Last week I told you about our reasons to move from lovely Easton, Pennsylvania to Newport, Vermont. It’s a seven hour drive.
Newport is a town of about 4,400 people, close to the Canadian border. By population it’s the second smallest city in Vermont.
Picturesque Newport surrounds the southern shore of Lake Memphremagog, a fresh water glacial lake that’s mostly in Quebec. With at least ten lakes only a short drive away from our new home, the area is ideal for kayaking, hiking, biking, snowshoeing, and skiing. All things we happen to love!
If you’re into skiing, you may have heard of nearby Jay Peak, the highest point in the county, and part of the northern Green Mountains. By the way, the name Vermont comes from two French words: “vert” (green) and “mont” (mountain). That’s why they call it the Green Mountain State.
One of the first sweatshirts I saw at The Pick and Shovel (the local everything-store) said:
“What happens here stays here. But nothing ever really happens.”
That’s precisely one of the reasons we wanted to be where we are now. We were literally sick and tired of the noise pollution, the congestion, the frantic drivers, the stress of living in an overpopulated area… all these things gradually take their toll on a person, physically and mentally.
One of the first things we noticed when we came to look at our future house, was the blissful quietude. Our five acres are near a rural road surrounded by rolling hills, woodlands, and meadows. When I look out of my kitchen window right now, I see tap lines connecting the maple trees in the back yard. It is secluded, and yet only a short drive away from stores, gas stations, restaurants, and the hospital. It’s truly the best of both worlds.
VOICE OVER STUDIO
In Pennsylvania I had to build a double-walled sound booth in my basement to keep ambient noise out. My new recording space over here only needs dampening because there rarely is any ambient noise. There’s the odd delivery truck or tractor driving by, but that’s pretty much it.
And for the very first time, I have a recording studio with windows! I can see the trees from my desk, and the clear blue sky. Some days I feel I was released from a dark, 7 x 7 x 7 jail cell. It makes my heart sing!
So, what’s life like in a town where nothing ever happens? Isn’t it boring, you may wonder? To be honest, our life had been pretty hectic up to now.
Boring is a blessing!
I fully embrace the slower pace of rural life. People don’t drive like maniacs. They take their time to get to know you and be helpful. Wherever we go there are smiles and friendly faces. To us this is relatively new. For the locals, this is normal.
When we go out, we often get the feeling that we have stepped back in time to a period where people were kinder, more considerate, and had a heart for their community. There’s no confrontation. Instead, there’s collaboration and appreciation.
The Vermont economy doesn’t have much to offer in terms of industry. The main attraction is the natural beauty people are very proud of. You don’t have to be a radical environmentalist to want to protect these mountains, lakes, and forests that are all around you, and it shows. People don’t want to trash the house they live in.
There is the famous absence of billboards and strip malls. You’ll find lots of country stores, microbreweries, coffee roasters, eateries, artisans, and red barns filled with either livestock or antiques. When we leave to get groceries, we pass at least five farms on our road with fluffy brown cows roaming free. There are traffic signs saying “Moose crossing” and “Canada, 5 miles.”
If all of this sounds idyllic, you may be right. It certainly feels that way. During our long search for the right house, we have been in and out of Vermont many times. Every time we went back to Pennsylvania through New York and New Jersey, we noticed the drivers becoming more aggressive, the roads more congested, and there was the sheer ugliness of urban areas with their cookie cutter homes and warehouses. We could feel our stress level increase by the mile.
THE SHOE DROPPING
The day we closed on our new home was fantastic. We felt we had made a dream come true. My wife is always the cautious one in our relationship, and I told her:
“From now on things will go our way. Today is the beginning of a new and happy future! There will be no more shoes to drop!”
Until they did.
After signing the papers we arrived at the home that was now officially ours, and a red and white Xfinity truck was parked in the driveway. “Great,” we thought. “We’ll be back online in no time!”
Before we had bought our new house we had made sure there would be high-speed internet since both of our businesses depend on it. My wife teaches flute and piano virtually, and I need a fast internet connection for my voice over business.
The Xfinity website and three different Comcast representatives had assured us there would definitely be internet at the house, ready to be connected to our computers. But I think you know what’s coming…
“I have bad news for you,” the Xfinity guy said. “I came to hook you up, but there’s no line from the road to your house. I cannot connect you. We first need to dig to your home and run a cable, and that could take weeks, if not months.”
“But your customer service people assured us we would have Xfinity at the house,” we said.
“They should never have told you that,” the guy answered. “They were wrong.”
“But without internet we cannot run our businesses and we don’t make any money,” we told him.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but there’s nothing I can do. I just install cables. You need to talk to Bruce my supervisor, but I have to warn you. He is very hard to get a hold of.”
