Wow, I moved to New Hampshire twenty years ago today! Well, my family did – and they took me along for the ride. Away from the bustling, dangerous streets of Lynn, Massachusetts — Boston’s shadow upon us — for the wonderfully more open and free place across an imaginary line called New Hampshire. John Adams said that Massachusetts is his country. Well, it used to be mine, too. But I’ve since hopped fences and I’ll never look back.

In Lynn, there was the looming threat of a bus or speeding car flattening me or a sibling. My grandparents also had a quirky fear of incoming Cambodians, who made their presence known by being the only adults trick-or-treating, so even I grew up wary of them. I was always suspicious of teenagers wobbling by on children-sized bicycles, hoods up and pants down. I don’t remember much of what I thought at the time about moving, though I do remember playing my Nintendo in the living room of the house my great grandfather built on Euclid Avenue – the last thing left to pack, with boxes all around me. Goodbye, city I was born in.

oldman1993

[hello, great stone face]

It was a hard choice for my family to make, with my father’s parents and siblings living within walking distance from our house. But we moved just as close to my mother’s family, so it was a fair trade. And what of my relatives in Lynn? Soon they all jumped ship, as well, finding quieter communities to live in. My family, we were the pioneers heading up north for the freedom that New Hampshire’s forests and hills could afford us. We were the first to leave the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth. My dad always reminds people that Massachusetts is a commonwealth. Just say it. Ick. Massachusetts has been an overbearing and overreaching state as long as it has existed, from its Puritan theocratic communist origins to the big-government, tax-swallowing liberal paradise it is today. Ever hear of the Big Dig? Google it and you’ll understand.

In other words, as my dad might say, Massachusetts sucks. There’s a reason people have been leaving it in droves to move to places like New Hampshire. Massachusetts is shaped like a guy taking a nap. New Hampshire is kinda shaped like a middle finger.

New Hampshire was originally part of Massachusetts, but at some point it was cut out of the map and given to a fellow named John Mason. He claimed to “own” this territory and all the colonies in it. He declared it to be an Anglican state. Then he died. And no one took over. New Hampshire remained a sort of anarchy, or as Murray Rothbard put it, “a vacuum for free and unhampered settlement.” It had no official religion, and so it became what it continues to be today: a safe haven for refugees from the dystopian-to-be Commonwealth.

There’s an old rhyme about the city I was born in: Lynn Lynn the city of sin, you can’t get out once you get in. My parents were determined to get out after having enough with the place. My mother grew up in New Hampshire and my father dreamed of building a place in the White Mountains. He grew up in Lynn and knew he didn’t want his children experiencing the same situations and trouble he got into. My family settled in a century-old Victorian on the top of a hill in the seacoast region. That dream to live in the White Mountains still lives on in me, though, and I thank my pops for putting me a little closer to reaching it.

Low taxes, better culture and community, less crime, and less government all around add up to more freedom, which makes New Hampshire a very attractice place to live, especially for folks from Massachusetts. Unfortunately, many of them move up here and continue their old way of living – and that includes voting for big-government politicans. There’s a quirky local jab at the changing culture in the southern part of the state as more Massachusetts people move up: areas like Manchester, Nashua and Hampton are often referred to as Northern Massachusetts. Long gone are the days when the voters in this state elected governors like Meldrim Thomson, who requested nuclear weapons to arm the borders of the state and also declared a lobster war with Maine (Maine promptly won). He took “Live Free Or Die” a little too seriously.

I was nine when my family moved in 1995. My only memories of the kids I played with on Euclid Avenue include throwing our neighbor’s strawberries at buses. Another time, the jerks and I got into a fight. I ended up spinning one of ’em around and kneeing him on the butt, because I felt too bad about kneeing his junk. There was a thin scrap of trees behind the house and we’d go up there and explore sometimes, but we’d often find old sneakers or ratty baby blankets – and then we’d look around for the bodies.

Of course, I’ll never forget when my dad and I crossed the New Hampshire border with the U-Haul. He pulled into the rest stop, right past the BIENVENUE sign, and taped a big poster he drew onto the back of the truck, even though it was dark and no one probably saw it. He had drawn a man released from a ball and chain wearing a “N.H.” sweater. And the words, in all caps, MADE IT OUT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Goddamn right. We flew up the interstate and to our new home.

