I love Maine. I was born there. I spent 18 years of my life there. My entire family lives there. Trading in my Maine driver’s license for the Virginia version was emotionally painful. I miss (nearly) everything about Maine—the food, the people, even the smell of the marsh in my hometown.
That being said, I just don’t see myself moving back there any time soon.
I moved to Alexandria, VA on June 1, 2013—11 days after I graduated from college. The culture shock was immediate. For the first time in my life I was living in a major metro area. There was just so much stuff to do. Museums? Sure, there’s a bunch of free ones. Concerts? That band I like is actually performing down here. Spur-of-the-moment sporting event? Let’s fire up StubHub, see what’s available for one of the four major teams in this town, print tickets and go. Hungry? Seamless will deliver basically anything with the push of a button. None of these exist in Maine, and certainly not on the scale they do here.
It’s not exactly a secret that Maine can be hostile to new things and that the business climate is not as friendly as it could be.
Let’s talk about Uber, for instance. Uber is a ride-sharing service that works through a cell phone app. A person opens the app, places a pin on a map indicating where they are, and hits request. Eventually, a car connected to the Uber system arrives and takes you to whatever address the person has plugged in to the app. Payment is through the app. It is, in the opinion of this writer, the best thing since sliced bread.
So naturally Maine had to fight it before it even entered the market.
While its detractors claim that the app is dangerous and in need of serious regulation, the fact of the matter is that Uber has existed in some concept or another since the advent of cars. Uber is the mobile app equivalent of me paying my brother to drop me off and pick me up in the Old Port so I could safely enjoy a night out. The only major difference is that instead of texting the Uber driver for a ride like I would to my brother, I’m instead connected to the driver through an app. The only “regulation” anyone should need to drive a person from point a to point b for a payment is a driver’s license and the consent of the person being driven. Period.
While it may seem slightly discomforting to essentially enter a stranger’s car for a ride, Uber vets its drivers, and they’re subject to an immediate performance review after each trip. Unlike, say, “regulated” cab drivers in Maine (where a recent harassment case took over a month to resolve), a recent fare issue I had with an Uber driver took all of two minutes to straighten out:
While hesitancy over an online app may seem like a trivial reason to avoid a place to live, it’s this kind of anti-innovation mentality that makes me hesitate before seriously considering moving back to Maine. I’m not the only one. The vast majority of my close friends have simply left the state after we graduated from high school or college. We’re a pretty visual representation of the brain drain plaguing the state. While we all desperately miss Maine, there’s just nothing really pulling us back.
Maine has to make itself more appealing to young people if it wants to keep them. Until it does, I’m sad to say that I’m just going be yet another young Mainer-in-exile.