He wasn’t kidding. I will spare you the details of the many hours trying to get to the responsible person at Comcast while we were also working to unpack over 225 boxes. At Comcast, everyone is extremely skilled at passing the buck to someone else and in the end you get nowhere.
In the next two weeks we did receive multiple mailings from Xfinity congratulating us on the fact that their internet was readily available at our address.
Soon, the ground will be frozen solid for months, and I’m sure they’ll use that as an excuse not to do the necessary digging.
When it comes to customer service, here’s my rule of thumb:
The bigger the company, the worse the customer service.
If you ever think that as a solopreneur you have no competitive advantage, think again. You can provide the best, the fastest, and the most personal customer service on the planet!
MOBILE PHONE RESCUE
Luckily we are pretty close to a cell phone tower, so we can still stay in touch with the world via social media. I am now using my phone as a hotspot, but the connection is slow and within days I have almost used up my quota.
The seller’s realtor was kind enough to let my wife use a spare office next to his that has high-speed internet, so she can still teach all her music students.
As long as I don’t have any live VO sessions I can do my voice over work as before, and use the Wi-Fi at the library to send my audio files. Fortunately, I am not ready to start recording yet, because I’m still working out room treatment to create an ideal acoustic situation.
FEELING AT HOME
In spite of our Comcast woes, we are so happy we made the move to this charming little town near the lake where everybody seems to know everybody.
“So, you are the guys who bought Adam’s house” we heard over and over again. “Nice place!”
One of the best comments came from a “Newport Rocks” Facebook page of which we became immediate members.
“You’ll love it here,” said a nice woman named Nancy.
“Newport is the kind of place where strangers are the friends you haven’t met yet!”
I’ll tell you what: she is one hundred percent right!
Steve Krumlauf says
Congratulations on your new and improved location! So very sorry to hear, Paul, about your Comcast experience. Now you know why after nearly eight years of their price gouging and shady business practices, we took the plunge and switched to Philo streaming through Roku, with digital antenna for local service. Yes, we still use Comcast for Internet, sadly, (at $70 a month), but, we kicked Comcast’s TV service to infinity and beyond!
Paul Strikwerda says
In PA we also used a cable company for internet-only. Where we are now, Comcast is the only high-speed game in town, and they know it!
Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt says
I wonder how much it would cost to rent the special tractor that makes trenches – and dig the cable trench yourselves.
Before the freeze sets in.
When we got started in New Jersey, the cable was laid over the plants and snowy grass from the street to the house – it wasn’t until the following spring that they came to bury it. Cable and buried cable can be two separate things.
Granted, it was probably a much shorter driveway, but you may find a moonlighter who owns the equipment. Just a thought.
Paul Strikwerda says
Thanks for your ideas! Comcast gave us an estimate of the work required and it’s more than $6000 of which we are expected to pay $1600. But we still don’t know how soon they can start.
Paul Payton says
My band used to play in Vermont, and I remember driving up to Newport – and the Northern Kingdom village of Victory and a couple of others on dirt roads, some of which even had state highway numbers! It was certainly rural, but from your description it seems that a little more sophistication has reached the area than in my time there decades ago. I’m sure the beauty remains intact.
Comcast – well, they were better than what we had before, but that’s damning with faint praise. I think Alicia’s suggestion of jury-rigging an overland cable until spring might be a good way to go. I’d bet that there are neighbors who know how to do that. Just a thought….
Good luck to you and Pam. We’d love to get back up that way again once we feel that the world will be safe ince more for pleasure travel. (No planes for a while, though!)
Bette and I wish you a wonderful and joyous holiday season in your new home!
Paul Strikwerda says
YOu guys are always welcome in the Green Mountain State. I hope that, by the time you arrive, we’ll finally have cable and high-speed internet.
Joshua Alexander says
Maaaaaaaaaaaan your journey sounds so similar to ours, my friend. I mean it. We too grew so disenchanted with the high traffic, noise, constant cars, proximity to other houses, cookie cutter nonsense….bleccchhhhhh!! Once they started to plow down the idyllic trees at the end of our old cul-de-sac in order to make room for MORE houses, we knew that was the last straw. Then Covid hit, and we had yet another reason to get away from there and social distance. SO glad to get out of there. We are now on 3.88 acres in Olympia and absolutely love it here. It’s so peaceful and quiet and pastoral. And I know what you mean about the trees and the power lines and that’s it. I’m having my own new studio built and it too will only really need dampening because where we are is so pastoral. People wave at you as you drive. Never had that before. I LOVE that people tell you “Oh you bought Adam’s house – nice place!” That is SO neighborly! I love it and am grateful for your blessing of moving there! And I am SO sorry about XFinity. Don’t get me started. I hate them with every fiber of my being and the fire of a thousand suns. ICK. May they come to your aid swiftly and deliver as they promised. I truly wish that. Is there no other high speed carrier in the area? Do you have a separate tablet with LTE on it that you can use as your hotspot so you can free up your phone? What about Ooma? I looked up different providers in your area by zip code and Ooma has 4G LTE for 100 Mbps. It’s not XFinity speeds but would it do? I’d hate to see you have to wait. 🙁 Check it out at: https://www.ooma.com/business-internet/coverage-map/ All of the others like Hughes.Net, Viasat, Consolidated, King Street, etc., are all too slow or are unavailable. Wish I could help more!
