• Today is day 400 on the road! 400 days without a residence, 400 days living out of suitcases, 400 days of the unknown, 400 days of challenging everything I thought was impossible, 400 days of increasing the vulnerability I have with myself and waking up to the ways in which i struggle deeply within. It’s been 400 days of an increasing familiarity with my whole self, expanding and challenging the tucked away parts to feel more, to learn more, to love more, to be loved more. 400 days of an emotional becoming. A becoming that I could never quite process because in analyzation it becomes stagnantion but in presence it remains a desire that I’ll never stop longing for. The unfolding. .
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#connectioncure
📸: @home.sweet.idahome
  • I’m getting good at alone and not lonely. I’m reveling in a seven hour drive without the radio. I’m challenging myself to technology free solo dinners in crowded restaurants. I’ve visited my fourth National Park without anyone beside me in the passenger seat or walking next to me on the hiking trail. Someone said to me recently, “my heart aches for you being out here all alone,” and it was a perfect moment because out here my heart doesn’t ache as much as i remember it once aching. Nothing before and nothing ahead, just what I am and what you are in the waking hours that are enough. The value of shedding my millions of masks and being all that is left. .
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#connectioncure
  • I keep coming back to Idaho because it grounds me. So many things I touch and see and learn here wake me up. The earth under my feet remind me that we're part of something so vast––that there is an interconnectedness to all things, that we have a responsibility to take care of all parts, that the earth is a resource but also an extraordinary beauty that needs to be nurtured as much as it nurtures us. Being in Idaho wakes me up to where my food comes from, who grows the potatoes I eat when I order my french fries, who picks the strawberries I buy in a plastic package, who are the people that work everyday to keep these foods abundant? These are the people and the moments of interconnection I want to keep acknowledging. I keep coming back to Idaho because it brings me back to the earth, to the simple thoughtful moments that bind us. Here in Idaho I get to slow down. I have the time to be aware of all the learning I need to do, in every moment, from every person, in every landscape, now and throughout history. Here I have more space to laugh, to put on cowboy hats, to go to rodeos, county fairs, walk down abandoned railroad tracks, swim in rivers, and say hello to everyone I pass by at the grocery store. It's a place that gives me silence, rest, adventure, space. 
Until next time, St. Anthony. 
Onward to Montana: Bozeman, Billings, Kalispell, Whitefish, Sandpoint (ID), Seattle, and Portland! More adventures to have and more moments to learn from. #connectioncure
📸: @home.sweet.idahom
  • These are 52 of IIT’s student leaders. For the last two days we’ve been talking about loneliness and connection, practicing and processing ways that we can implement and de-stigmatize the conversation around loneliness, and creating more community and connection for first-year students and themselves. They’ve been vulnerable in their storytelling. They have challenged themselves and left “exhausted from being honest.” They have given me hope. IIT has been my biggest education on the road. It is these young, smart, and wise minds (growing up in these unbelievably difficult times) who truly know the challenges that we are facing. It is these young and wise hearts who despite these challenges have a strong desire to impact the world. With 30% of Gen Z soon to be in the work force, with 60% of them wanting to positively impact the world, 52% valuing honesty as the most important quality, 81% aspiring to be leaders, they are the future. Zoom in on these faces. I truly believe that this is what hope looks like. They are creating the change we need right now. From 40 different states and 30 different countries, IIT is an ideas and impact incubator and as one student said, “every time I sit down with a group of strangers it’s like taking a tour of the world.” I’m so glad they are our future. #connectioncure
  • Today was one of the highlights of my life. It's also my one year full-time on the road anniversary! If anyone would have told me a year ago that I would be doing a student leadership training and a freshman orientation keynote at the Illinois Institute of Technology (or anywhere for that matter), I would have laughed in their face. This last year has been so hard. There have been so many tears, so many moments where I wanted to give up, so many people that doubted me, challenged me, and so many more moments that I doubted myself. I've been so lonely AND so connected. I've been so lost AND so at home. I've challenged myself physically in ways I never thought my body could take. I've challenged my beliefs around what I thought was possible. I took a seed of an idea and I decided to make it my entire life because I've never believed in anything more. This year has been so hard, but today it all made sense. Speaking to the freshman class about loneliness, increasing our face to face connection, evolution, science, and the cognitive benefits of looking at one another (all as an integral part of their first week of college)...this is my why. Listening to their stories, not being alone in our loneliness, talking about a topic that is surrounded by so much stigma, but actually TALKING about it, moved me more than I have the words to express. People will doubt you, you will doubt yourself, people will challenge you, dislike you even, sometimes you might even dislike yourself (i sometimes do), but if there is one teeny tiny grain within you that believes in what you're doing and who you are, stay the course. It took a year of full-time on the road life (to the exact day) for me to see this project bloom. It took three years of working on this project for me to finally say I'm proud of myself, and it took 38 years for me to finally understand that this was my why. #connectioncure
  • Lately, I’ve been thinking about the edge of alone and lonely. I’ve been pondering how we can become more aware of the times when we’ve fallen over that edge, spiraling from the quietude of alone into the alarm of lonely. I’ve struggled with this line my entire life. I often want to go things alone, “pull up my bootstraps,” not be vulnerable around my need for love because the stigma feels so real, and also, I can handle things; I always have. And so historically I have numbed myself from hearing the alarm for love. I know it’s real now. It’s actually a part of our brain (the dorsal anterior cingular cortex) that lights up when we feel social pain—the same part of our brain that lights up when we feel physical pain. The more I ignore this alarm, the more I find myself walking through a room filled with smoke and pretending I don’t hear the call.

