The “Others” in Our Communities

There are a number of communities in which I have been quite involved in throughout my time both on and off campus. What I have undoubtedly spent the most of my time doing, especially since settling in New Hampshire, is hiking and backpacking. Due to the beauty of the area, I have had the pleasure of meeting people not only from all across the state, but from nearly all states in the country, and even from abroad including Canada, China, Australia, Sweden, Vietnam, and many, many more. Still, these are not the people I would consider the “others”.

Within the hiking community in New Hampshire, anybody from anywhere I accepted as an individual and seen as a part of the community regardless of where they are from, if they are actively involved in the same type of recreation. The most common group of outsiders who partake in this hobby that receive the most disdain from the community are what we affectionately call the “leaf peepers”. This describes people from big metropolitan areas like Boston and New York who drive up into the state and flood trails, roads, and overlooks to catch a glimpse of the beautiful leaf colorations we have the blessing of seeing in the early weeks of fall before everything becomes grey in the cold of winter. Most people within the community consider this special crowd of tourists to be loud, disrespectful, and in general just a pain as they clog up so much infrastructure people from the area usually have the pleasure of enjoying with relatively few crowds.

While the leaf peepers are certainly the most commonly looked down on “others” who enter into this space of people, another group that comes to mind are the social media crowds. These are people who come to the area and trails after seeing them on social media and do so mostly for the ability to post about them online later. It easy for people within the community to develop a resentment as they often feel that by exposing many of the lesser known areas, they’re somehow ruining what was once a small spot only mentioned by locals. I would be lying if I said I’ve never found myself frustrated with the efforts of either crowd, as I have definitely had my share of discussions about these people as outsiders among both friends and random hikers I have met in the back country.

I’ve yet to meet someone who feels that this othering of people has any form of positive impact on anybody or anything. Othering drives wedges between people needlessly, and can easily make people come across as rude, intolerant, or just unwelcoming. Of course, it is doubtful that anybody actually wants that to be the case, so it is important for us to be conscious of these biases we have, so that an effort can be made to bring down some of the barriers that serve only to separate.

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