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.
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!