Paul Strikwerda says
It is amazing indeed, how paralel our stories are. Good luck on your studio build. I am following your photos on social media!
Prior to committing to our new home, I looked at all the internet providers in the area. My business could work on a lower speed but my wife teaches piano and flute online, and she needs a connection without latency so she can play duets with her students in real time. This means speeds starting at 250 mbps.
Paul, I am so happy for you and your move and sad to know you are going through such a tough time with your internet installation. Glad you are able to use workarounds for now. I know how happy I was when we installed our high-speed internet here in our French village of 800 people! I almost wanted to cry with joy! ha ha
Sending good vibes your way!
Paul Strikwerda says
Thank you, Stephanie! My situation made me realize how many people in the world do not have easy access to (fast) internet, and how limiting that can be. It’s become an essential part of life, especially now that this nasty pandemic is forcing all of us to spend more time at home.
Bev Standing says
Paul, I’m excited for you to be able to just breathe, slow down a little and take life slower. Did the same thing 6 years ago. I forgot to make sure I had highspeed. (Ya FORGOT) and when I arrived we were on cell. I instantly got on a fixed wireless system and do directed sessions all the time without any issues. My email takes a little longer to receive and send, but I got used to that.
Enjoy the view. It’s a healthy way to work. Keep posting pictures, it’s absolutely beautiful.
Rob Reider says
Paul – I SO resonate with your situation. My wife and I live in Loveland, Ohio, outside of Cincinnati where the traffic is NOTHING like the Eastern Seaboard. However, we have a place on an island off the coast of Maine, Isle Au Haut, and your comment about nothing happening is what we have there – and it’s joyful. Our drives across PA, NY, and up the coast have gotten progressively worse and in 2016 we bought a small plane that has allowed us to overfly the traffic and land a few hours from where we take a boat to the island. UNTIL this year when car rental rates (from the airport in Brunswick, Maine to Stonington – to get the boat) went through the roof. So last August we drove – and were rear-ended on I-84 in Connecticut.
Regarding internet, since I got the place on Isle Au Haut, internet has been very sketchy and I had to drive about 10 minutes to the town library to be able to upload files. Finally, last September, we got fiber on the island and the drop to our house gave us 25 down and 5 up. It’s almost magical!
All that to say is that I feel your pain about the internet and I feel the joy you and your wife have in being away from the crowd.
I can even do audiobook recording up there and match my studio sound. Gotta love technology.
Gotta love peace and quiet even more!
Thanks for your blogs and contributions to the voice community.
Paul Strikwerda says
Hi Rob, thank you for reading about my joys, my trials, and my tribulations. My workaround the internet situation is to start recording in my studio, and then transfer the files from our library where they offer WiFi. However, my studio space needs some extra acoustic treatment and with labor and material shortages, my sound panels are scheduled to arrive next year. Oddly enough, I am okay with that. There’s plenty to do around the house, and I like giving my voice a well-deserved break.
Chuck Davis says
Paul! That is so cool! We lived in Newport in the mid 70’s while I worked at WIKE 1490AM. I’m assuming the tower and little red studio building are still there on the hill by the lake. We lived in a 3rd floor apartment on Prospect St. Many memories of being stuck on Main St while a freight train rolled through town and watching the snow machines fly up and down the lake on cold winter nights. We had friends that lived in Derby Line too. I’d love to get back there someday.
Paul Strikwerda says
Hi Chuck… what a small world it is! I will have to look for the little red studio on the hill. My house is between Newport and Derby, on Hinman Settler Road. The post office thinks we live in Newport, and the tax man says we live in Derby. Works for me!
Michelle Falzon says
Congrats on your new home and new found peace and quiet! I’m getting ready to do the same thing within a year or two. My neighborhood is getting louder and I crave peace and quiet. I’m so sorry to hear about Comcast. That sounds like a nightmare but hopefully, you’ll be up and running soon.
My studio is currently halfway underground with a heavy duty window insert. I’ve gotten around the neighborhood noise since 2014, but I am very tired of it. It must be so nice to not feel like you’re in a cave.
Best of luck to both of you in 2022!
Paul Strikwerda says
Noise pollution sucks energy! Hope you can escape the loud neighbors and such. I highly recommend Vermont!
Paul Payton says
Hi, Paul and Pam,
Thank you for your live-in-person actual paper card!!!! What a treat. Bette and I wish you a meaningful and wonderful Christmas in your new home!