In late summer 2013, my boyfriend and I made a life changing decision to move out of Boston, the city where we had spent all of our adult lives, and move to a small house in a small town in Vermont. With little to no experience living an agrarian lifestyle, we left behind friends, traffic, and years of carefully cultivated expectations for an unpredictable life in the country. It's time to record my thoughts on what I've learned, where I've been, and where I are going.
The biggest lesson I learned is that living in the country is a LOT different than dreaming about living in the country. The thousands of miles of daydreams I had about my future bucolic lifestyle frolicking through meadows and growing vegetables did little more than provide a general lifestyle outline - it definitely didn't prepare me for what leaving my familiar city life and isolating myself in the country would be like. And it certainly didn't magically provide me with the tomes of knowledge I would need to prosper.
In the country, I work from home at a business I started with my boyfriend. We never have to worry about traffic here. I grow my own vegetables in the garden and I hike in the woods behind my house for exercise. I am at the whim of nature - and I LOVE it. Is it sunny and 75 degrees outside? Day off! Let's play! And on a dreary Saturday, I might just sit down and do some work. Did I mention we have a hot tub where we can sit and watch the stars through the wafting steam rising into the night?
I in my heart, I am my own success story: when she grew weary of the 9 to 5 urban grind, Zy escaped to the country to make a living on her own terms!
If you have ever dreamed about leaving your static, urban life for the romance of the country like me, read on about my journey from the city to the country!
Here's a little background on me: I was born and raised in the suburban utopia of Connecticut. The coupon for my life came complete with a dad who worked in insurance, an older sister, and a stay-at-home mom. We lived in a cookie cutter, three bedroom ranch house in a tidy little neighborhood side by side with similar houses resting on quarter acre plots just a stone's throw away from my high school. From my bedroom window, I could see my best friend's house and my pseudo-grandparent's house, who had "adopted" my family as their own for years of pool parties and lobster boils. Life was sweet - but it was by no means rural. It was suburban to the very core, filled with extracurricular activities, excellent public schools, play dates, and birthday parties at bowling alleys.
Going to college in Boston wasn't a choice I made to escape the suburban matte for the high definition gloss of the city. In fact, I had little interest in leaving my nest and spreading my wings. At seventeen, I had college application apathy and that really worried my parents. So when Northeastern University accepted me with a scholarship, it was really a no brainer - I was moving to the big city!
At this tender point in my life, I was not imbued with the same wanderlust that I am today. That was learned, albeit quickly. I realized Boston was a fine fit for a college kid finding herself, but not a permanent fit for the adult that kid would someday become. That much was clear to me after my freshman year. I also majored in Environmental Geology, which we used to joke was more like majoring in adventure. In the short period I was schooled as a geologist, I traveled to Hawai'i, a remote Bahamian island, Iceland, and countless other destinations all over New England on mandatory field trips.
I came out of college a changed woman. Not even for the education and career that I left with, but the passions and motivations that followed. And the wonderful, whimsical spontaneity I acquired. The first thing I did once I graduated? I drove to Alaska.
At last I knew more about what was out there in that great big beautiful world - at least more than I knew when I was a just a kid in suburban gridlock, watching TV and going to Disney World. I began liking things that I never knew I had the capacity to like. I liked prairies (what?), camping (huh?), and mossy forests, and the small, boney towns that polka dotted rural routes with a million conversations held in general stores and dimly lit pubs (yes, please!). I knew I needed to give myself a chance to live somewhere else than Boston - and to lead a different kind of life. There were just too many stories I wanted to make for myself than the grind to which I had quickly become accustomed.
The day after I got home from Alaska, which was the day I started my big girl job - I was promoted to field technician after a two year internship with my company while in school - I knew I was going to eventually quit. My friend who drove me to work that first day still likes to reminisce on the mini-meltdown I had in the parking lot of my life in the corporate sphere. "Remember that time when I dropped you off at work and you freaked out?"
It was never really meant to be. I quit 3 years later, got five months of aimless traveling out of my system, briefly lived in a warehouse, and then began my life in Vermont: from the city to the country.
