Upstate. Where is that exactly? It’s a term I first heard when I lived in New York City. It wasn’t long before I realized that Upstate meant anything north and west of The Bronx. You know, thataway. Being from Rochester, NY (almost 6 hours from Manhattan) the term fascinated me. Apparently, I had been an “upstater” all my life without ever knowing it.
As a lover of road trips, I’ve spent many a weekend exploring the small towns and cities and countrysides of New York State – and I always enjoy asking the people that I meet what they think of that term: Upstate. Some roll their eyes, and some object to it entirely, preferring that each region be referred to by name. Personally, I’m a lover of names – especially when they allude to a forgotten time. For instance, The Central Leather-Stocking Region. What in the world is that?? Is this where you go to buy chaps? Not quite. The name comes from the fur trading days, when pelts were so plentiful, and in such demand, that an entire portion of the state was dedicated to the hunting and stocking of this keenly American resource.
I love stories like that. And I love how they compile into the rich identity that New York State is known for today. But I also love the term, “Upstate,” because there’s something magical about it. When people say it, what they’re really saying is “Out there.” The other place. The open road. The journey. And they say it with a feeling of love, because that’s a thing that we all long for – to explore, to discover. Not just a place, but ourselves within it.
If you ask me, Upstates are everywhere. All over the country, all over the world. If there’s an Upstate near you, you’ll know it, because you’ll be drawn there. You’ll pack some clothes, a book, a journal, a camera. You’ll get in your car, on your bike, on a train, and venture off into the outskirts – for no reason at all. Simply because what’s out there is inside you. It’s the north to which your compass points.
Seth DeCroce is an award-winning cross-platform storyteller, content strategist and brand innovator. He has led branding and marketing initiatives for American Express, Samsung, Canon, The New York Times, The Junior League and The State of New York. Seth is an advisor for city planning and economic development in Upstate New York. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of An Upstate of Mind, a digital media outlet dedicated to the modern traveler in New York State, and owner/proprietor of the Gray Street Guest House, a 5-star AirBNB getaway in Poughkeepsie NY.