Whenever my pal Loren passes over the harbor bridge in Rockport, he raises his arms in the air and says, “Look at this place! Can you believe we get to live in this place?” That kind of unbridled happiness is contagious. I’ve taken to posting Instagram photos with the tag, “Can you believe we get to live in this beautiful world?” I’m not talking specifically about Maine; I’m talking about the whole shebang.
America is a highly-mobile nation, but even here, most of us tend to stay put. According to the US Census Bureau, 59% of us live in the state where we were born. That sounds pretty good until you factor in that roughly 12% of us are immigrants.
Furthermore, more than half of Americans have never traveled outside the country, and a third do not even own a passport. It’s old data, but the average American in 1988 had visited 20 states.
My hometown of Buffalo, NY, is half the size it was when I was born. My husband and I left twice in order to work. Note that “twice.” Buffalo, like many beautiful old places, exerts a pull on its sons and daughters. Even though there are fewer economic opportunities, most of my friends and family have stayed and adapted themselves to its current reality.
Most of us believe we stay put because of economics, but we would often be economically better off elsewhere. Speaking for myself, I stayed in western New York as long as I did out of a sense of familial obligation.
Some of us truly can’t afford to vacation, but for most of us, that’s partly illusory. Growing up in Buffalo, ‘going abroad’ meant crossing the Niagara River. Vacations meant family motor trips to Tennessee or Maine. We spent a lot of time nursing bug bites in the Adirondack Mountains.
I consider myself moderately well-traveled, but there are vast swathes of this world I’ve never visited. I see myself as an ant resolutely treading the same familiar paths, over and over, blind to most of what happens outside of my field of vision.
God made this world for us to enjoy. That includes poking around in other parts of it. Why, then, do so many of us resolutely turn our backs on it? Go west, young man… and north, south, and east, while you’re at it.
Let me know if you’re interested in painting with me on the Schoodic Peninsula in beautiful Acadia National Park next week. Click here for more information on my Maine workshops! Download a brochure here.