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 ;-)
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/
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”.
No, and this trip has proven that we’ve had no reason to be.
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.
The Oxford Saloon & Cafe in Missoula, Montana serves their famous brains and eggs breakfast. That was something we both felt comfortable passing on.
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.
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.
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.
Having 50 breakfasts with strangers across Europe…?
Matt: Cinnamon Raisin
Courtney: Honey Pretzel