This time of year always reminds me of the importance of taking chances, pursuing happiness, and loving yourself even when life is hard. Twelve years ago this week, on November 1, 2006, I returned to my home state of Vermont after spending six years in Boston. My husband and I quit our jobs in the city, sold our tiny condo on Commonwealth Avenue, and moved north into a converted barn in Warren.
It was 40 degrees and drizzling the day we arrived at our two-story rental, just up the street from The Warren Store. The barn we moved into was rustic and dark. It came with a woodstove, two-bedrooms, and a no-frills kitchen.
Our future was a bit uncertain at the time—we had no jobs lined up and didn’t have much of a plan. We were naïve, too. At the time, I figured we just had to leave Boston and relocate to Vermont, and that everything else would fall into place.
It did, eventually. It just took a while.
For us, living in Vermont hasn’t always been sunshine and roses. Being here isn’t like one of those shiny pictures you see on Instagram. It’s not a bunch of glamorous people sitting by the fire in a million-dollar home or a young couple looking perfect as they walk across a golden meadow.
It’s hard here. But it’s also wonderful.
Over the past 12 years, we’ve bounced around between jobs and homes, zig-zagging from Warren to Underhill to Burlington. I’ve experienced many moments of self-doubt personally and professionally. At times I’ve felt completely isolated and afraid.
Our lowest point here was in February 2009. Dave and I went through the devastating experience of losing an unborn baby when I was five months pregnant. Before we lost our baby, whom we named Charlotte, I had wanted to start a parenting blog. Instead, I poured my heart into launching Happy Vermont in August 2009 since I worked in tourism and loved exploring Vermont. Of course, I was anything but happy back then. But I needed to put my energy into something creative—and writing about Vermont helped me work through my pain and grief.
This blog has been a gift in so many ways. It’s been cathartic to put myself out there, and I’ve met so many people I might not have otherwise.
Of course, many good things have happened over the past dozen years. Our beloved daughter, Phoebe, miraculously arrived in 2011. We were fortunate enough to purchase a small home in a tight-knit community in Burlington. My husband, Dave, now runs his own graphic design studio, and I work as a freelance writer and photographer. Our life here isn’t exactly what I expected, but in some ways it’s better than we ever could have imagined.
We’ve put down roots, and without a doubt, Vermont is our home.
5 Favorite Vermont Escapes
So, as the days grow shorter and darker, I want to share some of my favorite places in Vermont to find solace and inspiration. At the very least, these places will bring a smile to your face.
Lake Dunmore and Moosalamoo
Drive along Route 53 in Salisbury in Addison County and you’ll come across beautiful cottages perched along the shores of Lake Dunmore. Even if you’re not swimming or boating, or it’s the dead of winter, the views of the lake and mountains are worth the trip. If you’re up for a longer drive, keep going on Route 53 east toward Branbury State Park to Route 73, which will take you to the Moosalamoo Natural Recreation Area. This area offers plenty of options for hiking, cross-country skiing, and outdoor exploration. It’s stunningly beautiful.
Getting there: From Route 7 between Brandon and Middlebury, head east on Route 53 to Lake Dunmore.
Peru, located off Route 11 near Bromley Mountain, has everything you could possibly want in a small Vermont town: dirt roads, the J.J. Hapgood General Store, the kid-friendly Main Street Makery, the new Seesaw’s Lodge, Hapgood Pond, Bromley Mountain, and lots of gorgeous forestland. If I could afford a second home in Vermont, I would buy one in Peru in a heartbeat.
Getting there: From Manchester, follow Route 11/30 east for about six miles to Route 11 east. Once you’re past Bromley, turn left to Peru Village.
Blueberry Lake in Warren
Blueberry Lake in Warren is one of my go-to places whenever I’m in the Mad River Valley. The man-made lake is surrounded by the Green Mountain National Forest with a gorgeous view of the Northfield Mountains. We traditionally head to Blueberry Lake on Father’s Day and we take our daughter fishing there in the fall. Any time of year, Blueberry Lake is a perfect place to spend quality time with yourself or loved ones.
Getting there: From Brook Road in Warren, turn right on Plunkton Road and take your first left after Lois Lane.
Chittenden is home to the 750-acre Chittenden Reservoir, Lefferts Pond, and the gorgeous Mountain Top Inn & Resort. The town, surrounded by mountains and woods, has a small population of about 1,260 residents. However, the size of Chittenden is 46,000 acres—making it the largest town by area in Vermont. And one of the prettiest.
Getting there: Take Meadow Lake Drive off Route 4 in Mendon, or from East Pittsford Road off Route 7 in Rutland.
I first visited Rochester in the early 1980s with my dad, who was good friends with a local logger. A few months ago, I spent some time in Rochester at the wonderful Liberty Hill Farm. The visit was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve had in a long time. If you’re in the market for a farm stay, Liberty Hill Farm is the real deal. If you’re just passing through town on your way to Killington or Sugarbush, be sure to stop at the Rochester Café for lunch or take a scenic drive along Bethel Mountain Road. This town is an absolute treasure.
Getting there: Rochester is located on Route 100 between Killington and Sugarbush.