The very first thing we did after moving to Vermont was let out a big, long, breath.
Colleen and I have enjoyed one of the most stressful and twisting summers of either of our lives. It’s culminated in us moving to Northfield, Vermont, a small town in the middle of a state neither of us has ever been to.
Depending on how often we talk, or how often you read this blog, you’re probably wondering a few things. Such as;
But what about Vansel? Last I heard you were in Acadia? Last I heard you were living by Katahdin? Last I heard you were living at your parent’s in Orono? So is the van trip off? Why are you in Vermont? Has Colleen left you yet?
I’ll try to answer all these questions, and maybe weave in a trip report for our first two awesome hikes in the Green Mountains, with this single post. Here goes….
Acadia did not work out. There’s no need to air dirty laundry on the Internet or rail against certain individuals, so I will say Colleen and I learned a lot about what we do like when assessing a place to live and we learned a hell of a lot more about what we don’t like.
Regardless, we found ourselves needing to leave Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park much earlier than we originally anticipated. We left in the beginning of August, with no plan outside of knowing that we needed to get the hell out of there quick. The people we were around, the jobs we were working, and the life we were leading was not the one we wanted. Yes, we loved climbing and hiking in Acadia just about every day, but even one of the most beautiful places in the country wasn’t enough to outweigh the negative aspects.
So we moved up to my family’s cabin in the North Maine Woods for a bit. We really just need to get as far away from the crushing experience of Bar Harbor and reset ourselves. Our whole plan for the next year or so, including our massive van road trip plan, had been upended by the fact that we didn’t have nearly enough money to start our trip at that point, and we really hadn’t planned on needing to find new jobs before taking off on the trip.
After a few days of blissful disconnecting, we came up with a decent plan. We would both get certified to substitute teach in the Bangor-Orono area, live with my parents to save on rent, finish converting Vansel, then once we hit our savings goals, we’d be gone on the road trip, just like we had planned in the spring.
Then, naturally, THAT plan got upended. For the second time in my life, Corey McCarthy was going to put me on a path I never would’ve put myself on.
Corey McCarthy is someone I met at Saint Joseph’s College. When I was going to Saint Joe’s, I worked for Corey as an Event Staff worker. I got to do all the fun stuff to set up and take down sporting event equipment. Think taking down soccer nets, running scoreboards at games, running the camera, that kind of stuff. It was great. Like most 19 or 20-year-olds, I didn’t really aspire to do much more.
I got called into Corey’s office one day, and he sat me down and offered me an internship working for him. I wasn’t a wiz at running websites or kick ass videos (which makes up what most of what the interns did, as far as I knew), at that time all I was really good at was my daily physical therapy routine for my bum throwing shoulder and not be able to throw a baseball.
Luckily, Corey wasn’t interested in any of that, he wanted me to write for him. One way or another, he had seen some of my writing work for class and decided to trust me with writing special interest stories on student-athletes and coaches within the athletic department at Saint Joe’s.
I learned a lot, and I learned it in the best way possible. By being thrown headfirst into a job and having to figure out how to make it happen, with a great mentor looking over my shoulder and getting me back on track when I needed it. As I sit here writing this out, I find myself in the exact same position, once again thanks to Corey.
Right around the time when Colleen and I started substitute teaching in Orono, dreams on the backburner, just trying to get back on our feet type of lifestyle, I got a text from Corey asking what I was doing for work. I could’ve said substitute teaching, but I also could’ve said “hanging out at the University bouldering cave most every day because no teachers need substitutes during the first month of classes.” I told him I was substituting (I never did end up logging any hours as a teacher, although Colleen did) and he told me he had a lead on a job opening that he thought was perfect for me.
It was in the middle of Vermont. It was a real job. With health benefits and tucked in shirts. And he really thought it’d be a great fit for me.
Now, you guys know me. I haven’t had a “real” job, nonetheless health insurance, for over a year. I would rather be flat broke and climbing every day than be stuck in an office every day for any amount of money.
But I also know that Corey put me on a good path before, and when he says he thinks I’d like something, I really shouldn’t doubt it.
So I didn’t. I asked Colleen what she thought, and she said the only thing you can hope a partner would say. She said, “it’s a great opportunity for you, and I will never hold you back, I think you should take it and I will figure things out as we go.” Add in my parents being super stoked on me having a stable job, mailing address, and doctor visits, and all the people whose opinion mattered the most were pushing me in this one direction.
My gut still said “tucked in shirts? No way! Let’s move to Yosemite Valley and work in a kitchen or be on a trail crew in Utah or move to Asia or…”
But sometimes my gut is an idiot.
So I did it. I interviewed and I got the job. Now, I tuck in my shirt every day. I just scheduled a physical at a real doctor’s office. I’m an “assistant director” of a department. I go to meetings. I don’t have nearly as much time to climb. I’m about a million miles from the nearest surf break, or at least it feels that way.
But man, does it feel good for Colleen and I to just relax, finally be in a town where we’re happy, finally be stable both financially and lifestyle-wise, and be surrounded by really nice people.
What about the van trip? I don’t know. We managed to get Vansel looking really, really nice before we left. The van has fully functioning solar electricity, a king-sized bed in the back, and completely renovated walls and ceiling. It’s really beautiful, and I’d love to be parked in it somewhere crazy. But where I’m at now is pretty awesome too, for different reasons. A real job with a real paycheck means Colleen and I can take big trips easier, even going international, something we never could’ve dreamed of on a retail job salary. We can save and save and save some more for our van trip, and whenever we do decide to start our great American road trip, we’ll be able to do so from a much better place than a summer of penny-pinching in Bar Harbor could’ve ever provided.
And honestly, the life of a sell-out, as one dirtbag friend proclaimed me in jest, isn’t so bad. I’ve actually been able to squeak out a rock climbing trip already, only a few weeks after moving here, to Smugglers Notch State Park. Only 45 minutes north of us, it’s a widely known bouldering hot-spot that is just chock-full of some ultra-classics. I can’t wait to really sink my teeth into it once the snow melts this spring. Add in Bolton, Vermont, one of the best sport climbing arenas in the nations, and places that are now only a day trip away like Rumney, New Hampshire or The Gunks in New York, and I’m suddenly sitting smack in the middle of a climbing paradise. We’ve already gotten in two great hikes in Vermont, including the high point of the state on Mount Mansfield (trip report incoming), and I have some just straight audacious plans with the White Mountains of New Hampshire and their 4,000 footers this winter.
I’m 1500+ words into this and I’ve barely touched on our hikes to Mount Mansfield or Camel’s Hump so this will have to wait for another time. This website is supposed to be about inspiring others to get outside, however, sometimes I think it helps to see that it’s not all stunning ridgelines and ultra-classic rock climbing routes. Sometimes chasing something you can’t really describe or fathom, such as a certain lifestyle, really, really sucks. And sometimes it helps to see that. Because this summer sucked for Colleen and I. But I already can’t wait for next summer, our first summer in Vermont.
Thanks for reading, until next time.