But how does a suburban girl, fresh out of the urban jungle make it in the country when the only experience in the wild she has is with a rockhammer in her hand or from her car window? With a lot of mistakes and second guesses along the way, that's how.
I now live three hours away from Boston, two and a half hours away from Burlington and four hours away from New York City. Those of you with expert triangulating skills would know that it puts me smack dab in the center of southern Vermont: Ski Country. The kind of place that shuts down when the tourists go home. The kind of place that looks at a couple of twenty-something city transplants and scratches their head thinking, what the heck are you doing here?
What are we doing here? I often wonder that myself when I read email conversations my Boston friends are having when they can't decide which live music to see at night. I wonder that when there is two feet of snow outside and I still don't want to learn how to ski - how to praise the sweet, sweet snow like the rest of the ski-bound population up here. But what we are doing is learning a new way of life. A more deliberate way of life. A more peaceful way of life. Okay, I'll say it - a more boring way of life.
There is no nightlife here. Let's get that straight. Anywhere we would want to go for the evening would be at the end of a substantial car ride on twisty mountain roads. And then what? And then we are standing around among the revolving door of out-of-state tourists capping off their day of sightseeing, shopping, and skiing. We can drink beer and shoot pool at home, so that's what we do instead. Alone. Who knew that most unmarried, childless twenty-somethings don't buy houses and move to the country these days?
Well, I always liked breaking the mold.
But on those nights when we are sitting at home, playing board games or watching TV again, I have to remind myself that life in the city was starting to get boring for me as well. Another night on the town to another bar filled with young professionals bursting with ambition, shelling out another $50 for admission, drinks, food, taxis, ugh. Is it wrong that I grew to despise this way of life? To shun the path of the career driven young woman handing out business cards, pimping my LinkedIn profile and worshiping Facebook? I looked disdainfully at their perfect young professionalism and thought, in a very clichéd fashion, there's got to be more to life than this. At the tender age of 23, I was embarrassed to admit that the city was breaking me.
In the country, I have another chance to get it right. I have the chance to build the life that I always wanted. In the spring, we decided to get chickens and further our dreams of self sustainable homesteading. It seemed like a reasonable, pastoral thing to do, so my carpenter boyfriend built a chicken coop and we began the very noisy process of poultry husbandry. We were one month out from expecting our first egg when a fox killed the whole flock. How and why? Well, we never completed the run and accidentally left the door to the coop open one night. Consumed by the never ending tasks of home ownership, we absolutely broke the rules (like a couple of utter noobs). And as painful as if is it for me to admit, I just wasn't ready for that kind of responsibility. But don't think I'm giving up yet. There is plenty more time to get it right - and to plan it right. And baby, you have got to have a plan.
I've learned a lot about gardening, mostly that my thumb isn't as green as I thought, more like a seafoam green than a vibrant kelly green. And forget growing peppers and tomatoes by the bushel. In Vermont's short growing season, you learn to appreciate hearty kale, chard, and firm potatoes. I am getting excellent at making stew.
For now, we are here to learn and find peace. Through every bump along the way, we have had zero second thoughts. While our current location may be a touch too rural for us now, we still scheme about making moves to more acres, more forest, and more opportunities to build on what we have. I still dream of the day I am stocking my root cellar with homegrown veggies and cracking my bird's sunny yolks into bread dough, but I know I have to wait patiently for the spring thaw to try again - good thing I have this long winter to get my research in. I also want to get better at foraging and lessen my dependence on supermarkets and big box stores.
Before, I didn't realize that these things take time - a lifestyle that reflects a diligent effort to learn, store, and practice. Now I happily attend the school of practical life skills like wood stove maintenance, food economy, and plant identification, which to be honest, weren't skills I considered important in the urban sphere.
I can say with complete honesty that I never want to move back into the city. I love muddy feet too much. I love cows and horses grazing along the side of the road and getting to know the clerks at the bank. To those who have spent a long time in a small community, this might seem a bit trite, but it is still completely novel and wonderful to me. In Vermont, I feel like I have space - endless space - and the ability to achieve privacy even when I set off to explore. Basically, my time away from the city has felt like one long, deep, cleansing breath, and I am looking forward to see in what ways I will continue to grow.