Greetings from the rather remote, sparsely populated state of Montana! Man-o-man, have things changed since departing from the Pacific Northwest. The farther east I was traveling from Seattle, the increasingly flatter the terrain got; the politics drastically shifting from progressive to highly conservative; and it brought me back to my Delano/Bakersfield, California days earlier this summer. I was actually getting some flashbacks as I continued to plug along.
Prior to me leaving greater Seattle, I was exceptionally lucky to stay with some amazing friends/friends of friends who generously welcomed me into their homes and made me feel extremely comfortable—I had a blast catching up & seeing what life is like in their present cities.
Ever since I moved out of my apartment in Oakland, my friends ensured that I had a roof over my head and somewhere to call home while I was going after my dreams. Thank you to you all—you define the meaning of friendship to me. You are true friends.
Ever since I left Oakland, I've only used Airbnb for 1 night in Jacksonville, OR on my way north to work in Portland and again for a couple nights in very northern Washington. And one night, I did sleep in the lobby of a hotel in Yosemite Valley—the first night after I left Bakersfield. I drove up to Mono Lake and there was nowhere to stay that night as everything was 100% booked—I was in the middle of nowhere.
As I was racking my brain trying to figure out a solution for the night, I remember reading in an article somewhere that when all else fails, try to blend in somewhere at a hotel lobby (haha!). It was a pretty rough night—I found a side room in the lobby that was fairly dim and tried to fall asleep discreetly in the armchair in the corner. Luckily, the only two eventful events of the evening were: 1) an elderly gentleman walking in & looking at me disapprovingly (hey buddy, maybe you'd do the same thing if you were in my shoes) & 2) a mouse scurrying across the floor that did in fact scare the crap out of me. I'm glad to say that this level of roughing it has happened only once during my entire journey! <fingers crossed>
So—when I was looking ahead at my journey eastward, I realized that once I left Seattle and made the long drive on I-90 towards Montana: I didn't know anyone.
Being that I am currently a pro bono lawyer on a tight budget—and that I have never been to this part of the country before—Couchsurfing was on my radar screen.
I had a bunch of friends who were part of that community and have raved about it—saying that they had met awesome people through surfing and were able to learn more about the community than they would have on their own.
And of course, I was wondering: uh—I don't know how I feel about staying in a total stranger's home where I don't have *any* connection to them at all...
But, I was absolutely willing to give it a shot and thanks to my Couchsurfing friends who wrote me a recommendation (many thanks to those who did!)—I was ready to start surfing.
I have had an extremely good experience with Couchsurfing so far on my way to Montana. In fact, I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to not only meet awesome people, but a way to very quickly jump in to what the local culture is like. It has been so wonderful because I am a total newbie to this part of the country. And as I was mentioning on a recent social media post, it's a part of the country that in certain locales, can be hostile and difficult to navigate.
After a tough day previously, my first Couchsurfing host Erin showed me around Bellingham—including the gem, the Bellingham Bay and boulevard. MariRuth (not pictured above) in Wenatchee totally coincidentally happened to also be an attorney and I actually remembered that I randomly ran into her for a few minutes at the Tacoma NWIRP office! (I love that these worlds collided.) Jamie in C'oeur d'Alene, ID was an amazing soundboard and resource for not only the natural beauty of the region, but some of its troubled past. Kushtahn in Missoula took me to the top spots in town that would have taken me a few days to figure out on my own. And I am currently writing this post from Alan & Sarah's home in Kalispell, Montana—where I am in a comfy, safe bedroom and sharing it with some peppers and tomatoes they've grown in their garden:
I've been able to get some valuable intel on the area from the people who know it the best: locals. For example, in the town of Kalispell, Montana—gun culture is huge (I'm quickly learning it is H-U-G-E in this part of the country. Holy moly.) I was told a story earlier tonight about how at the local Christian school, there was a raffle as a school fundraiser. The top prize was an assault rifle and one of the staff members raised the assault rifle up and walked it around before someone actually won it later that day as a prize. I was told other similar stories around that culture here—and that there are a ton of bears. Lots of 'em.
I have been blown away by the generosity of what formerly were total, 100% strangers—after they host me and we hang out in their hometown—we leave as friends. I am super grateful to these Couchsurfers for a warm place to stay at night, their insights, and for showing me around town. What an experience.
The next time I will write you all will be from Cut Bank, Montana—a VERY rural town with a population of less than 3000 (the most remote place I've been yet). I'll be working in Indian/Tribal law with a solo practitioner who could use an extra hand. Cut Bank is just east of the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in very northern Montana.
Until next time—as always, I hope this finds you well!