The Midwest may just be America’s best-kept secret. I get it, it is not remotely cool to be from “flyover country.” According to Urban Dictionary, flyover states are those areas of the United States that “generally aren’t destinations for travelers or tourists and are generally flown over when traveling from coast to coast.”
The truth is that the Midwest is more than just a bunch of fields and dollar stores. There is also a lot of road construction, slow-moving traffic and suicidal deer who enjoy jumping in front of vehicles. Just kidding. That’s just what we put out there to keep the droves of people moving inland at bay.
Flyover country also offers water and/or snow skiing; boating; world-renowned amusement parks and museums; state and national parks; hiking; camping; concerts; sporting events; casual and fine dining; breweries and wineries; great schools, colleges and universities and public libraries among other things.
The infrastructure offers highways for easy travel, diverse landscapes, river towns and lakeside cities, thriving small business growth and an overall reasonable cost of living.
There are some amazing urban areas in “flyover country.” There is also an awful lot of open land and less populated rural areas. If the question “Where are you from?” requires you to answer with the name of the nearest big city — even if it’s an hour away because saying the actual name of your area would be met with blank stares — you are probably from rural flyover country. It’s wonderful.
Living in the rural Midwest is driving 20 minutes one way to “town.” It is called “town” because it has at least one stoplight and the required presence of a dollar store — those seem to appear overnight every five miles or so.
Living in a small town
I grew up in a mid-sized town that I swore was a small town. It is not. It’s a college (university) town. I moved to an actual “small town” (township actually), and now I know the difference.
We actually have amazing farm markets just a stone’s throw away. We also live near a village which is only a few minutes down the road. It’s still a one-stoplight town, but it’s absolutely adorable. We have a cute little white gazebo, a village green, a gas station that you can drive up to on a tractor, and we got a dollar store a few years ago. Most things are closed on Sunday though.
You know you live in a small town when you know how to make a meal from the dollar store because you are avoiding the drive up to the “real” grocery store. In a pinch, you will serve boxed mac and cheese with a side of pretzels and a package of Little Debbie snack cakes and like it, thank you very much.
Perception of the Midwest
I spend a lot of my time on the internet and social media because a) I didn’t amount to much, and b) I did manage to finagle that into my career requirements.
It is extremely common to see any post or mention of any Midwest state event, perk or real estate listing met with comments like “Yeah, but then you’re still in Ohio (or Michigan, Iowa, etc.).” When people parrot, “Oh, I could never live in the middle of nowhere,” I have to roll my eyes just a bit.
Sure we have acreage with nothing but woods and farming around us. I’m still just an hour’s drive from a world-class orchestra, pro sports teams, theater districts, outstanding museums, freshwater sport fishing and boating, and one of the best healthcare facilities in the world — among other perks.
Our children received a top-notch education from a small public school system that is literally ringed with farm fields. They can and do see cows from the classroom. Laugh if you must about those classes of less than one hundred students but they definitely made some lasting friendships. They also got great one-on-one attention from teachers. Bonus: They got away with absolutely nothing because in rural flyover country pretty much everyone knows your mama and they WILL call and tell on you.
Ending state hate
I say we should put an end to “state hate.” I’m a big proponent that one should settle in their hometown (if they so choose) by choice — not by habit. Get out. Travel. Only then can you learn a little more about yourself and your place in it.
We’re all just cogs in a wheel. But you should probably wheel around a bit before you park yourself. Once you do, there are numerous reasons to love every state in our great nation. If you find yourself in one that isn’t a good fit for you — find one that is. If you truly cannot bloom where you are planted, then by all means uproot yourself.
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