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point of view

City Meets Country

I grew up miles and miles away from the Methow Valley. In fact, I was born and raised in the Southern hemisphere—in Lima, Peru. Intensely emerging in the 90s after what seemed to be a never-ending period of socio-economic and political distress, Lima then began to show the symptoms of a fast-developing city infected with a westernized style that sympathized with the ongoing capitalism of the North.

As it’s natural when expansion occurs, associated dangers came along. Crime rates where not at their best, and an unsafe feel was always in the air. But throughout the years, it did not manage to overtake the magical feeling of its many attractions. A city full of cultural colors, colonialism mixed with modernism, and allegedly the best food on earth, Lima will always have that kind of charm that cannot be found anywhere else.

When I moved to the U.S. in 2001, I already had an idea of what to expect. Philadelphia turned out to be a beautiful, small city with an eclectic vibe and deep historical roots. I lived in the middle of it all: Center City, which is between two rivers –the Schuylkill and the Delaware. One could walk across town in 40 minutes. And there was always something to do, everywhere, at every time and at each corner.

Safety was not its strongest point, not even in a nice area like Rittenhouse Square, where I lived. In the local news, it was not uncommon to hear about robberies, assaults, fires, and murders. You could run into homeless people asking for money or food at your doorstep, or had to deal with loud neighbors from time to time. Even so, Philadelphia is surely a great place to live in. It’s the kind of city where you could enjoy a nice meal at one of its many excellent restaurants, good live music in lounges or in the streets, attend a Broadway play at the Avenue of the Arts, even be part of a movie set in town, and take a pleasant walk at one of its many parks or on the gorgeous Kelly Drive.

After moving out from Philadelphia to Sayulita, a beach town on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, my perspective on the city lifestyle changed. If you had the means, Lima was just a great spot to take a quick plane to any other country in South America for a weekend getaway: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, you pick. When in Philadelphia, the alluring lights of Manhattan, New York, were just an hour and a half drive, while cultural Georgetown and the historical Mall in Washington DC were just 3 hours away.

Sayulita was far from the city lifestyle. A small surfers’ beach full of artists and bohemians, the town quenched my need for nature and for a change, away from the concrete jungle. Two weeks were enough for me to adapt, and ended up staying there for six months. I was just a step away from moving to the Methow Valley, closer to nature, to more steady times –to falling in love.

Without giving too much thought, last May I made the move. My only reference was the Internet (Wikipedia, to be more specific), where it states that Mazama (where I now live) has no more than 200 residents. My first thoughts were related to how long I’d last and how bored I’d get.

However, I was pretty impressed when my days began to be full of activities, and I found myself doing 20,000 things at the same time. The Valley offered plenty of outdoor activities, and as much as traveling implies driving a four-wheel drive vehicle, it can take you to wonderful small towns with extraordinary landscapes. In a place like this, the memory of stressful city days vanishes.

Most importantly, one thing the Valley provides is a sense of community. Everyone knows everyone, either in person or by ear, and all are ready to help. Certainly, the anonymity of living in the city can be convenient, and having the chance to walk to a store in the middle of the night in case you need some supplies is a great positive. But closeness to your neighbor can be quite important, and having the opportunity to live in a more sustainable environment gives the sense of self that modernism constantly threatens to take away.

So far, the peace and tranquility I needed after so many years of city franticness have won my heart. Hopefully, my nomad tendencies won’t take over. But I know that for now, the Methow Valley will be my new home. And maybe, forever.


Have a comment? >>

Virginia,welcome to Mazama. I feel an empathy with your story, for many reasons. My first serious love affair was with an Austrian girl,who grew up in Argentina. Her father was a rocket scientist who fled the Third Reich, and eventually wound up in California. His daughter gravitated to a little ski area, run by a veteran of the 10th Mountain Troops, where we met. Since then my life was also nomadic, drifting from ski areas to national parks and forests, and guiding in the mountains,from Alaska to Big Bend-next to Mexico. Mazama was tenuous at first, visiting as a Smokejumper,Telemark instructor,and finally settling in as a heli-ski guide in 1983. I too wondered if I would stay, because of the threat of a big obtrusive ski lift area,with all the frantic big city life style that they bring. Mazama and I however, both got lucky,and so here I am helping my neighbors,who are also mostly newcomers with similar refugee stories, trying to maintain the Methow as a place we can finally stay.

Eric Burr


Thank you for your comment, Eric. I'm sorry I didn't respond before, but ironically, I'm currently traveling abroad. However, the Valley has entrapped my soul so far and won't give up on its beauty any time soon, I know that's certain. I'm curious about the many natural attractions it has, as well as a great sense of community that I always appreciated in every country, town and city I've visited. I would love to explore the Methow Valley in depth, and comments like yours provide me with encouragement, motivation, and good vibes to do so. My next new challenge is to learn how to snowboard this winter –I can't wait! Thank you for sharing your story, Eric!

Virginia Rivero Descailleaux