8/22/12

Wild Wednesday

POSTED BY: ERIKA 


I am sitting here at my desk looking out the window on what is another beautiful summer morning here in Portland.  One of the things I love most about this house, is the big tree that sits right in the middle of our front yard.  There are many reasons why I am so fond of this tree.  


1)  It shades the entirety of our grass and front of the house so our house stays cool.


2)  The tree is so close to our front window that when you look out, it kind of feels like you’re in a tree fort…


3)  There are always at least 3-4 squirrels playing amongst the branches.  Now how fitting is that ;-) 


Here’s proof:



Now, onto the main portion of the post!  I know you are all sitting at the edge of your seats waiting to see who this week’s Wild Wednesday feature is…;-)


This week I have not one but two people who I can’t wait to share with you.  I couldn’t wait to get an opportunity to highlight them because what they are doing is so unique and different then anything else I’ve ever heard.  It is people like them who inspire me to be more creative and to get out into the world and realize that there is so much we can learn from the places and people around us.


So I am happy to introduce to you Matt and Courtney!



Matt and Courtney are both Portlanders who we have had the opportunity of getting to know over the past few months.  They had heard about Wild Squirrel and contacted us to share their awesome story and adventure plan!  In typical fashion, we met up for tea and learned all about their very unique idea that was gaining traction.  Their idea:  To take complete strangers out to breakfast as a way to establish relationships and a sense of community that they both believe have been lost in our modern world.  Project name:  Breakfast with Strangers (Hence the license plates)  Here is my interview with them that will explains their project and how they started in Portland and decided to take their idea across the country…literally!


1) Name(s), ages, occupations 

Matt Webber, 37, before this I was the Outreach Coordinator at WeCanDoBetter.org in Portland, OR.
 
Courtney Dillard, 41, Instructor of Rhetoric & Media Studies at Willamette University in Salem, OR.


2) Please explain the project! Where did the idea for Breakfast with Strangers begin? Motivations for the project? Why breakfast?

In the past few decades, we have all been adequately schooled in the idea of “stranger danger”—but we both felt that the real danger lies in missing opportunities to connect with new people and share ideas. The old adage is true: a stranger is simply a friend you haven’t yet met. We’re constantly being told how America is polarized. Our feelings are that part of this civic problem is the lack of strangers simply connecting with strangers. We wanted to change that—or at least challenge it in our own small way—by taking strangers out to breakfast across America. The project was created to help foster connection, conversation, community, and commonality with our fellow Americans. Breakfast just seemed like the ideal meal/time to do such a thing. It’s early, it’s light outside, it feels more like home, you usually never hear about heated political discussions over pancakes…. you get the idea. 



Press they received before they left: http://www.oregonlive.com/dining/index.ssf/2012/06/portland_couple_will_buy_stran.html


3) What was the planning like for this adventure? 

Three years ago while on another trip in Bolivia we decided it would be a great honeymoon to take strangers to breakfast across America. So we got out a pen and paper and jotted down what it would take to make it happen. The paper (which we still have) listed people, supplies, the van, and the basic process. We put the plan on the back burner for a while even while we were generally saving for our next big trip. Six months prior to the trip we got engaged. We talked about our wedding registry being geared towards supporting our adventure rather than household items. Two months prior to the trip we launched our Kickstarter campaign to help raise the funds for the breakfasts and a portion of the gas costs. About that same time we started hunting for used Areostar vans on Craigslist and our good friend customized it into more of a camper van. We were also doing our beta-breakfasts in Portland to practice and hone our interviewing skills. In short, it was (and still is) a lot of work but fun work.


       


Left to Right: Their home, all of their belongings in a POD unit, their new Aerostar van that is their home while traveling across the country!


4) Before you left, how many people had contacted you , how many breakfasts were planned and how did you/do you choose who is going to be a good breakfast date. 

Before we left Portland we had already received about 640 emails so we had a decent ‘breakfast matrix’ for the USA. That said, we knew we wanted to make this trip a mix of pre-planned and also semi-spontaneous breakfasts. We’ve used the emails we’ve received to help steer us a little but much of the trip has unfolded while on the road. We both agreed at the start that we needed to be brave and approach strangers ourselves with little to no planning. Just yesterday when we knew we’d be in Madison, WI - we saw that there was the National Mustard Museum just outside of town. We both said: “We should totally take the Mustard Museum person to breakfast!’. We got the number, called, told him about our adventure, and the next day we were sitting down over eggs and getting a personal tour of the museum.There’s really no set plan or pattern to this and we feel fine with that. 



