Visiting remote towns in Maine can be a wonderful way to discover new experiences. It is common for members of the immigrant communities to assume that the distant small towns – some as far as a six hour drive from their homes – will often be politically unwelcoming to them. While some of that may be true, it is worth it for immigrants to visit these places and meet these residents.

Abdi Nor Iftin is a Somali-American writer, radio journalist and public speaker. He lives in Yarmouth and can be contacted at

Small Maine towns were the major highlights of my 2022 experience. From Trenton to Ellsworth, the Schoodic Peninsula and Dennysville, there is a lot to see and do. These often isolated communities offer a sense of history, culture and community and an appreciation for diversity. Some towns may have less than a thousand residents and no Black or brown people among them. Visiting them can teach us about their lives and how they see Black immigrants in Maine.

For this Black immigrant, visiting Dennysville in Washington County for a full day and a night was a singular and enriching experience. As part of my visit I spent a day at a school with eighth graders who have grown up in the rural area. It was an opportunity for cultural exchange, to learn about and understand different perspectives and experiences. The kids told me that meeting someone like me helped to broaden their understanding of the world, especially Somalia and the Somali culture and food.

It’s important to approach these interactions with an open mind and a willingness to listen and learn. I felt a sense that the kids were not sure what questions to ask or were concerned their questions were appropriate. For example, they hesitated to ask if growing up in Somalia with no government was traumatic for me, if those experiences ever made me feel worthless, if I ever thought about taking my own life. My reply was that I never thought of myself as worthless or ever thought about suicide. For me, I explained, the little sources of joy from playing hide-and-seek in the darkness with friends and from entertainment like movies and music were worth living for.

I think we broke down some stereotypes and promoted understanding and acceptance with our interactions that day. These kids were also surprised of all the things I love about Maine and the U.S.: the music, movies, food and all things they like as well.

There were other benefits to my visits to remote places, too. They gave me a chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. There were trails I hiked where I was alone with only me and the sounds of nature. The towns themselves are set amid Maine’s natural beauty, including Maine’s rocky coastline, forests and mountains that we immigrants don’t often see. They have unique charms and characters, and these are things we all should be looking at instead of seeing them from the political perspective.

The growing Maine immigrant community can benefit from getting out into the state to learn about local history and culture, and similarly, it can be eye-opening for people of the rural communities as well. Consider reaching out, sitting down with a stranger for a cup of coffee and make an unexpected connection.

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