As we traveled the world for the past 16 months, we have found ourselves immersed in a variety of new and interesting communities. If one describes community as a group of individuals with shared interests, values, and goals, then the geographic boundaries of place become less important than time. The community of long term travelers is very different than the community of vacationers. Those who choose to couchsurf or stay in hostels and homestays are unlike people who stay primarily in resorts. Each country and region within countries had communities of people to teach us lessons about their lives and dreams, aspirations and fears. While we were often engaging with individuals who supported tourism, we ventured into other elements of distant societies. We attended church with people, sat down and shared food with natives willing to tell us about their lives, celebrated holidays with families and new friends. We also, tentatively at first, entered into the global social media community of blogs, Facebook, Pinterest , Thorntree and Tripadvisor.
So imagine our surprise to find that the most profound lessons we were to learn about community would be back where we started, in Gunnison, Colorado. In our previous blog posting, “Push Pause”, we mentioned how humbled we were by the offers of assistance that emerged when people learned that we were going to stay while Sally had surgery. The degree to which individuals opened not only their homes, but their hearts to us, provided the elixir of healing we needed for both Sally’s recovery from surgery and for the weariness that emerges from living from a backpack for a year.
We realize that coming back to Gunnison reminds us of the first decade of our 23 year relationship. During much of that decade, we faced the challenge of distance. It was not uncommon for more than 1,500 miles to separate us for weeks or months at a time. For us, the distance aspect of our emerging partnership strengthened our bonds. We experienced the intense joy reunification brought every month or so. We reveled in the excitement of being present with the person we loved. We had stories of growth, painful and adventurous, to share with each other. And we were keenly aware of the significance of each precious second of time together, knowing that our trajectories would again separate us in the next few days or weeks.
Images are of two of our favorite Gunnison community members, Kathleen Kinkema and Rogene McKiernan, Raphael Tomany playing at a benefit for Gunnison's Oncology Department, and Matt from Thistle Whistle Farm at the Gunnison Farmers' Market. Posted in Gunnison, CO.