One of their first breakfast dates in Portland!


5) What separate roles have you both taken on throughout this project? 

Courtney: I do less than Matt which I feel guilty about. But I take care of a lot of the logistics like the budget, our calendar, and where we’ll lay our heads at night. I also tend to facilitate the interviews as they take place. Finally, I write up the synopsis’ and answers to the questions as well as the blog entries.

Matt: I’m kind of the showman/carnie/promoter/


Paparazzi/social media director. I also use a lot of my community organizing skills when it has come to finding folks, spreading the word, attracting media, and similar. If you’ve gotten an email about BWS or saw it somewhere - there’s a good chance I did it. That said, Courtney and I are both equally essential to this project and to each other.





From their Facebook: Wanna be part of the BWS street team and help spread the word? Email us your address with ‘Street Team’ in the subject line and we’ll send you a short stack of our cards to get out in your local area.



6) So right before your trip you guys got married! Many couples would rather be a beach honeymooning to celebrate but I think it’s so cool how you choose to spend your first few months as newlyweds in a very unconventional way! Can you speak to the importance of having a “counterpart” by your side throughout this crazy adventure! 



We definitely have different skills and different personalities so we balance each other out and get it all done. There’s a lot of beauty in interacting with these strangers and it makes it that much richer to do it together and muse over it once it is done. We also play each others best supporter.






Taking a pit stop on the side of the road!



7) How many breakfast dates have you had so far? Which has been the most interesting encounter you’ve had?

Right now we’re at 20 and likely to do 65 or more to get the 50 we’ll want for the book. It’s tough because it’s a lot of work but each experience has been so amazing. At this point we’re in the midst of the experience and the breakfasts we’re sharing. It’s too hard to pick a favorite because there are so many different types of “interesting”.






Some faces from a few of their breakfast dates!


8) Are you ever worried about your safety?

No, and this trip has proven that we’ve had no reason to be.


9) From the bit of traveling I’ve done, talking with locals and going to the local spots is always the best way to get a feel for a new place. Have you found this to be true as well? 

Well, we can answer it this way. Even though 5 months on the road sounds like a long time (which it is) - it really isn’t if you want to see and do it all (which we won’t). You’re gonna have to give up some things and places in order to relax, be present, and enjoy the places you do visit. Some towns we can only be in for a day and others for a few days which obviously isn’t enough time to really know a place. The wonderful thing about these breakfasts is that we leave each place with a deep impression and a rich sense of our experience. 




10) Speaking of locals, has there been a restaurant that served something very unconventional or a dish that has history in the town?

The Oxford Saloon & Cafe in Missoula, Montana serves their famous brains and eggs breakfast. That was something we both felt comfortable passing on. 



11) What is the schedule for the rest of the summer?

Many more miles and many more breakfasts. We’ll be on the road until December 15th so after the summer we’ll move right into fall and then into winter. We just broke our first 30 days and 5,400 miles of the trip. 


12) What do you hope to accomplish with your project?

That’s a big questions that’s hard to fully answer right now. Part is to learn more about our fellow Americans and also ourselves but this journey is a conversation. Our hope is that the conversation will continue long after the breakfast dishes are cleared and hopefully ripple out. This is our little way of trying to put a little of the “light” into the world. What’s been magical about these breakfasts is that they’ve all ended in hugs. These are people we didn’t know prior to sitting down over a meal and we end up parting friends and giving each other a hug. That’s pretty good. 


13) Obviously you both love breakfast!  If you could eat your ideal breakfast, what would it be?

Courtney: I’m a fan of Matt’s truffled egg toast. It’s always a winner in our kitchen. 

Matt: I’m not 100% sure but I know it would have to feature a corn griddle cake, some avocado, and some hot sauce as part of it.


14) Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Having 50 breakfasts with strangers across Europe…?


15) What is your favorite flavor of Wild Squirrel?!

Matt: Cinnamon Raisin
Courtney: Honey Pretzel




We gave them some packets for the trip!  Our packets are traveling across the country!





Thanks so much Courtney and Matt for taking the time to share more about your project and trip!  You both are truly an inspiration and I cannot wait to hear the updates throughout the next many months!  Best of luck and enjoy the road :-)


That’s all for now, 

Erika

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