Also.

I can’t help but use this same analogy for the state of the country. It’s heartbreaking. I feel helpless as to what to do. Hopeless at times. Filled with rage. I spiral in the middle of the night spending hours reading the news, but somehow numbness is still possible. This is where the danger is for me. Walking through a smoke filled room and ignoring the alarm. This is how loneliness becomes chronic, and how hopelessness becomes inaction. This is not some sort of PSA. I don't know what to do except to learn what to do - keep learning and unlearning. To keep listening to people that do know. To vote. To vote. To vote. To donate. To have the conversations in grocery stores with strangers that scare me. To reach out. To talk about it. To share ideas. To volunteer time wherever I can. The alarm is blaring and the smoke is billowing out of the windows and amidst all this, somehow, I can’t forget that we can still have moments of joy and love because the body was designed to need these nutrients to keep us thriving. Our brains have an alarm for connection because we’re not meant to be in it alone. .
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📸: @home.sweet.idahome #connectioncure
  • Lately, when people ask me what I do on the road I tell them I research loneliness. It’s taken awhile for me to get comfortable with this because it's not as shiny as connection, but when it comes down to the evolutionary biology of human relationships, loneliness is its precursor.
Some might argue this (and many have), but I believe we all have a loneliness story. I believe we’ve all had a moment (or many more) where we have felt left out, not a part of, like we don’t belong, like we long for more community, more meaningful conversations and connections. For me, the stigma of feeling lonely was so fierce for so long that I couldn't even fathom sharing my truth. So instead of naming it, I internalized it, which led to so many mind spirals. My loneliness story, as I'm learning on the road, is unique to me but united with so many, and I find so much beauty in this. 
I am not alone in my loneliness. 
I also believe that our loneliness stories open the door to engagement, a wake up call for support, where we face our need for love. Our bodies- from our cells to our neurons, our hearts to our nervous systems, our hormones to our immune systems - have been designed for we, not just for me. We are not meant to do this life without support and reciprocity. 
Why mention this all now? Because I'm back in Idaho, the place where I first began this full-time road journey a year ago, with friends who constantly remind me what support feels like. And as I look back, a meta view over the last three years, I can finally see how my loneliness story has taught me the most about love. #connectioncure
  • Tossing candy out of fire trucks while driving down country roads. Also known as, Idaho. 🔥
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📸: @home.sweet.idahome #connectioncure
  • I spent yesterday afternoon at a dairy farm with Sarah, the cow queen of Colorado. We met for the first time seven months ago when she toured me through the farm. It was the dead of winter and I was trying to shake myself out of a funk, so I joined a kids tour a few hours outside of Denver. Sarah was the most cow knowledgeable human I never knew existed. Her spirit was just as she looks in the photos, filled with passion and excitement for all of life’s moments. I knew I had to come back and meet her a few weeks after the tour to sit over coffee and listen to her stories. And over that coffee a moment occurred when the door to trust opened and she shared some of her most profound life moments with me. I’ve been thinking about her ever since and counting down the days until I could return to see Sarah again, to record some of her stories and wisdom, and spend some time in the life of her. She astounds me. