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I grew up in cities, and it wasn’t until COVID hit that I spent any time outside of cities. I went to pre-school in Toyko, kindergarten in London, elementary school in New York City, and middle school and high school in Hong Kong. I am now a student at Columbia University and have spent all my time in New York City since I graduated high school.
But suddenly, a few years ago, COVID hit, which caused my family and me to decide to leave New York City and stay at a property my parents bought 25 years ago in Norwich. Originally, I was supposed to grow up on this property, my parents purchased it when I was a baby and built a house on it. But instead, I grew up traveling and rarely spent any time there. Therefore, this move to Vermont was a big change. I’d never lived in a proper house before. All I’d known was apartments and planes and hotels. When we decided to go to Vermont, our plan was to stay for just a few weeks. Instead, we ended up staying for over two years. All my classes were at that point online, so I set up camp in my parents’ basement and continued my studies.
During these two years, I fell in love with Vermont. It became my favorite place on the planet. And believe me, I’ve traveled a lot. Besides growing up on different continents, my parents took me and my brother on trips frequently, and by the time I was 21, I had been to 50 countries. Of all the places I’ve been to, I love Vermont the most. Here are the three reasons why:
First, everyone is nice here. One of the first things I noticed when moving to Vermont is how mean people are in cities. New York City especially. In New York City, nobody on the streets notices each other. No matter where you go, no one is kind. Whether it’s the dentist’s office or the local deli, the culture generally revolves around self-centered and competitive behavior. Society in New York City is as individualistic as it gets. But in Vermont, when I drive down the street from our house, not a single person I pass doesn’t wave. And I wave back with a big fat grin on my face. Last weekend I went on a hike with my family and camped overnight. We probably made pleasant chit-chat with over 40 people. Families, college kids and solo hikers, all of them were polite and kind. It was like we were all automatically friends just because we were hiking the same trails and camping near each other. Vermont’s (and New Hampshire’s) culture revolves around being respectful and pleasant. And while that may sound cheesy, after growing up in cities, there is nothing more refreshing to me than this Vermont culture. I’m certain that if the rest of the world operated like Vermont does, humanity would be in a much better place.
The second reason I love Vermont is because it’s affordable. I only realized how ridiculously expensive New York City was until I spent those few years in Vermont. I knew New York was expensive, obviously, but I didn’t realize how expensive. First, the rents in New York City while I’m writing this are at an all-time high. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Manhattan and you have a few family members with you, it’s going to cost you at least $5,000 a month, before taxes. And even at that rate, you’ll be living in very close quarters. Besides that, your groceries, your doctor’s appointments, your therapy appointments, your haircuts and everything along these lines costs more than in Vermont. In my opinion, you’re much better off investing that money in property in Vermont. I guess an argument could be made that business takes place in NYC, and therefore it’s worth the money to live there. But in my opinion, it’s become more and more obvious, especially over the past few years, that a majority of the work that used to be done in person can be done over Zoom. As technology improves each year, it will only make more sense to live in Vermont.
The third reason I love Vermont is because it’s private. Privacy means peace. I am a family guy. I love my parents, brother, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Having the space we have in Vermont means having space for family. In New York City, I could hear my neighbors every day as I lived in an old brownstone with very thin walls. I’m a person who, at times, likes isolation and likes things quiet. When I was living in NYC full-time, I felt I never had a time when I was truly alone. And I never even had roommates, which would mean even less privacy. Besides noisy neighbors, in NYC, you leave your apartment and are suddenly surrounded by a swarm of stress and an overcrowded sense of angst. And soon, the city’s stress becomes your stress. I remember returning to New York City for the first time after being away for over a year. I remember getting on the subway and looking around. Everyone seemed so overworked and distraught. The entire subway car seemed exhausted. But as time went on, I’d get on the subway, not feeling like it was strange anymore. Instead, I’d get on the train feeling overworked and exhausted.
I learned through this that we become in tune with our environments whether we like it or not. The community we live in affects our hearts and minds in unconscious ways, and soon enough, our hearts beat as one. In Vermont, I step outside and am surrounded by beautiful trees, forests, and nature. I sit on the front porch for hours at a time, reading books and enjoying the peaceful, serene reality that is Vermont. I can watch a movie without worrying if it’s bothering the neighbors. I can walk around the house, not worrying if the people below us can hear my footsteps. I have space. In addition, I can leave our home and exist in a society that is happy, respectful, and at peace. I’ve learned a lot in New York City. I’m currently still getting my degree at Columbia University, and currently live in New York City. And if someone were to ask me where I’m from, I would tell them I’m a New Yorker. But in reality, I’m finding that the little free time I have, every vacation day, every winter and summer break, I spend in Vermont. Those few COVID years in Vermont were enough. I decided then that the second I get my degree, I’m moving to Vermont. I want to be close to my family in Vermont, and I want my future kids to grow up in Vermont.
Lucas Paul Scibetta is a student at Columbia University. His family lives in Norwich.
This article was published in the Valley News on August 14th, 2022
I was born in New York but left before I turned one. I spent most of my childhood and adolescence in Tokyo, London and Hong Kong. My parents, who are both from the United States, put me in all-Japanese schools while in Tokyo and London. I now live in New York City and am a student at Columbia University.
My life has been a mixture of cultures and an embodiment of globalisation. I believe that growing up this way has left me with a multifaceted global identity and mindset that embraces both the East and West.
Eastern culture tends to be communal, whereas Western culture is individualistic. To the Eastern mind, everything is a part of a whole. Events in one’s life are connected, and society is a myriad of all these events.
In contrast, Westerners understand the nature of reality differently. Westerners tend to see events as isolated from one another; they also believe that understanding the patterns behind these discrete events gives them more control over their environment. Thus, the Western mind seeks to examine the exterior world through reason.
I’ve fallen in love with the competitive and individualistic nature of society here in New York. But when I return to Hong Kong, I find that my old friends treat me like family, as if no time has passed at all. And after leaving Hong Kong, I notice I am able to perceive a world that is both individualistic and communal, that is logical and illogical.
I assume that in 100 years, when globalisation has further influenced humanity, everyone will be more in tune with and exposed to different cultures and ways of thinking. The main reason I’m so grateful for my multicultural upbringing is that it’s given me a taste of what this new generation will be like.
While I don’t have a childhood home to return to, I’m left with profound memories of what life is like in the East and the West.
Lucas Paul Scibetta, New York
This letter to the editor was published in the South China Morning Post on May 15, 2022
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