On my first day of school in New Hampshire, I was immediately accepted into a tight-knit group of friends who all lived around me on the hilltop. We remained a close group all throughout school and many from the group are still close. I had acres of lush woods just a minute walk from my driveway, where we’d occasionally see a deer. Once we found an old porn magazine hiding in a tree stump that may have been from the 80’s. It wasn’t very good.

In my old neighborhood, the environment controlled me: I could only go so far before it wasn’t safe, I couldn’t make my own decisions. Here, we invented our own childhoods. Nature captivated us. We played “capture the flag” in the woods; we raced our bikes around the school without fear of a car hitting us. When someone’s house burned down, we spent the entire night sitting in the middle of the street — as a group of best friends — and shared stories. If any older kids hassled you, they were probably someone’s older brother – or a girl that had a crush on you. The worst trouble I ever got into was helping my friend put Peeps and peanut butter on the road to see if cars would run them over.

And instead of Boston skyline, I got to look out to the great ridges of the White Mountains – and the actual sky beyond.

your wild rider, in his hey day

[your wild rider, in his hey day]

For all the worries about a Northern Massachusetts, there is good news, too. These days, I have the marvelous community of the FSP to draw on for a whole new form of excitement and adventure.

It was in 2005 that I first heard of the Free State Project, an effort to get 20,000 libertarians to move to New Hampshire with the sole intent of promoting liberty ideas. Funny enough, I was living in Norfolk, Virginia – another Commonwealth! – on someone’s couch looking for an apartment in Richmond with a girl. She handed me a bookmark she found that explained the FSP and what it was. “Cool,” I said, a passive liberal who was more interested in punk music and girls with dyed hair than politics. I was 19 and looking for excitement and adventure, though it wasn’t long before I felt the pull back to my home. We looked for apartments on the beach before picking a place in the college town. I moved all over the state from the lakes region to the seacoast and back again – even trying out Minneapolis, Minnesota for a few months – before settling into my first house, determined to stay and live my life.

I became a libertarian in 2007, but still didn’t seek out anything FSP-related. I was more focused on that fruitless obsession many votin’ types have with trying to convince people who “our” president should be. And that “we” should end a century-old institution that devalues the currency and helps bureaucrats fund wars. As you can see, that plan isn’t working.

Then one day my one friend who was a libertarian – if you’re a libertarian, you probably have that one friend who is a libertarian, too, right? – came up to me and told me he wants to go to this thing called PorcFest, a weeklong camping adventure for libertarians up in the White Mountains. I didn’t think anything of it. Neither did he, apparently, because he never went. It wasn’t until 2014 when some friends on Liberty.me convinced me to go so we could meet and I finally saw what this growing liberty community was capable of.

In just this last year, I’ve met more libertarians in the smoking room at a party than you’re likely to meet at a Libertarian Party convention in your state. And they’re way more fun to hang out with.

The action here is more inspiring, too. There is so much happening here in activism, agorism, and political action, that it’s hard to keep track of, and that’s only with 1,500 Free Staters who have moved so far. And it’s more than political stuff, too. Recently a charity called Shire Sharing has been raising money to buy meals for those in need this Thanksgiving. They’ve well-exceeded their financial goals, and I foresee more voluntaryist charities being founded in the near future.

This non-political approach to freedom really appeals to me. At Keenevention this year, Free Stater Denis Goddard kept stressing the importance of getting involved in your community, through volunteering and all-around good neighborship. Locals will be more receptive to the messages of liberty when coming from a friend and not a man on a street with a pamphlet about Ending the Fed. New Hampshire already being so community-oriented — as I’ve learned from living here — this is an incredibly effective strategy.

I’ve spent twenty years settling in and now I look ahead to the next score of Indian summers and brutal winters (they’re not that bad). It’s time to make my house a home. Both my backyard and my community. From the BIENVENUE sign to the summit of Mt. Washington and back to my front porch.

So here’s to you, New Hampshire. I’ll live free or die trying.