Around the World in $80 (or Less!)


I had coffee in Norway the other day.

I could have walked out the coffee shop door and been in Mexico inside of an hour.

My secret?

Some “Maineiacs” (a common term for Mainers – i.e. people from Maine) got it in their heads to re-purpose many well-known geographical titles.  As a result, one can hit up Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Vienna, Paris, Moscow, Madrid, Mexico, Peru, Belfast, Stockholm, China, Poland, Rome, Verona, Sorrento, Palermo and Naples all in one day!

maine world traveler sign

Between 1930 and 1945 an artist popularized the Maine World Traveler Sign with this postcard! I’m sure back then you could get “around the world” for only 80 cents! photo: Boston Public Library under creative commons license.

I wandered around Maine aand northern Vermont, and upstate New York thanks to its proximity to the circus school I attended for a few months in Vermont.

Read on to find out what happens to people using Canadian currency at U.S. tolls booths and how to find “Down East” on a map.  (Hint: don’t look down and only-kind-of look east.)

Maine

When I first visited the circus school, I became friends with a Couchsurfing host.  Months later, we stood together on the summit of Mt. Monadnock.  He mentioned his family does annual Appalachian Trail maintenance in the heart of Maine’s wilderness.  I immediately asked (and received) permission to join the trip!

As we drove north, I got a taste of Maine’s many quirks:

  • Whoopee Pies – this pie-cake-cookie combo began popping up at every re-fueling stop.
whoopie pies from budget travel blog half the clothes maine Appalachian trail trip

Maybe macarons were too hard? I only ever saw gas-station whoopee pies, which failed to tempt me. Would have gone for homemade, though, I reckon!  photo: wikipedia.de

  • Maine Accents – I liken the Maine accent to Brooklyn’s – especially as compared to standard American dialect. Surely some locals would vehemently disagree.  For sure, the Maine rural accent is not American “redneck”!  Here’s an (adorable!) Lobster fisherman. Listen to the way he says female, lobster, here, macho, dollars, senior citizen, hire, are, water.

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  • Vacation Land – this unofficial state motto is printed on every license plate. I guess locals relate to the annual influx of out-of-staters better than they do to the official motto: “Dirigo” – latin for “I Direct/Lead.”
  • Canadian Currency – allowed at tolls booths, but not happily. The sign on the window announces a “discount” for Canadian bills, meaning the toll system will give themselves a discount if your wallet is filled with banknotes from across the border.
  • Down-East – upon hearing this popular geographical term, one might think of the lowest and then most eastern part of the state. One would be wrong.
down east maine

Especially since there are virtually no people in the northern 2/3rds of Maine, Down East is generally “up” from the reference point of anyone discussing it.  photo: wikipedia

  • No Government is Good Government – The state park known for having Maine’s highest peak bMt. Katahdin – said kuh-TAH-dinn and being the official northern end-point of the Appalachian Trail, doesn’t compete for taxpayer dollars. It’s said that 1920’s governor Percival Baxter loved and wanted to preserve Maine so much that he spent the 40 years after his term in office buying up land around the highest summit and setting up a trust to forever fund what would become Baxter State Park.  Then he laid the smack down about who in government would be allowed to have a say in the park management.
  • Not-so-Creative Names – in Maine, the part of your property outside the front door where one either parks a vehicle or grows flowers is called the dooryard. In Portland – the state’s largest metropolitan area, a downtown building that has a time and temperature display is literally called “the Time and Temp Building.”  Who let the Germans in here?!

The Trip in Numbers

The Appalachian Trail maintenance trip itself went well.  A “digital” summary:

  • 972 – times I stopped to marvel at the beauty of rushing brooks
  • 848 – times I tried to eat or drink through my bug-deterring headnet
  • 75 – trail blazes repainted
  • 10 – times I re-wrapped my tweaky ankle
  • 8 – cans of  Moxie consumed
  • 6.5 – number of Appalachian Trail hikers encountered cthree stayed in our camp, a handful of others were day trip fishing folk
  • 4 – times I placed my naked body in the freezing “Rainbow Lake” at the foot of Mt. Katahdin
rainbow lake swimming mt. kathadin

Every polar swim of my life? Worth it. Always.

  • 3 – times our group spotted moose
  • 0 – times I spotted moose (sad basket!)

Before I went road-and-trail tripping in Maine, and while I was waiting on an intercostal injury to heal, I found my way across the entire state of New York.  Up next! ♣

References   [ + ]

a. and northern Vermont, and upstate New York
b. Mt. Katahdin – said kuh-TAH-dinn
c. three stayed in our camp, a handful of others were day trip fishing folk


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