That quote from a friend on our Facebook post from the capital, Montpelier, sums up most of our feelings toward the second least populated state in the country.
The Green Mountain State likely gets its name from its French-speaking Canadian neighbor to the north: Vert = Green. Mont = Mountain. And it’s true, the state is all mountains. And all beautiful.
The economy section of Vermont’s Wikipedia page lists a few standard ways the state makes money: Dairy, Forestry and “Other.” The “Other” happens to include all the products that are sold as something that comes from Vermont. It’s enough to make a significant percentage of GDP. In other words, the state itself is artisanal. The only thing Illinois can sell is high taxes and the fact the Wisconsin and Michigan are nearby. And my home state of Missouri has cornered the market on easily-frightened police officers and creepy TV (Winter’s Bone and Ozark anyone?)
So in comparison, Vermont looks good enough to move to.
First stop, Montpelier:
The smallest state capital in the country (pop. 7,866) might be the quaintest-still-ambitious town I’ve ever been to. We didn’t expect to stay long, but the downtown and its craft shops, boutiques, artisanal food stores needed to be explored. And we stopped at the Skinny Pancake. Yum-ie.
While there are only about 8,000 people in town, it has hundreds, if not thousands of government workers, legislators, and other important folks doing business and making good salaries. We were taken aback by the politeness of the people, the spit-shined environment and complete lack of congestion. Oh, and Montpelier is surrounded by green mountains.
Next stop, Burlington:
This largest city in Vermont has 42,000 people in it. That wouldn’t fill most baseball stadiums, but it is enough to create a sizable and sophisticated downtown with galleries, breweries, arts facilities – all on the beautiful shore of Lake Champlain. I wasn’t expecting to feel awed by what would be called a pond here in Chicago, however, I didn’t expect it to have the Adirondack Mountains as a backdrop.
Burlington is everything you would imagine it to be – think a high-brow craft-fair exploding all over a huge lakeshore and Bernie Sanders and Phish were in charge of cleaning it up.
Some words of wisdom:
We walked up the pedestrian avenue and I bought some fleece lined jeans on sale. We stopped at a chocolatier and bought a fancy, tasty candy bar. We talked to a LA ex-pat who cautioned us on giving up on the big city so easily. A slight Readers Digest version:
So yeah, I was excited about leaving LA for school. My friends thought it was odd, but I thought I needed an escape to something peaceful. Sure, it’s cold up here, but that’s what it is. You can get fleece-lined jeans on the cheap. I never thought I’d miss LA food. Everything here is fancy sandwiches and delis. No real food. LA has real food. All kinds. All ethnicities. You’re never bored in LA. There’s something to do no matter where you are and who you’re with. You can relate. Chicago has amazing food too, right?
The people here are nice. It’s beautiful. But don’t take your big-city opportunities for granted. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I miss sitting in traffic on the 405 – the energy and momentum of people doing things and going places.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy up here. And safe. Really safe. But I always think about moving back.
An aside: LA’s 405 is the 2nd busiest expressway in the US – Chicago’s Kennedy has more than twice the 405’s daily traffic. Ugh.
We spent a significant amount of time thinking about what it would be like to move to Burlington. We looked at housing prices – even drove through a neighborhood recommended by a local blog. We toured the lake, looked at the arts/opera/theatre scene. I glanced at available marketing jobs. Most importantly, we sat at a nice, yet uncrowded, brewery on the shore of Lake Champlain and stared across at the mountains. We could actually hear ourselves talk about endless hikes, snowshoeing, biking to work, sending Quinn to a free, awesome neighborhood school, having Bernie Sanders as a senator, being a 2-hour train from Montreal, having absolutely no diversity in our lives (#stateaswhiteasitscheddar) and moving sadly away from family. Who would visit?
We hope so.