I am a born and raised Vermonter.
I was born in Burlington, grew up in Colchester, went to school in South Burlington, graduated from UVM, and found my way through a Master’s degree program at Champlain College. I’ve worked, lived, and struggled my way to live and raise my family in the rural Vermont community thirty minutes away from Burlington.
People moving to Vermont dream about this same picturesque Vermont countryside. You know, the pretty, Hallmark version of families helping families, neighbors helping strangers, and miraculous events happening with no money and lots of community volunteers against a stunning snowy backdrop. This dream probably does not include mud season, ticks, or being stuck behind slow-moving tractors, but you learn to embrace these facts of life too.
I remember Vermont as it existed before the Winooski rotary, before the tall buildings, and before all of the apartment complexes. It really doesn’t seem that long ago, until I remember just how old I actually am.
I know my parents belonged to a church community, and I’ve heard their neighbor-helping-neighbor stories. My goodness, we couldn’t go anywhere in public without my mom knowing who someone was and saying to me, “Do you remember… *insert name here*?” No, mom. I still don’t remember who that person is that you showed me off to right after I was born.
Times change, and people move in and out of state. The Vermont community I remember is much different now- in my town, at least.
I’ve lived in my town for just over eight years, I think… let me do the math. Yes. Eight years. It doesn’t seem that long, but even in that short time farmland has been sold off, new neighborhoods developed, and new families moved in. It’s not a bad thing, because sometimes change brings growth and a new dynamic to the community.
My family lives in the woods, not in a neighborhood, and if it had been left to me, I still probably wouldn’t know my neighbors. My husband, on the other hand, is a Mr. Chatty Cathy and got to know all of our neighbors for both of us. He jump-started our family’s participation in our small Vermont community. Despite my reluctance to socialize, we have some amazing neighbors. It’s okay to be jealous.
I recently started working with my town’s Parks and Recreation Department. My goodness, do we have a strong Vermont community!
I knew it existed, but I never fully experienced it until recently. Our rural Vermont community has been apparent to me while walking the bike path and having small conversations with strangers. While hosting small fundraising events and seeing families brave the winter storm just to get out and support the event. Our Vermont community is foundational to our sense of belonging.
It can be difficult, at times, in rural Vermont communities to really see the cohesiveness because so much is understated or happens behind the scenes.
It’s easy for Hallmark to glorify rural living, farming, crafting, and small business owning- but it’s not easy to make a living up here.
Housing costs are ridiculous. The sale prices of houses have dramatically increased over the last eight years we’ve lived here. Heck, we experienced it last year ourselves.
So, it’s easy to question- is living in a rural Vermont community worth it?
Why sacrifice thirty minutes in the car twice daily to drive to work? Why sacrifice the convenience of nearby grocery stores, doctors, dentists, sports, and recreational opportunities? It can feel like a sacrifice to move away from bigger cities (inside and outside Vermont) in favor of rural life. Not to mention that rural living used to mean cheaper housing and getting more for your money in the wooded countryside, but that doesn’t appear to be the case anymore.
So, why do we choose to sacrifice convenience for the more rural life? For the Vermont community of course.
Honestly, you can find a community anywhere. Your neighborhood, your kids’ school, your kids’ friends, your family, or even your apartment complex. Wherever you look, you can make a community. Heck, there are usually more people in those bigger cities to choose from anyway.
So, why will I always pick the rural Vermont community?
I like running into familiar faces at the bakery down the road. I love going to the hardware store and talking with the owner, who knows exactly what I need- not what I try to describe or what I think I need. I love going to family-owned gas stations. I love my kids being able to have conversations with strangers who remember them the next time we see them on the bike path. Strangers who remember me from when I was just born.
It took a few years to release the stranger danger I felt from living in the city for so long, but once you let that guard down- Vermont communities are welcoming and accepting of new neighbors. Just don’t try changing everything. Embrace our Vermont community life first, then help us make it better.
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