"I was, in fact, homesick for wildness, and when I found it I knew how intimately - how resonantly - I belonged there. We are charged with this - all of us. For the human spirit has a primal allegiance to wildness, to really live, to snatch the fruit and suck it, to spill the juice." - Jay Griffiths, Wild: an Elemental Journey

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Missoula Love

Oh Missoula, how I love you.  Let me count the ways.

View from the Higgins St. bridge over the Clark Fork river.
Note the iconic "M" on the hill.

1. Bikes!!  

Biking is the main mode of transportation here.  Although surrounded by magical, Montana mountains, the city itself is in a flat valley, which makes biking super easy.  The cars are courteous to bikers because chances are, the driver is also a biker.

Every street in downtown has one of these
fantastic, accessible, well-marked bike lanes

A common sidewalk scene.

2. A unique downtown full of friendly folks and funky shops

My first day here, I spent the morning riding and walking around the town.  Because Missoula was quickly becoming a candidate on the where-to-live list, I began openly asking people about the city.  I asked them how long they'd been here, what they love about it, and what they don't.  I got similar answers.

They said Missoula is a friendly town with a hot arts scene, plenty of outdoor fun, and folks who care about local food and bikes.  Score.  The only drawback I heard was that it gets dreary during the long winter.  So perhaps I'm not quite ready to stay here, but I may be back come spring.

Butterfly herbs - a bulk herb and natural food store

I found this family when I walked in to an Ayurvedic &
natural health clinic on their lunch break.  They invited me in for
tea and I stayed for an hour, swapping life stories.  Lovely folks.

The Saturday market

Antique store

3. My hosts

The hands-down best part of my visit here has been my hosts.  My friend Katie from Whitefish (where I've been for the past two weeks) connected me with her friend, Kelsey, when she heard I would be going through Missoula.

Kelsey and I hit it off immediately.  She embodies laughter, courage, and beauty.  I feel at ease in her presence.  She's spent most of her adult life tramping around beautiful western wildernesses working in outdoor education, trail work, or ski patrol.  She is full of great stories.

Kelsey at Top Hat, where we went to see a Burlesque
comedy show my first night in town
Kelsey also has three inspiring housemates.  

Theo was born in Indonesia, adopted by a Canadian couple, raised in British Columbia, and has lived in Missoula for several years.  He is a professional chef who has opened two successful restaurants in Missoula.  Then he wanted a change of pace that would allow him to travel more, so he sold the restaurants and opened an Indian food cart.  Now he works a few days a week preparing delicious Indian food for the cart, and that is enough for him to take off for the entire winter.  This winter, he'll go to India to learn even more about cooking.  He is generous, kind, and talented.

Theo in the place I've seen him most since arriving here -
in the kitchen.
Ethan is a fantastic single dad with a brilliant 3 year-old named Canyon.  He spends the milder months in Missoula selling egg sandwiches one day a week at the local market.  This covers his and Canyon's entire year's expenses.  In the winter, they move to their community in Costa Rica, where Ethan cooks for a Waldorf school in exchange for Canyon's education.

Ethan at his "Ninja Mike's" stand at the market.

Kyra and Kelsey - the girls of Ninja Mikes.
Finally, Kyra (pictured above) is not a housemate, but a good friend who has been hanging around the house a lot.  She is also a traveler who puts together several part time gigs to make ends meet, living happily in Missoula and in search of a trailer in which she will soon live and travel full time.

These people are making it work.  They are part of a thriving local community, and at the same time prioritize travel.  They are living proof that the myth of the American Dream is in fact just that - a myth.  They are happy with very little material possessions, because they are so rich in love and experiences.  Thank you Missoulians.  There's a good chance I'll be back.

1 comment:

  1. it was great to have you here!! visit soon and safe travels! -ethan