I am nearing seven years in Boston and my life has changed so much by making the move here from the South. I remember being really frustrated during my first couple of months (ok, maybe years) here because it was so different from the South. People did not say hello, it was cold, and drivers were insane….all of them. But, I must say, New England has really grown on me and I’ve learned a lot about myself and life in general. But, my last couple of trips have really highlighted for me how my time in Boston has, perhaps indirectly, given me a competitive edge as a traveler. I thought about a lot of different ways living here has given me an advantage of sorts and here are my top seven:
7. You become a pro at pouncing
Pouncing: the art of expertly spotting a soon-to-be free space and positioning yourself to be the one who claims it the quickest. Coffee shop tables, seats of the bus or train, or just a seat anywhere, are all at a premium in the Boston and Cambridge area, so when one opens up, you better be ready. I’ve become a pro at watching for the subtle ‘I am about to leave’ movements and am always ready to pounce on that open seat on the train. My acquired cat-like stealth has served me well.
6. You take charge in chaos, even when you’re not in charge
Bostonians are really straight forward people and have a low propensity for BS and things not going as planned. So, they tend to take charge even when not in charge. My favorite are the ‘bus yellers’ who feel the need to instruct everyone on how to move into the bus so everyone can fit. I’ve seen folks totally and unapologetically rearrange stanchions because they were inefficient and make a whole new queue. I found myself taking charge in a similar way at the Laos border, where hoards of busses drop off hoards of people sans instructions and everyone is just standing at the window looking lost. I hopped right into action and we were smooth sailing in no time.
5. You’re accustomed to rotating friends
Boston is a city of transients. People are always coming for a few months for residency, trying out busy city life for a few years, or riding whatever cloud brought them here. So, your friends don’t stay put too long. I’m gained so many great friendships here, often knowing that people were not staying long. Those relationships encourage me to not shy away from making friends on the road. Sure, some people you will never see again, but some people become life-long long distance friends.
4. You’re an expert in layering
The weather uncertainties cause many Bostonians to harbor some serious trust issues. During my first winter here, I went into a store and it was sunny outside and when I came out just 20 mins later, I walked into a full-on snow storm. I needed a therapy or session or two to bounce back from that. Around October, you start seeing the careful layering and people strategically wearing just enough to be warm with flexible enough layers to not be sweltering. People can go from beach chic to ski ready in seconds with a hair tie and a few quicks whips of an infinity scarf. Whether in Southeast Asia, on a plane or train, or meandering around Europe, I find my instinctively applying the Boston algorithm and getting the layers just right!
3. You’re used to not understanding what people are saying
Have you ever heard people in Boston talk? The letter ‘r’ disappears in every single word except words that end in with an ‘a’ and then an ‘r’ magically appears…Hello, Sara-r! When I first moved here, I was really confused. Nothing sounded like it was spelled, people talked too fast, and well, I think people here just make up words and phrases. So now, I’m practically a cypher, able to sift through accents and made up words to figure out the gist of what people are saying…thanks, Bahs-ten!
2. You know how to be assertive without negotiating
When people in the South want to say no, it typically includes an apology and a promise to consider it next time followed by well-wishes and perhaps even another apology. In Boston, when people are not interested they simply say “No” and keep walking. If you’re bothering someone in Boston, they will let you know without hesitation. When I first started traveling, I was that person that stopped for everyone and listened to their scams and tried to let them down easy. Well, my last trip to Southeast Asia confirmed that I have officially inherited the Boston disposition. As a solo traveler, touts always find me and want to tell me about some sweet deal and now, I am quick to shut them down. I even surprise myself sometimes like when a guy kept following me in Bangkok one night trying to talk and sell whatever he was selling. I finally stopped walking, squared up and in no uncertain terms told him to stop talking to me. He seemed shocked and walked off.
1. You have the “New England Gait’
Ah! The New England Gait: the ability to walk obscenely fast and expertly dodge those who get in your way (while quietly cursing their leisurely pace). Why does this matter, you ask? Customs! I can make it from the plane door to customs in 10 seconds flat effortlessly coasting by all the slow walkers still trying to fill out their arrival cards. When you’re landing in Heathrow or other hubs infamous for long immigration queues, you don’t want to get stuck behind the 18,000 passengers from the 20 planes that landed at the same time. Nope. Not at all. The unfortunate side of hailing from the land of fast walkers is that you are completely perplexed by slow walkers who seems to have zero sense of urgency.