After 18 years of growing up in a small town within a small state, it was safe to say I got pretty damn attached to life I had in Vermont—after all, it was where almost all of my family lived.
Half of them stayed in Vermont their whole life and seemed to be doing perfectly fine. It was where I came to find all of my best friends over the years, and nothing made me more scared at the time of making college decisions than the thought of starting a whole new life without them.
What were we supposed to do without having to carpool to soccer together three times a week, as we had for the last 12 years of our lives? How does one even make friends? I hadn’t really had to make new friends since I was about five and asked my neighbor and now basically my younger sister, Maria, to “play.”
So why would I want to leave when everything and everyone who I know and love is here?
I knew Vermont like the back of my hand, and grew very fond of it over the years. The fact that you can’t go to the local grocery store or sandwich shop without seeing someone you knew, and that almost all of my best friends lived within two miles of my house. All of the beauty that the Green Mountains have to offer year-around, including their maple tree’s syrup being made fresh every Spring. The array of colors the leaves offer in the fall, the snow filled winters, and the summers spent on Lake Champlain with loved ones.
I could see myself going to one of the colleges here, settling down after, and contributing to the population of life-long Vermonters.
So there I was, trying to decide where to go to college and convinced that staying in Vermont was the right decision.
But there was still a twinge I felt in my gut about following this path I could so easily see myself taking. And that twinge was that I already could picture it all, I already knew what this path looked like. All the other paths were a mystery, I could only imagine the places I would go and sights I would see if I were to leave. There was still a part of me that I could not hide that ached to adventure in new places and meet new people. Wouldn’t I always wonder what could have been if I didn’t take my opportunity to leave now, before I became even more attached to this beautiful homeland of mine?
It was a gut feeling I could not let go of. And that feeling of wanting to expand my horizon that caused me to move to Colorado, and now getting ready to move to North Carolina. Leaving was by far the hardest thing I had done in my life up to that point, but I wouldn’t change my decision for the world.
Leaving Vermont taught me 100 lessons that I would never have stumbled across unless I took the leap of faith into the unknown.
Here are the biggest lessons I learned, and reasons why I would encourage everyone to leave their hometown or state for at least one extended period of time.
1. It makes you appreciate everything you took for granted at home.
The little things that you were so excited to get away from while growing up, will be the things you miss the most. After leaving, I never again took for granted real Maple Syrup or Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. And time with family and friends over the holidays was no longer a chore but something I counted down the days till.
2. There are good people everywhere.
One of my biggest fears when leaving was meeting new people and making genuine friendships. Yet, I was blown away by how many incredible people I had the opportunity to meet and spend my days with in such a short amount of time. There are genuine, kind, and loving people wherever your journey takes you; as long as you yourself are open to meeting them.
3. Travel will teach you more than school will.
For all the lectures I’ve listened to, books I’ve read, and documentaries I’ve seen; nothing compares to the life lessons you learn from traveling to new places. It is one thing to learn about life outside of our own little worlds, but it is a completely different thing to experience it first hand.
4. You don’t know until you try.
When I was stuck between staying or leaving Vermont, I would often tell myself that this was the best place to live, so why would I leave? But on what basis did I have the facts to come to that conclusion? I had not lived anywhere else, so how could I possibly know that it is indeed the best place to live? The answer is: I didn’t, and I still don’t.
There is good and bad to every place I have been, and maybe Vermont is the best place to live; but I certainly won’t know that until I try all the others.
5. It gets easier.
Uprooting your life can be difficult. It’s not easy leaving loved ones, and it’s not easy to be out there on your own in a world that can, at times, seem unimaginably huge. However, like most things in this life, time heals those aches and you get stronger. It becomes easier to be away from your comfort zone, and before you know it, you’ll be aching to explore more new places instead of going back.
Moving away from the Green Mountain state was one of the best decisions I ever made. Vermont will always be my home, and maybe someday I will return for good. But instead of having a lifetime of Vermont stories, I will be returning home with stories I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams when I first started out on my journey. We have a limited amount of time here on this earth, and we never know how close the end really is.
So I plan on seeing as much as I can with the time I am given, and I hope you give yourself the chance to do the same.
Author: Esther Fiore
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Hillary Boles/Flickr