This isn’t the Vermont I Signed Up For

Have you ever wanted something so bad that you only see the glowing reviews? Have you ever had a mission thinking that no one or nothing would test your commitment to it? I believe that’s where most of us are–standing at that crossroads and wondering if we traveled the wrong route.

Photo by Abigail Brewer on

I wanted to move to Vermont to the extent that I gambled everything, including my savings. I bought a ReloCube to send my belongings from Washington State to Vermont. I took Amtrak for 3,000 miles and a total of 66 hours on board a train. And yes, those tickets ate up my savings too. Then I arrived in Vermont with regrets and wondering if my mind played a stupid trick on me.

After all, I had done the research. I visited websites on Vermont, read the history, looked up information on the economy, and watched videos on Vermont for two years. In these videos fellow travelers visited Stowe and Woodstock filming those charming communities. Only one real estate agent with a video channel spoke about the more “dangerous” or at least “rough” parts of Vermont. But he was a lone voice crying in the woods.

Everyone else was giving glowing reviews. They were speaking about the enchantment of the natural world. They mentioned the friendly people (mostly white and elderly). They didn’t mention the rowdy college students in Burlington. If you’re single and in your middle years, it seems hard to meet anyone in that age group.

It’s not that they didn’t paint a realistic painting because along side the darker aspects of Vermont, it’s a charming state filled with the lushness of trees. But those same trees are pollinating as I write this post. And I feel sick because my body is overwhelmed from all the tree species pollinating at one time. When I cough I feel like my lungs burning (reactive airway disease). Therefore, I don’t enjoy walking past all the smokers in Brattleboro. I thought Vermonters were health-conscience. What about eating healthy food, getting fresh air, and spending more time outdoors?

Okay, to be fair, Vermonters do enjoy the outdoors and spending time among ticks and avoiding poisonous plants that leave blisters on their shins or arms. Most of the people walking around smoking are transient people (with substance abuse or mental health issues) coming from other Northeastern states in search of social services (prevalent in Vermont).

I experienced something similar when I lived in Bellingham, Washington. People try to do the right thing by helping members struggling in their community but then the word gets out and people migrate from other drug-infested and impoverished areas. You can’t really blame them except they bring their problems with them in larger numbers. The community becomes overwhelmed and then jaded since it’s unable to solve all the ills of society when it’s well has run dry.

As far as Vermont’s economy, there are some wealthy people here but in most places, the average income is around 40K per year. If someone wants to work in the high-tech industry or a more lucrative profession it’s better to head to other Northeastern states such as New Hampshire (larger cities) or Boston. The Vermont state government has put in the effort to attract younger professionals to the Green Mountain State. And some have arrived but they’re in a similar boat as me in that they are unable to secure permanent housing. It seems like if you’re going to invite people to live in a state you need to provide housing. That’s a no-brainer but many US states make the same mistake.

If the housing situation gets sorted out then more artists, students, farmers, and creatives will move to Vermont and replace the elders who won’t be around for many more years. It’s true that the businesses need employees so there isn’t a shortage of jobs–just housing. Some people live in nearby states and commute to Vermont’s cities to work. But then that can cause a strain on the other states’ housing stock and it does. And they don’t get much out of someone living in their state but working in an adjacent state, unless that person spends money in both states. No state wants to become a bedroom community.

For some reason, I can’t remember what, I was called to move to Vermont. I have shuffled from hotels and Air BnBs while living through one disappointing episode after another securing a permanent home. And this isn’t even in the most desirable area of Vermont! Meanwhile, in the background I hear the din of a collapsing economy which causes me to feel nervous. I don’t have family in the Northeast to rely on. And a winter without heat (because of the cost of fuel) in one of the coldest US States is daunting. Is this the year I freeze to death?

People tell me to live in the moment and to stop worrying about the future. And it’s true that worrying doesn’t solve any problems. I need to join with others and make plans. How will we as a community navigate the choppy waters ahead of us? Will we sink like the Titanic or emerge out of the chaos with a new lifestyle? It’s both an exciting and a depressing time to live on the planet. But this still leaves me wondering why I chose to move to Vermont to create a holistic retreat center for dogs during a collapsing economy.

I’m far away from my family and my dearest friends. I don’t have a car in a state where you truly need one. I feel like I need to put on boxing gloves to secure a permanent home. And on top of that this state has drained my resources. If I could afford it, I would return to the Pacific Northwest, if only that were possible. But I’m here and there must be a reason a homebody such as me traveled 3,000 miles to a state where it snows and is cold most of the year. Oh, well.

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2 thoughts on “This isn’t the Vermont I Signed Up For

  1. Thanks for writing about your relocation experience! It can be a real challenge to uproot and plant yourself on the opposite side of the country and in a different locality, for sure (I’ve done it a couple of times, when my former husband was an active duty Navy officer who was relocated a couple of times, and then about 10 years ago returned to NY after living in SF for a long time, for family related reasons.) It can take awhile to explore, meet people, sink roots (even if you end up relocating again). How long have you been in VT now?

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