Blog-a-thon: Exploring my Community: Brattleboro Edition

This blog-a-thon submission comes from Maggie Strassman, a former National Geographic Education intern and current GAW-enthusiast. Read how Maggie takes a stab exploring her community without walking. She currently lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, works for Putney Student Travel, and makes no attempt to hide her love of geography wherever she goes.

maggie32.JPGWhen I was little, one of my favorite activities when left to my own devices was crab-walking around my house. Well, at least that’s the best way I can describe it. I’d put my feet and hands on the ground, belly facing the floor, and walk backward, peering through my legs to survey my surroundings. Was I a strange child? Yes. Is this pertinent to this year’s Geography Awareness Week theme, Adventure in Your Community? I’m getting there.

By traveling in this crazy way, you really see things differently.  Your world is inverted, doorways seem to float on the ceiling instead of sticking to the floor, turning left into your bedroom requires your brain to think “go right,” etc. I could explore like this for hours. I can’t say I have moved in such a way in many years (I think I’d get funny looks from my coworkers if I tried it at the office) but it was the first thing I thought about when I saw the mission to explore a place and discover something new without walking on Mission:Explore. I love that Geography Awareness Week is challenging everyone to take on one of these missions, and with so many interesting tasks to try, it was hard to narrow in on just one for my post, but the more I thought about discovering a place without walking, I started thinking “How else could I do it?” As evident from my little anecdote, crab-walking came immediately to mind. But then I started thinking about my current home, Brattleboro, VT. I moved here just over a year ago and still love discovering new neighborhoods, new restaurants, and meeting friendly people along the way. My favorite way to explore is on foot, but this challenge says no walking! So what else do I do?

Well, I read the newspaper. And the flyers posted up on community boards around town. And the monthly newsletter that comes to my house from the co-op I belong to. “Hey, reading is a great way to get to know Brattleboro without walking!” I thought to myself. I then immediately realized that you don’t even have to read to explore. You just have to talk. Communication here in southern Vermont is different than in a place like New York or DC. My town has less than 13,000 people. The geography of culture here is close-knit and friendly, not to mention environmentally-conscious. Everyone knows everyone else, and the best way to find out about an upcoming event or concert is by talking to your neighbors. I learned the most interesting things about Brattleboro–like the history of the ski jump at Harris Hill or where to find the best cup of coffee–from the locals.


Of course there is also moving around by car or bike. A set of wheels is
helpful in Brattleboro, especially if you really want to get deep into
the Green Mountains, hit up several of Vermont’s storied covered bridges
in an afternoon, or even just commute to work (my morning ride is 20
minutes past fields and farms and down dirt roads). Currently, one of my
favorite ways to explore my community is by running. OK, OK… I know
running is a lot like walking, but the adventure begins before I lace up
to go for a jog. It starts with maps.

I have gotten into the habit of plotting out a jog using a website that
lets you trace out your route and measures exactly how far you run. I
started after I got completely lost on a recent outing and my
anticipated 30-minute jog turned into two hours of hiking around the
hills of Brattleboro. Was it an adventure? Absolutely! But I realized
something I should have probably known all along… using a map might just
be the best way to start examining any new place. I can chart out new
loops, discover new neighborhoods, and find hidden gems by zooming
around on Google Earth. Good golly, maps are great!

OK, I think I’ve come full-circle. As a geography-lover, I was excited
to take on a mission from Mission:Explore. And what did I find out? I
found out that I love Brattleboro even more than I knew I did; that
exploring is fantastic, whether it’s with your senses or your feet or
your computer; and that geography is all around us, whether we’re
looking for it or not. I’m going to keep exploring, and I hope you do,

Maggie Strassman, Putney Student Travel

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