January 12, 2015
~by Dave Donlon, Vermont Native and close friend of Global-Z
The opposite of living in Vermont during tourist season is living on the Canary Islands (The Canaries). While The Canaries may seem similar to Vermont (isolated and removed from massive urban areas), they are mostly everything Vermont isn’t – surrounded entirely by water and blessed with locals who are undaunted by tourists.
You might think Vermonters would be undaunted too but they aren’t. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that Vermonters live near some pretty strong personalities. An incomplete list includes Massachusetts (‘The Spirit of America’), Quebec (‘I remember’) and New York (‘The Empire State’). Of course, we can’t forget Vermont’s archenemy, New Hampshire – ‘Live Free or Die!’
While it isn’t always easy dealing with these borderline personalities (pun intended), Vermonters tend to deal with them calmly and stoically. The essence of our courage lies in willfully choosing not to match strong personality with strong personality. Why? Because we know this rattles them.
Yet, despite the defense mechanism, tensions arise from time to time between locals and tourists due to what social scientists call propinquity – the physical proximity between people. Although Vermont tourism is a significant part of its economy, that doesn’t change the way some Vermonters feel about a constant barrage of tourists in their midst.
In fact, I distinctly remember a challenging evening in a restaurant during tourist season. It started when a pushy New Yorker overheard and butted into a conversation I was having (no, it wasn’t about the Red Sox). This caused a premature exit. While leaving, I couldn’t help but notice a New Hampshirite’s overly frugal behavior, which soured my mood even more. How do I know where these people are from? I hear accents.
In the parking lot, I avoided a near fatal accident with a driver from Quebec. Did I also mention the tourist from Boston, Massachusetts, who accosted me with prop-ah pronunciation in the parking lot and asked me the way to the pike?
The locals on The Canaries I came to know and cherish would know how to put these cast of characters in their place! For them, English tourists cheering loudly for Manchester United on holiday doesn’t faze them. The Germans reserving half the beach chairs with towels in their resorts doesn’t faze them either. Not when you’ve got a secret weapon – la siesta!
During my visit to the Canary Islands, embracing the siesta was my proverbial, matrix-like ‘red pill’ (in a punch-drunk-kind-of-way). It was a dose of reality and a true initiation to the ways of the locals. Not to exaggerate, but it transformed my existence. Although my circadian rhythms never really synced with their sleep culture, I will never forget eating dinner at ten and clubbing until three in the morning.
While I had heard of the siesta in Spain, I had never experienced it first hand and in the context of heavy tourism. Coming from a tourist state like Vermont, I never imagined tourists and locals could co-exist in such harmony – not hard to do, it turns out, when both run on different schedules. That magical three-hour time lapse the locals take kept them mostly apart from the tourists.
The siesta lifestyle went beyond just peaceful meals at home or out on the town. It was also a means of keeping the local customs and heritage in tack and keeping the increased stress level of seasonal overpopulation at bay. As is the unfortunate tendency in heavy tourists areas, the locals tend to adapt to the tourists to keep them coming – oftentimes losing part of their identity in the process.
As a tourist, embracing the local culture and going native on holiday isn’t easy. Taking the ‘red pill’ over the ‘blue pill’, however, can provide insight, a sense of accomplishment, and help spark that next creative idea no one but you could have imagined.
Could Vermonters pull off siesta on a grand scale? Could we learn something from our Hibernian friends here? While Mud season and Deer season can’t be changed, the way Vermonters approach tourist season could. It sounds loco, but cultural synergy can work when a good idea’s time has come – you just have to choose the right pill.