From Vermont To Spokane: A Guest Post By Michelle Chapdelaine

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Last summer after graduating from college, I decided I needed to branch out from the small northeast corner of the US where I had spent my 22 years up to this point. I had Seattle, Portland, or San Francisco in mind. Instead, I got an AmeriCorps position at a nonprofit in Spokane, a city I had never heard of. I found it on a map, a bit taken aback by its proximity to Idaho (potatoes?) and distance from the ocean. Next step was to Google the city. I don’t recall exactly which sources my search turned up, but I do remember the general theme of the (mostly anonymous user-generated) content—this place was full of Meth, rednecks, and white supremacists, and there’d be nowhere good to eat. With this promising description I hopped in Gert, my station wagon, and headed west in October.

I admit I was second guessing my decision as I got my first view of Spokane from I-90 (still recovering from the panic I felt as I briefly lost control of Gert to the unexpected deep ruts in the highway). I saw a lot of gray and brown, lots of sprawl, lots of fast food chains. I had spent the majority of the last four years in Vermont, a state devoid of both casinos and billboards, so all this was a little bit of a shock to the system. But my mood quickly changed after just a day in Browne’s Addition, my new neighborhood. The fact that I could even afford to live here gave Spokane some serious points in my book—I was previously paying more than the monthly rent of this entire two bedroom unit in Browne’s for one bedroom in a crappy college kid apartment where I was living in VT.

While it did take a bit to adjust to life in the inland northwest, it seems like every week I find something else cool going on in Spokane, and a wealth of natural beauty in this Empire I had never heard of. I found a running club, a community bike shop next to an organic, nonprofit cafe, there were lots of parks, a beautiful river. There were great coffee shops and eclectic bars with patrons who are always eager to tell me about all the things I have to do and see while I’m here. Spokane’s historic buildings may be a good 200 years younger than what gets you a historical marker in New England, but I love that every time I walk around my neighborhood, a new house becomes my favorite. And there are certainly more mountains, trails, and lakes around than I’ll get to in a year. I had a blast at Earth Day and Bloomsday, and have heard promising things about the various outdoor fests that are coming up. I still find the endless number of Spo-puns amusing, and I’ve even come to prefer seeing a tiny, independent coffee stand on every block to seeing a Dunkin’ Donuts on every block, although I have no plans to lose my allegiance to the Red Sox. When I come across condescending comments about Spokane now, I honestly can’t believe anyone could say that after spending a sunny weekend exploring the area. And trust me, that kind of compliment coming from a cold, uptight, elitist East Coaster (I know there are stereo types about us, too) is saying a lot.

Michelle Chapdelaine

Monte Tareski