Relying on Strangers – Across the United States

categories: USA Travel

Wandering in Bear, Arizona - a quiet haunting place that used to be a town

This photo was taken in Bear, Arizona. The third of the five towns in the country called Bear that my partner (above) and I visited in the summer of 2010. The towns called Bear weren’t really towns, but quiet, haunting places that used to be towns. They were the blueprint of our journey, spanning more than 7,000 miles across the United States, through more than 30 states over the course of two months. But the Bears, they weren’t the most important piece.

Greg sits among a group of children in Bonner's Ferry, Idaho

This photo was taken a few days earlier, in Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho. And this photo is the important piece. To get to the five Bears, Greg and I relied on the kindness of strangers for a home each night. On every night except those solid, lonely nights in the Bears that all happened to be in un-towns, we stayed with people that wewere just getting to know.

The Story

It all started with a fitful sleep. A year before the big adventure (and the filming of it) began Greg and I were just beginning a new relationship.

After only three months of dating we decided we should (with a friend in tow) drive from Greg’s home in New Jersey to mine in Colorado – about 1,800 miles, or 3 days.

On the very last night, Greg sat up in the middle of the night and said, “Sarah! We have to go to Bear, Colorado!” I bolted awake, though Greg remained asleep, and in the morning relayed the message. The idea of visiting this dream place enthralled us, but they were very disappointed to find out there is no Bear in Colorado.

However, that morning we were reinvigorated when we discovered there are five towns called Bear in the United States, forming a perfect U around the country: Bear, Washington; Bear, Idaho; Bear, Arizona; Bear, Arkansas; and Bear, Delaware.

A year later, In the summer of 2010, armed with nothing but curiosity and a camera, we set out to test the compassion of Americans. We drove around the country relying on the kindness of strangers for a home each night. Visiting the five Bears and driving through thirty states in sixty days, we met hundreds of people – each time hoping to find someone that would be kind enough to take us into their home.

American Bear: An Adventure In The Kindness Of Strangers (AmericanBearFilm.com) is our film. We want audiences to experience the journey with us through a vast landscape of geography and character. The film expands from our personal journey to paint a portrait of Americans as a community, and to answer the questions we all have about the people who aren’t us and the places that aren’t our homes. It tells the stories of a few of the most irregular, profound and affected individuals we encounter. From the daughter of the last warrior woman of the Cheyenne mountain tribe in Montana; to the twice married ghost hunters trying to synthesize their experiences in small-town New York; to young friends in Mississippi trying to understand the “country” stereotype, maybe even reclaim it – each character allows us to see a unique side of the multifaceted American lifestyle.

The Joy of Travel

In a time when violence is ever present and apathy can override even the bloodiest of headlines, maybe it’s time to try a different tactic: openness and vulnerability as a means to hope. There are small things that anyone can do to fight against injustice, to support our human community. Especially while traveling.

We just need to allow ourselves a very specific kind of hope. A hope that can be a constant, to anyone, in any place, in any stage of life. A hope that people can be kind. To people they know, but also to strangers. A smile can make all the difference. Kindness, though simple, can be a solution.

Westerners, and particularly Americans, are loosing the joy of face-to-face connection, the trust of a neighbor. Perhaps that is why we ache to explore? With so much going on in the world right now it’s important to recreate that connection, to create a hope and sensitivity for and toward others. The individual can be the greatest resource for generating change in the world, starting with a simple act of kindness. Starting with a conversation with someone from a different place than you.

To paraphrase Cesare Pavese, Traveling can be a challenge. It forces us to trust strangers and to lose ourselves in a place that is not familiar. To shift our paradigm. Only the essential things exist: air, sleep, dreams, sea, the sky, and other people – all things tending towards what we imagine as timeless. We can escape our hectic lives momentarily to live. A big part of that living is the people we meet everyday. And it had never been more important to treat them with kindness.

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by American Bear

facebook.com/BearDocumentary @RelyonStrangers The film's website is http://www.americanbearfilm.com

One Response to “Relying on Strangers – Across the United States”

Fredric Ciner

Says:

What a beautiful message to give us community and hope in a time that bashes and instills fear with every headline. I need to set out myself and watch your film so I can be reminded of the good in people, and share in such happy experiences. Thank you for posting this article.

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