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.
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!)