Page 19

In 1980, 13,337 lived in Dare County full time — come 2008, the number was 33,920. (By comparison, US Census Data shows the county barely grew from 5115 to 6995 between 1920 and 1970.) That means the vast bulk of our little beach community are former tourists who visited inside the past thirty years then decided to stay put. But why? Few of us can claim the slightest twig of a family tree that runs to the roots of this barrier island — or even a local address that goes deeper than a generation. Expenses are high; yet opportunities are few. There are none of the varied career options for young families like other coastal boomtowns. No high-tech computer jobs like Central California, quick commutes to big cities like the Jersey Shore — not even the thriving college scene or military bases of North Carolina’s southern beaches. Even our retirees voluntarily forego Florida’s trifecta of constant sunshine, zero state income tax and endless early bird specials.

Are we all crazy? “In psychological terms we like to talk about what’s called ‘person-environment fit,’” says Dr. Jason Rentfrow, who Slack? researches behavioral geography at Cambridge University. No. But “In some places, peoples’ personalities fit the personalities of the people who live there and they enjoy it. In others, we are things just don’t click and so we are less happy and more likely to move away. And our evidence suggests that people are happiest in areas where their personalities fit with the definitely a personalities of the people who live there.” little odd In other words, while we fall in love with the Outer Banks — yet also because of the ocean or beach — perhaps more tellingly the wind, fishing or waves — what convinces us to stick strangely around is the bounty of people who feel the exact same way. The longer we live here, the more we reinforce that similar. Are we all crazy? Slack? No. But we are definitely a little odd — yet also strangely similar.

local character — and the more the local character influences us. Over time, the land takes on a personality that’s entirely unique and fully recognizable, producing some of the most familiar stereotypes. From New York City — where a large, dense population makes people aggressive one-on-one, yet more tolerant to fringe groups as a whole. To Southern California, where everyone’s friendly and laidback, yet emotionally aloof — part of living in a place where a constant rotation of transplants fragments social ties. Islands make for particularly good studies. Places where the geography itself constricts a small group of people to a certain spot with hard limits, shared weather, and less mobility — for long periods of time. “When you look at this process, you have to say how do these differences start and how are they maintained?” notes social psychologist Sam Gosling. “And in the more narrowly localized areas, they get maintained easier because it helps reinforce these cultures.” That’s not to say, all Outer Bankers are exactly alike. Anyone can tell you there’s more daylight between Duck and Hatteras then a couple zip code digits. But we do share certain broad traits: a sincere love of nature; a genuine sense of hospitality; and a clear sense of pride that comes from trading the traditional trappings of success for a distinctive, DIY lifestyle filled with less tangible rewards. Or as C.H. Wiley wrote in 1849: “They are generally a motley collection of idle, roving, harmless creatures, leading an easy, indolent life, free alike from the cruel, murderous and plundering propensities of barbarians and the more Christian vices of polished communities.” You could say the description still works 150 years later. Except the “easy, indolent” part. From the world’s biggest skeeters each summer to near epidemic unemployment come winter, this sandbar does its best to scare people off. What’s left standing is a toughly framed community who sticks together no matter their differences or flaws. Always willing to hold a benefit for family in need — or just to dig a stranger’s truck out of the sand. A bit weathered and windblown, but still holding in the face of shared adversity— much like those first beach cottages in Nags Head. milepost 19

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Stuck here on purpose

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Stuck here on purpose

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