Michel: People take pride in charms of their communities

Michel: People take pride in charms of their communities

Just outside of Madison are main streets waiting to be explored. They run through towns like Black Earth, DeForest, Mazomanie, Mount Horeb and Stoughton. In and around these main streets are not only interesting shops and landmarks, but also one-of-kind places worth checking out. They are Madison’s suburbs. In this issue we showcase the best they have to offer in 30 categories, according to our second annual Best of the ‘Burbs readers’ poll. It’s the ultimate way to unplug from busy urban life.

As someone who used to live in DeForest, I know what it’s like to be part of a deep-rooted community just minutes away from Madison. In interviewing Jake Kurtz of the DeForest Times-Tribune as part of this month’s cover story, I was reminded that people who live in Madison’s adjacent suburbs sometimes say they are from Madison. Not so in DeForest, he says. People there are proud to say the name of their hometown. It’s that strong sense of community pride blended with distinctive charm that distinguishes the suburbs from the city. That vibe will be apparent when you read about the Best of the ‘Burbs winners starting on page 60.

Equally intriguing in this month’s magazine is the story about unplugging from digital devices that, for some of us, have become integral in our lives. How long can you go without checking your smartphone? It seems we talk less with people around us because we’re too busy texting or social networking with others across town or somewhere else on the planet. Author and futurist Rebecca Ryan tells us about technology’s impact and what life could be like if we unplugged.

Believe it or not, I have a friend who never plugged in. She owns a mobile phone with text-messaging capability, but she doesn’t text. If you dial her cell number, she rarely picks up unless she’s expecting a call. She still has a landline at home. I sometimes wonder how she does it. I’m not nearly as addicted to my devices as I once was, but I still catch myself checking messages during dinner. I need to find a balance somewhere between nearly unplugged (like my friend) and disconnected enough to finish a meal without acting on impulse to see if I’m missing anything.

This month’s issue may inspire you to take a vacation from technology. It could be relaxing. It would also free you up to explore the Best of the ‘Burbs.