Maine: Vacationland and the way life should be, it is home to a myriad of artists, a sprinkle of celebrities, some former FBI agents, and of course, me! I was raised here all my life, and Maine is the place I’ve come to rest my head for the past eighteen years. While I sound more than a little enamored with it now, it’s only after leaving and returning that I realized how much I love being in Maine. When I still lived here, I found it easy to take the clean air, the friendly (and familiar) faces, and the scenic summers for granted… but after leaving, found it even easier to miss it.
That’s not to say I don’t love Washington DC, because I do! It has become my new home in many ways, but I do miss the town I grew up in, from time to time
. They always say the grass looks greener on the other side. Recently I hosted a friend from outside of Boston for a couple days, who had never been to Maine. Needless to say, I was beyond eager to show them around! When you’re not from Maine, it’s easy to fall in love with it… and in a way, I think I even needed a fresh set of eyes to remind me of all the reasons I should be proud to call Maine my home.
While my friend was here, we went on a lot of sightseeing adventures… but nothing topped our trip to Monhegan. A small island off the coast of Maine, accessible through an brief ferry ride out of Port Clyde, Monhegan is known for being an artist’s island. It is the place that inspired many of Andrew and Jamie Wyeth’s most famous works, from Jamie’s painting of the Red House to his summer home on the island, there is no shortage of beauty to paint and draw. Even stepping foot from the ferry onto the uncrowded dock of the island feels like a happy daydream.
I loved Monhegan for a multitude of reasons, the first being that I have never felt so connected to nature as I did while I was on that island. I know it sounds cheesy, but running on the rocks, picking wild raspberries from the path, having grass brush my legs– it was all human instinct to explore, to forage, and
to feel. It was an experience that cannot be mimicked or replaced. It was quiet and it was natural and I loved every second of it.
The trails were also scenic but not too challenging, and wherever you went, you’d inevitably wind up on a cliff overlooking the ocean. You couldn’t really go wrong, which I liked. I think my favorite place I went was a beach I probably spent around an hour on, just watching the waves beat the shore. I can’t remember a time I saw the water so blue in America. It was surreal. It was also hard to believe I was still in Maine. It felt like I was in some kind of mystical storybook-land waiting for elves to jump out from behind the houses or something.
Another thing I just adored about Monhegan was the architecture. The way the island is laid out, it makes it look like the summer cottages are all stacked in a cake-tier formation, with rolling hills of quaint cottages and cute shops and buoyed backyards. Apparent to anyone who has ever visited Maine, each town rivals the next when it comes to showcasing its small town charm, gorgeous views, and cute shops. Despite it being an island, Monhegan was no exception. There were cute little duck statues scattered here and there, handpainted signs, and handmade rope decor everywhere you looked. If you’ve ever wanted to feel totally immersed in the Maine experience, Monhegan is the place to go.
I mean… gosh, l o o k at this place.
Lastly, my favorite part about Monhegan was how honestly it conveyed Maine living. I’ll admit, being on Monhegan isn’t for the faint of heart. Emergency personnel and police don’t exist on the island (but then again, with 50 year ’round residents, there’s not much room for crime). Look! They even have a public call box you can use to call the police in case of emergency. This was the first time I’d ever seen something like this, so I was really intrigued by it. Isn’t it adorable?
Granted it goes without saying there aren’t very many restaurants, mainstream grocery stores, or connections to technology on the island. Internet and phone are virtually nonexistent unless you pay extra, and there are only about 4-10 trucks on Monhegan total. The few trucks on the island are also primarily used for helping tourists with their luggage, not for actual transportation.
(Above is the interior of a cute coffeeshop/gift shop/bakery I stumbled into and had trouble leaving on the island. The Barnacle had delicious coffee, A/C, and friendly workers! It was a win-win-win!)
All in all, Monhegan is really representative of Maine life as a whole. Maine living isn’t flashy, and it’s certainly not cute all the time. Yes, you do have to get dirty, and yes there may be minimal people (or in Monhegan’s case, cars) on the road at all times, with stacks of buoys in the backyard. People really do grow their own vegetables, tend their own gardens, and shovel their own porches in the winter. That’s the reality of Maine life. It may be simple and slow at times, but it also requires stubbornness, patience, and resourcefulness.
After watching the summer tourists haul all of their belongings (and food) over to the island to make a home in the rental cottages, I realized they too are experiencing their own slice of New England for themselves, and it made me happy they were doing it in a way that was authentic to the experience. For once I wasn’t shaking my head or cursing under my breath at the idiots who don’t know any better. I finally understood what it was like to be so enchanted by a place in Maine that you’ve decided to call it home for the summer. In all honesty, that was something I never quite understood growing up.
Now? I’m just counting the days until I can go back.
( I’m so blissed out in this picture. That far off look in my eyes? Yep, that’s happiness.)
If this post makes you want to travel, where is it you’d like to go this summer? Do you guys make it a habit of doing ‘touristy’ things where you live too? If not, I 10/10 recommend. You won’t regret rediscovering what makes the place you live in so magical– and hey! You might just end up surprised yourself with how much you end up liking it.