We have spent the last few days relaxing in Missoula, MT in a much-needed break between the sensory overload and crowded roads of Jasper and Banff parks, and the unavoidable pandemonium of the up-coming eclipse. We pulled into the small, sleepy college city with only vague plans. We needed an internet stop and to make some phone calls but we also wanted to stop in and see some friends we had made in Banff who lived in town.
Several weeks earlier, as we pulled into a campground in Banff National Park we spotted two beautiful Westfalia vans set up next to each other. Their owners, Janson and Ana, and Thomas and Julie, immediately invited us to set up camp next to them and we struck up an easy and warm friendship almost immediately. After spending a few days with them and their awesome kids we parted ways and they encouraged us to stop in and visit if we were ever passing through their hometown.
After a few text and email exchanges, we found ourselves with an invitation to a Brazilian BBQ at Jason and Ana’s house and an offer to stay at Julie’s mom’s house since she was out of town on vacation – This from folks we had only met a few weeks ago! Our time in Missoula was marked by immense generosity and an overwhelming feeling of family that would have seemed bizarre at any other point in our lives given the short amount of time we have known these people. But the road is an amazing place. ‘Home’ and ‘Family’ and ‘Friends’ have become much larger terms to us as we have traveled. Home is not defined by the space you live, but the people you live with and the generosity of others. Family and friends can be found anywhere that people love and care for each other and allow that love to be shared.
And maybe we have been living in the van too long, but boy was it nice to live in a house for a few days! Julie’s mom’s house was beautiful and had a gorgeous fenced-in back-yard on a stream where K2 could run around and we could sit and drink coffee in the cool of the morning. And we didn’t realize how much we had been missing a real bed and a full-sized kitchen until we had access to them. Anyone watching us cook dinner the first night would have thought we had been transported from another time with all the “Babe, look at this!” and “You can actually fit two frying pans on the stove!” and “how cool would it be to have this all the time?” Its amazing what small things can be such immense blessings.
In addition to a place to stay, we got tips on the best local hikes, and spent a day summiting Trapper Peak in the Bitterroot range, and Thomas orchestrated an informal consult about Ransom’s injured finger with a hand surgeon who also happens to be a soccer buddy.
In our time on the road, we have been floored by the generosity of people. And it has got us thinking a lot about how we were generous with our home and time when we were living in New Hampshire and how we are being generous now. Living in a van with no income can make you feel like you have a pass on being generous for a season, but the truth is that we still have plenty of opportunities to share what we have with others. From picking up hitch-hikers and dropping a dollar in the guitar case of the buskers on the corner, to sharing our time and meals and love and sense of family with those we meet along the road, we are realizing that nothing we have is best enjoyed alone. Our experience has been that the tighter we hold on to what we have and to what makes us feel secure, the less we truly enjoy it.
We left Missoula well-rested and feeling extremely blessed.