It’s been a year since we moved. A year since we left a city that’s on every Top 10 list, for a town in one of the least desirable areas in the nation. Northeast Ohio is a hidden gem in the U.S. and we couldn’t be happier that we found this magical place.
Here’s what I discovered in the year we’ve lived here, and why I love it so much:
1. Green. Everywhere. Kent and Northeast Ohio is the greenest place I have ever been, no filter needed. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is a unique experience that allows for a journey through the wilderness in a way that is uncrowded, immersive, and feels like you’re a million years in the past. Towner’s Woods is also a family favorite. This ancient Hopewell Indian burial ground is extremely humid in the summer, with swamps, a lake, and ferns galore. But winter is my favorite time to visit. You can walk any trail and not see a single person…but maybe a ghost.
2. A Fest for everything. Our first day in Kent we went downtown and they were setting up tents for a festival. It hasn’t stopped since. Every weekend, there’s a fest. Beatles Fest, Trick-or-Treat, Blues Fest, Art & Wine, Polar Express, and let’s not forget PotterFest; there is always something going on downtown. It’s an easy walk with great local shops, eateries, and park trails that intertwine with downtown and the Cuyahoga river.
3. Community. Kent is a city of 30,000 people. During the school year that number doubles. The great thing about Kent is that it never feels like a big place because it holds on to its community. People gather in coffee shops, connect at fests, in parks, or through church, and make a genuine effort to get to know each other. My biggest fear when I moved here was not being able to make friends. People in Ohio definitely have different personalities than those in the West. They have hard shells but soft cores. Once you’re able to break the shell, you know your friendship will be lasting and sincere.
4. It’s slow. While most of the traffic moves pretty fast, the people here don’t, and that’s a good thing. They value their family and friends over their workload, and make time for them. I have spent more time with my family (extended included!) since moving here than I did in Colorado. I have significantly reduced my work stress and realized that as much as I can love what I do, my job doesn’t make me who I am.
Yes, Ohio in general has a lot of problems economically and socially. There are some major issues with mental health, addiction and abuse. We have an aging and unhealthy population. Major cities like Akron and Cleveland are still recovering from the recession. Lebron left. But what Northeast Ohio has is a beauty and grit that America tends to overlook. Kent has successfully revamped an American small-town to show that off. Let the top 10 lists have their cities, we’ll keep Kent and Northeast Ohio to ourselves, thank you very much.