“Vermont, that’s a state right?” A young man asks at a college fair in Harford County Maryland. I pull out Castleton’s map and show the young man exactly where Vermont is.
“Oh ok. Is it like cold there?” he asked.
What am I going to do with this kid?
I have reached the halfway mark on my travels and only have about four more weeks on the road. For my first few weeks, I was in various New England states that were similar enough to Vermont to make me feel comfortable. For my remaining weeks I will be outside of New England, where Vermont is just a place that people never talk or think about.
In relation to the rest of the country, Vermont is not too far from Maryland. Yes, it took me nine hours to drive down, but there are places that are obviously much farther away. I’m on the east coast, so why can’t anybody point out Vermont on the map? I have the answer. Isolation.
What I’ve noticed traveling through many of these states is that they are really like countries. Every state has its own environment and qualities that set them apart from one another. The differences between New Jersey and Maryland are like night and day, but one thing all the states I’ve visited have in common is the pride people have for their home.
In Maryland, the state flag is almost everywhere, from the rural towns to the larger cities like Baltimore and Annapolis. In New Jersey, people banded together after hurricane Sandy and are still suffering from the aftermath in some areas. Driving down the Jersey Turnpike I saw more “Jersey Strong” bumper stickers than I could count.
So why are people not aware of Vermont? They are wrapped up in their own little world with their own problems. I was visiting Spotswood High School in New Jersey and was chatting with a few students that made me realize their point of view. A young women asked if there was snow in Vermont?
“That’s kind of what we are known for,” I responded, thrown back a little because I’ve never heard that question before.
“I’m sorry if that sounds silly,” she said, “I’ve just been stuck here my whole life. I don’t know what it’s like outside of Jersey.”
That’s when I not only understood the mindset of these students, but I also saw myself in this young women.
“I know how you feel,” I said trying to comfort her a little. “Being from Vermont, I feel like a Hobbit that rarely leaves the Shire.”
She chuckled and began to show interest in coming to Castleton. I hope she leaves her “Shire” and sets out for adventure one day, just like I did.