On a recent trip to Vermont, I started to realize how isolated a lot of people and places are. Living in the heart of the “Boswash” corridor, it’s easy to forget how much of America does not live adjacent to I-95.
Vermont is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been. It’s gorgeous- mountains and skies that are simply breathtaking. Cities, towns and villages are far away from each other, and the population of the whole state- 679,000, is less than that of Delaware, yet its landmass is much larger by far. There’s not a lot of cell signal in many places, and the roadside rest stops actually provide free wifi to travelers.
While in Vermont, I spent time trying to geolocate businesses on Foursquare and Gowalla, in part so I remembered them as well as had the ability to share them with other friends. Some places, like Weston VT, home of the quirky and fun Vermont Country Store, have no signal whatsoever for AT&T down in this valley between mountains. As far as cool geolocation tools like foursquare are concerned, places like the Vermont Country Store becomes “unplottable”- sort of like Hogwarts… Yet other places, like the Ben & Jerry’s factory, actually have deals available on Foursquare if you check in there.
Small and unique places like those in small town Vermont depend on tourism mixed with locals. They have to have a locally viable business, because Vermont has a good case of “you can’t get there from here”, meaning it’s a bit of a drive and a haul to get from one town to another, and if you’re off the beaten path, you have to really work to get people to come to your establishment. We accidentally happened upon the Brandon Inn, a turn of the century Inn/Bed & Breakfast, featuring the oldest elevator in the State of Vermont (No Joking), mostly because the more natural places to choose to stay, such as a chain hotel, were booked for the evening. We had an awesome time at the Brandon Inn, but I never would have chosen that naturally, just being on the road and looking for accommodations for the night. And I would have missed out on a great experience as a result.
Part of the charm of places like the Adirondacks, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and other places is the remoteness itself. While there’s probably money to be made by encouraging tourists to come, there’s many more logistical hoops to go through to get to places like Stowe, VT than there are getting to Boston or even Cape Cod. People are lazy and like convenience and instant gratification. We like predictable and comfortable. But we’re missing out on some really amazing experiences by not hopping in the car and exploring places that aren’t easy to get to and convenient.
As I think about how connected we all are on the ‘net, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s even better when we can meet up with folks who we’ve met on line, and really get to know them as friends. This becomes more challenging as people live in more rural and isolated communities, and finding out where the online and offline can merge takes greater dedication and effort than around here, where our biggest challenge to holding a tweetup is to find an establishment willing to have 150 people come in for a night.
I think it means more to people who don’t have the same ease and geographic closeness when they do get together. I think there’s a greater appreciation for the meeting, and that everyone is there by intention and not by default. I’m just hoping I can figure out how to bring this intentionality to “regular” events without requiring people to do advanced gymnastics to get there, so that they appreciate the experience more.
The more effort you have to expend- whether its time, money or convenience- to do something or go somewhere, the more you heighten the experience, both good and bad. If it’s awful, it will become magnified as the worst experience ever, but if things are good, the effort will enhance your perception and you will remember the whole experience more fondly than you would have otherwise. We appreciate things more when we have to work for them, and I’m not sure that’s ever going to change.
So for me, despite the time, the long drive and the inconvenience, I’ll continue to make these efforts, because in the end, the heightened sense of value on the end experience is almost always worth while.