horrible experience. Living here is definitely not for everyone, and For anyone using my posts here to help you make a decision about moving heare, Nick has some very valid points. I’m not sure when you lived here or when, but diversity is on the rise (there is actually a fairly large population of bhutanese refugees in Burlington now). The whole state is rural, true, but it is one of the most progressive states politically speaking and technology, while still lagging more that I myself am happy with, is on the move in the right direction. There is racism here just like anywhere, but I find there is much less here than in Florida and although the state is lilly-white, people of color are integrated throughout the state instead of like other places I’ve lived (including CT, not just FL) where there were black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods and hispanic neighborhoods and very little mixing. If you’re considering moving here, visit first and make sure you see the bad with the good. Come here in February or March, and travel around the state. Rutland and the Northeast Kingdom are not particularly wonderful places to live (although the NEK is beautiful for much of the year). That being said, I still wouldn’t change my decision to move here for anything. I value things like the view of the mountains 75% of the year and the fact the Princess Punk is in a class of less than 20 students and is getting the attention she needs to help her succeed. I can let my girls play outside without more than a sensible caution of predators and I can leave my doors unlocked at night if I need to. The town I live in is a good one and there are definitely towns I wouldn’t want to live in here. If you are into a fast paced environment with a busy nightlife and immense clutural diversity, look elsewhere, this just isn’t the place for you. Vermont is changing, but change IS slow here and yes, maybe I do prefer it that way. Again Nick, I’m sorry you had such a bad experience, for me it’s been the best choice I’ve ever made.


    • JS
      Jan 15, 2015 @ 15:28:21

      I grew up for 5 years in Vermont. I am Asian. As a child of 11, I was called ‘Nigger’, ‘Colored’, ‘Gook’ more times that I can remember. Vermont is backward, bigoted cesspool filled with ignorant, hateful uneducated racists.


      • newlifeinvermont
        Jan 16, 2015 @ 06:36:57

        I’m sorry that you had that experience. I’m mixed race myself and Princess Punk is as well although much noticeably more so. Her boyfriend is Jamaican and she wears her hair in braids most of the time. There’s no way she could “pass” for white. That being said, we experienced FAR more segregation, racism and ignorance in Florida than here. Granted, everywhere has its bigots and it’s definitely not perfect here, but, at least where I live and work and visit, they are few and far between and most people have treated us no differently than any other. Princess Punk had trouble with a kid or two at school but it was nipped in the bud VERY quickly. A girl she used to hang out with, her parents were racisit and wouldn’t let my Princess in their house. But The Princess has since learned that the girl is a bit of an asshole anyway and she doesn’t hang out with her anymore. And the other kids in the school think the girl is a bigoted asshole just like her parents. It’s not the bigots who caught my attention, it’s how people treat THEM. In Florida, racism was so rampant that very few people actually got called on it. I got called nigger and white-bread and cracker and colored and even the teachers didn’t seem to even notice. Here, not so. ONE kid called Princess Punk a nigger, not even in a malicious way, and he got suspended for 2 days. Everyone has their own experiences here, but I can’t say racism and bigotry have been one of mine. Again, I’m so sorry your experience was so terrible.

  13. JS
    Jan 16, 2015 @ 10:44:47

    My apologies for coming on so strong about my own experience as a child in Vermont during the 80s. Hopefully Vermont is a different place now. Some humor that I can find from those hard times is that when the Vermonter rednecks, bigots and racists (many of whom were adults saying this to a child, me) would call me slurs, they could never quite figure out which slur they wanted to use; and all of them were incorrect! Anyways, I like your blog and you are a good photographer.


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