I can’t believe I’m coming up on ten years living on MDI year round. It took me awhile but I’ve figured out how to make a life here (lots of trial and error, honestly). Here are a few things I’ve learned.

Truth #1: Most people are underemployed, we are making a lifestyle choice.

Probably the lynch-pin of living here. If you remember that living here is more important than “stuff”,  careers and what the media says you need it might help understand our mindset.

Your barista may have a masters degree, The person who carried your bags at the bed and breakfast had a twenty year career in Chicago. Don’t assume someone’s day job tells you anything about where they’ve been and who they are. (I guess this is true no matter your community but good to keep in mind.) Most of us live here because of the lifestyle and the lack of a high powered job doesn’t mean a lack of skills or ambition.  I mean did you know there’s an prime time Emmy winner at the high school?


Truth #2: We aren’t boarded up in the off season, especially if you are willing to make a bit of an effort.

The first year I was here, a client wanted to meet on a Monday morning. I didn’t have an office and no coffee shop was open… so she came to my 220 square foot apartment. Needless to say, it was awkward and I literally never saw her again.

This year, same meeting day and time and I not only have an office but several coffee shop/restaurant options to offer her.

Sure, there are not the same number of options there are mid August but there is plenty of choice on MDI for food, drink, and entertainment if you are willing to look around all times of the year. (More on how to do that exactly in a future blog post but for now, the Bar Harbor Merchants Association Open Directory is a great place to start.)

In the off season, enjoy chili cookoffs, concerts, trivia nights, and other cozy activities. Trust us, it’s fun in a different way than summer… but it is not the barren wasteland you think it is in March either.


Truth #3: Get out of town for part of the winter (if you are someone that needs a reset.)

Whether you grew up here or are a transplant, the months of darkness, fog, etc. will get to you. Nothing like a few days elsewhere (ideally someplace hot and/or just sunnier) to provide the ultimate reset button. The saying goes we have five seasons on the Maine coast: winter, fall, spring, summer, and March. March is trying to kill some of us, which is why I make a plan for it before it does. Alternatively, get yourself some Vitamin D supplements and/or one of those sunlamps and embrace the dark skies. Seriously.


Truth #4: Take advantage of snow when we get it.

Snow is rare. Between global warming and being near the ocean, when it does snow, it sticks around for a few glorious hours (or a day or two if we are lucky) before it rains or warms up and melts enough to go mostly away. If it is snowing, get out of work early if you can and hit the cross country ski/snowshoe trails while it is nice. Daylight and snowfall are a rare combination so carpe diem in this very specific way if you enjoy snow as much as I do. Of course there’s always the chance to take advantage of our clear night skies on a moonlit carriage road

Truth #5: Say yes when invited places.

Despite being in a small town, there are established and distinct friend groups (it took me 8 years here before being invited into a book club for example). So when someone invites you to dinner or an annual theme party, GO. Even if you don’t feel like it. Just go and meet people you wouldn’t meet otherwise. These are the people who will turn into your friends potentially. The non stop work in season makes winter the time to catch up with the friends you already have, so social calendars are pretty full. Plus say no enough times and you stop getting invited to stuff.


Truth #6: Give people time to warm up.

A lot of people come and go in our community. A lot of us have invested lots of time and energy into friendships, only to have them leave in two years. If someone seems shy to warm up to you, give them time. They are probably just seeing if you’ll stick around enough for them to invest.


Truth #7: Work within the existing structure of the community.

You know what drove me nuts for the first seven years I lived here? Inconsistent business hours. I actively tried to get my clients to commit to regular hours on their websites and elsewhere online. I joined organizations and tried to understand better so I could try to get this changed more organically. I’ve banged my head against a wall when, upon both checking the business’ website, Facebook page, and calling them to confirm they were open… found they were closed when I actually showed up. I still don’t get why businesses can’t keep regular hours, and I never will. But rather than trying to impose my Type A tendencies on this town, I have just embraced that I need to have one to two backup ideas if I want to go out for dinner in January. Something about any community will drive you nuts, but I guarantee you will be a lot happier just embracing it and trying to work with it rather than against it. If this sounds like giving up, sorry. I like to think of it more as spending my energy toward things that do matter and can change.

Truth #8: Stuff is expensive, get a second job… or adjust your expectations.

Unless you are independently wealthy, have two incomes, or enjoy sharing your housing with strangers, it is expensive to live here, especially if you are just starting out. You will likely need a second job to pay your bills or to work your butt off at your primary job. No one will look down on you for having a second job. If you enjoy only working one job, you may need to adjust your expectations in terms of house size, house condition, amount of land you can own, the length of your commute, etc. Remember Truth # 1, it’s about being here and people make sacrifices to do just that.


Truth #9: People value their personal space, and don’t value high priced objects. 

This seems to be a New England value but people value space. You won’t be hugged on first meeting someone. I have friends who I’ve known literally twelve years whose houses I’ve never been to. Once you understand there is a huge value on autonomy and privacy, a lot more stuff makes sense culturally.

The other side of that coin is your $600 shoes or your Mercedes will not make people think more or less of you. An independent streak means people will judge you based on other qualities, which works out for the most part.


Truth #10: You have to be flexible. 

Your friends will be of all different ages. It might take that movie you want to see time to be shown at  Reel Pizza, and it may only be a short run. You’ll run out of matches on Tinder within a week. One thing I really value about living on Mount Desert Island is it attracts people that don’t want all things right away… mainly because they aren’t important, but also because you can’t have them easily. People who need 11 pm takeout or can’t live without their Sunday New York Times if it doesn’t show up won’t last long. People who are respectful and patient or willing to DIY are those who last, meaning the community is a relatively laid back place to be. Also, I like to think more choice does not mean better choice, which is always good to keep in mind in a small place.


You’ll hear over and over again what a special place Mount Desert Island is. I think there are two parts to it: the resort tourists get to know when they visit and the village sheltering under the glitz that you’ll make your home. Us locals like to visit the resort too by the way…

I’m glad to know it both ways and share this special place with an interesting, fun, and kind group of people.

Lucky me. Lucky us.

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