Focus

This is the country I was born in and in which I spent the first 24 years of my live. I have lived in three different states (Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island), have been to dozens of others and have had far too many experiences to fit into a simple webpage. Therefore, I will use this section for something different. I will highlight some of my favorite towns/cities/places in the country. And, of course, they'll be the ones that are left out of nearly every guidebook and travel blog (Sorry New York and Los Angeles, not today).

Vermont Pictures

My first domestic photo album! It all happened over a weekend in mid July as friends of bygone years converged in the rural mountains of Vermont to give our buddy Jeff a final historic send off before he entered the institution commonly known as marriage. Aka, it was his bachelor party. Festivities were abundant, fires were lit, metallic cans were impaled by darts, and vital organs like the liver were damaged... And the next morning, at Jeff's request, we all hiked a mountain at 9:00am. Please let that info sink in so you can imagine our physical states and understand the true meaning of friendship.

(p.s. as of this writing, my body still hurts)

THE HIKE

 A view from the clearing

A view from the clearing

 On the way up

On the way up

 Stay focused

Stay focused

 Gather round

Gather round

 This turned out to be much steeper than expected

This turned out to be much steeper than expected

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 Eventually we got to a road

Eventually we got to a road

 Towering above New England

Towering above New England

 The top is in sight

The top is in sight

 Made it! At this point, Jeff, being 6'8'' was the highest elevated person in the whole state of Vermont.

Made it! At this point, Jeff, being 6'8'' was the highest elevated person in the whole state of Vermont.

 Ready to begin our discent

Ready to begin our discent

OUR AIR BNB

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Burlington

Vermont

If I do decide to return to the US for an extended period of time, I would settle in Burlington Vermont. Granted, I have not seen every city, nor every state, but I have been up and down both coasts and spent a little time in the middle around the Chicago area. And out of all this, Burlington stands alone as a personal favorite. The city itself is a bit of an anomaly. Being located in the rural green hills of northern New England, hours from any other city, Burlington one may think it would fit the mold for a traditional, conservative community. But the great thing is that it doesn't. Not at all.

Turns out, Burlington is a super progressive town of about 50,000 hippies like to go skiing. And it packs so much into a small area. It has some of the most gorgeous views in the country along the shores of Lake Champlain, gave the world Ben & Jerry's, and beard+flannel shirt combinations are everpresent. They're even the largest US city to date to ever elect a socialist mayor (little known guy who goes by the name Bernie Sanders) back in the 1980s. I know these may seem like odd combinations and that the city itself may come across as a bit weird, but it is all in the best way imaginable. To give you a better picture of it all, let me tell you about this occurrence that actually happened when I drove up one day to visit my friend Pat.

 Vermont in a nutshell

Vermont in a nutshell

After spending the past two hours driving through the open, green countryside, seeing only a random farm here and there, I finally reached Pat's apartment in Burlington, but when I pulled into his driveway, I saw a strange man I'd never seen before riding Pat's bike pack to the apartment.

"Hey," he said. "Is this your bike?"

"No...," I replied, a bit stupefied by the whole situation "I think that's my friend's though."

"Oh. Well tell him I said thanks. I just borrowed it to go buy some groceries. I didn't feel like walking the whole way today." He then leaned the bike up against the building and walked away, grocery bag in hand. Replaying the whole encounter in my mind, I walked up to Pat's door and knocked.

"Pat," I said when he answered, "Some guy apparently just took your bike to go buy food. I just saw him bringing it back. You ever think of getting a bike lock?"

"Well, he brought it back," Pat calmly replied, "So what's the worry?"

It's strange how it all came about, but Burlington is a bit of a refuge from the fast-paced, impersonal, work-till-you-drop mentality that is all too prevalent in the Northeast. It still keeps the charm of a classic New England town but retains none of the stress. And, best of all, it has some of the coolest local places I've ever been to anywhere. Every place has it's own little unique quirk, but in a way that is interesting, not self-gratifying and pretentious.

And if you happen to be tired of seeing only bland and terrible beers from Millercoors and Anheuser-Busch on tap at the bar, Burlington has a fix here too. Most of the bars serve only local Vermont brewed drinks from Magic Hat (truly magic) to Citizen Cider, and, if you're lucky... Heady Topper! If you have not tried this beer yet do it. It will open you up to a new world you never knew existed (take that Oregon and Colorado microbreweries!)

Providence

Rhode Island

Before I left and went abroad, I had lived in Connecticut (Monroe, Redding, and New London), New York (Brooklyn), and Rhode Island (Providence). And while they all had their ups and downs, my personal favorite of these is an easy choice: Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence isn't a huge city by any means, with a population of about 200,000, but it comes with a tremendous character and uniqueness. During the time I lived there, there was never a shortage of things to do, and since the town doesn't really get any tourists, everything was open to the locals. This could largely be due to the fact that it is a college town, which by having five universities including Brown, it definitely is. But it is in the best way possible with music, cafes, and pubs all significantly less expensive than places like New York and Boston.

For me, though, there were a couple of things that stood out above the rest. The first of which is coffee. Little known fact, Providence has the most coffee shops per person out of any city in the country, and best of all, 99% of them are not chains with bland coffee like Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. My personal favorite, though, is one called Coffee Exchange (see 'Stories' section). Right when you walk in, you'll be greeted by the therapeutic scent of freshly ground coffee from countries all over the world. There will be dozens of choices from which to take your pick, and the small pastries they sell alongside are absolutely delicious.

And then, there's the live music. For a city that isn't all that big, Providence is crawling with live music venues, big and small. If you go out on a Friday or Saturday, you'll pretty much struggle to find a place that doesn't have a band performing. And I mean this in the best way possible, because the bands are fun and exciting, as opposed to pretentious and terrible. For example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QkszmLVEHU. It's pretty much a fun, welcoming atmosphere regardless, which made me feel at home right when I first moved in.

I guess the city lucks out being a college town in between New York and Boston, so it gets a lot of the action from the two cities for about a fraction of the price and without the crowds of tourists. There's no big city pressure either, so everything seems more fun and relaxed. I guess I can conclude by saying this: Imagine the quintessential cozy seaside town but with a vibrant culture and so many things to do. That is Providence.