GUEST POST: Moving from the Big City to a Teeny, Tiny Town

This is a Guest Post by Katie Gillespie whom I met via a mutual friend and got to know when we debuted (and encore’d) our Stepping Careers in Fear Experiment℠. She’s front and center at :50 —

The epitome of quiet courage, she continually blows my mind and makes me so proud. Below she talks about one of the hardest moments of her life and her subsequent leap. I so appreciate her honesty — yes, life is wonderful. But it also has its downs. But also, it’s wonderful.

What sticks out to me with Katie is the Life of Yes℠ mantra I’m known to say over and over and over — I’d rather chance a stumble and move than remain safe and still.

Additionally, she’s the poster child for when you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, beautifulness happens organically and begins to fall in your lap. A-Ha Moments and feeling that you belong and that you’re traveling the path meant for you are constants in your life.

Keep moving and poster child’ing, Katie! You’re an inspiration.


Moving from the Big City to a Teeny, Tiny Town

A year ago I moved from Chicago, Illinois (population 2.79 million) to Middlebury, Vermont (population 8,500). The transition has been unexpectedly fantastic, which is great because next week I’m moving to an even smaller town (population 1,700)!

I spent five years in Chicago and I loved my friends, my job, and my life there but when my dad died, I needed a change. At first this translated into experimenting with my hair. I dyed it blond and later chopped it all off into a pixie cut. I felt like a fundamentally different person and I needed to see that reflected outwardly. Eventually though changing my hair wasn’t enough. I needed my whole life to look different. I ended my long-term relationship and when my ex-boyfriend immediately got a job and moved out of state, I started thinking that maybe it was time for me to move too. But where?

My parents took me camping for the first time when I was just a baby and I grew up loving the outdoors, which was a particularly special connection between my father and I. He took me fishing as a kid and camping all around Oregon when I moved there for grad school. I thought of my dad whenever I spent time in nature. I’m not a very religious person. I believe that when we die our bodies literally return to the soil. I realize this sounds bleak at first, but stick with me! The soil nurtures the trees and plants and animals in a beautiful, endless cycle and in that way we live on. So, I guess nature is my religion. When I’m outside in the woods, I feel my dad there. I didn’t feel my dad in Chicago. So, I accepted a job in a brand new field and moved to Vermont, a state I’d only visited for the first time on my job interview. It was a huge risk.

A year later, I can say without a doubt that it is the best decision I ever made. My life here is exactly like I envisioned it in many ways. I go trail running on my lunch break, hike up mountains on the weekends, and spend time looking at sunsets and stars. I feel so much more connected to nature and to my dad. But my life here is even better in ways that I didn’t know to imagine. In Chicago, I got involved with The Dinner Party – a group for people in their 20s and 30s who have lost someone significant. I found it incredibly healing and hoped to stay involved in Vermont, but there wasn’t a table yet so the founders asked if I wanted to start one. If Saya and Fear Experiment taught me anything it is to say, “Yes!” and figure out the details later. So, I began advertising for the Vermont chapter of TDP and eventually got a little group going. After seeing my post on Front Porch Forum (side note: in Vermont each town has their own electronic newsletter – so quaint!), the local hospice center reached out to see if they could help. Turns out they also had a hospice volunteer certification program, which just happened to start that night and they asked if I might be interested. I think you know how I responded :). Now we have a fledgling Vermont TDP group of some of the bravest and kindest souls I know and I’m an active hospice volunteer. Both are the best, most enriching things I’ve ever done with my life. I’ve also recently gotten involved with Vermont’s vibrant and welcoming comedy scene. Stand up comedy is a hobby I thought I’d leave behind in Chicago but I’m excited about continuing with it here. Things in Vermont just seem to be clicking into place for me in a way that I am endlessly grateful for.

Am I saying that if you pack up your life and move to a small town everything will be perfect? No. Small town life can be challenging. Want to get a cup of coffee in the evening? Too bad, because both coffee shops (yes, you read that right – there are two coffee shops) are closed by the time you leave work! Want to go to Target (the previous source of most of your wardrobe)? Gotta take the ferry (an actual boat) over to New York because there aren’t any Target stores in Vermont. Were you hoping to start dating? Well, the dating scene in a small town can be…weird. On Tinder you’ll become very familiar with the phrase “There are no more matches in your area” and you’ll have to be willing to drive long distances to go on dates. Also, that guy you really liked who broke your heart? Expect to see him approximately 3-5 times a week. Did you want to have a wide circle of friends your own age? Well, you’re going to have to expand your desired age range for friends in a small town. I signed up for a story telling workshop here and I was the youngest person by 30+ years (it was fantastic)! Plus, I of course miss all my friends like crazy and have yet to be successful in my attempts to convince them to move here (I won’t give up though!).

I think life is what you make it no matter where you live. Still, all things considered, moving from the big city to a teeny, tiny town is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Turns out cows and trees make great neighbors.

Follow and say hi to Katie on Twitter and Instagram – @gillespiekat23

See Katie in action at this upcoming comedy night! Tell your Vermont friends!