Why I Moved to Maine

Editor at large Kathleen Fleury on resettling in Maine — and why you too should take the leap.

From the June 2017 issue of Down East magazine.

Illustration of a packed car moving to maine
Illustration by Christine Mitchell Adams
I remember the moment when I knew I’d be moving back to Maine. I was nearing the end of a 5½-hour drive, returning to New York City following a visit home. Somewhere before the Triborough Bridge, I came over a rise, saw the cityscape, and felt my heart sink in my chest. It was a physical reaction, my body telling me that this city was not the place for me. So I listened.

I’ve heard it a million times: “You’re lucky to live in Maine.” But it isn’t luck. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m blessed to call this place home, but I’m here because I honored what I knew to be true in my soul, that I wanted to live permanently along the craggy coast where I grew up. I once had every intention of climbing the ladder of NYC publishing, earning a corner office at Random House or Condé Nast. And had a boyfriend not dumped me in spectacular fashion in the spring of 2007, I may not have even listened to the anxiety and dread that had been welling up inside me. (I guess I owe that guy a thank-you.)

Do you want to make a living or do you want to make a life?

I get many letters from readers lamenting that their lives are centered somewhere other than Maine. Here’s my advice: if Maine is truly calling you, take the leap and come. Not for one week a year. Not for a month. Come and live the life you dream of when you flip through the real estate pages of this magazine.

I know all the obstacles that seem to stand in the way, so let me offer some preemptive rebuttals.

I wasn’t born there, so I’ll never be a Mainer.

You may find some small-minded Mainers who think this way. Ignore them. Every region has its own sense of identity, and Maine is up there with Texas for having one of the strongest. We celebrate that. But being a Mainer means sharing a passion and a state of mind — it isn’t a birthright. If something about the air and the people and the landscape here enchants you, then I don’t care what your birth certificate says. At heart, you’re as much a Mainer as any of us.

My family isn’t there.

Maine has airports, and we’re within easy driving distance of major metropolitan areas that include Boston, New York, and Montreal. Also, have you been to Maine in the summer? Don’t worry, they’ll come to you.

Those winters, though.

Not going to sugarcoat it, last winter kind of overstayed its welcome. My advice: stock up on vitamin D and get outside! Snowshoe, ski, ice fish, play pond hockey. Some crazies in Maine — indeed, on our staff — even prefer winter to summer. (Also, don’t underestimate how nice it is never to wait for a seat at your favorite restaurant.)

I’ll never meet “the one.”

When I was 24, I moved to Camden — population 5,000, median age 53, with a total of roughly 300 residents age 20–30. I took a great job at this magazine and figured I’d become a spinster. Three weeks in, I met my now-spouse while doing something I love and was unable to afford in New York: playing tennis. That’s the thing about living someplace you love — you spend your time doing what matters to you, and all of your relationships are more genuine and meaningful as a result. I’m not guaranteeing you a soul mate in three weeks; I am guaranteeing you no shortage of interesting people who do interesting things and will enrich your life.

I can’t find a job.

You probably can, if you look in the right places. If you’re in healthcare, you’re aces. We also need plenty of people in hospitality, retail, and construction. Entrepreneurs, our doors are wide open. Employment resources like Live and Work in Maine help match skilled applicants with openings. Also, don’t forget remote working. One of our own longtime Down East staffers just took a great gig with a California tech company — working from his beautiful lakeside home in Lincolnville.

Even with a job, I can’t make a living.

Do you want to make a living or do you want to make a life? It’s true, our cost of living is high-ish and our salaries comparatively low. But our quality of life is off the charts. Living in Maine means organizing your life around how you want to spend your days, not around how you maintain a lifestyle. You may find yourself putting less towards car payments, a mortgage, nights out, or vacation funds — and you may find living in Vacationland makes certain sacrifices seem easy.

More inspiration on our Maine Homes website!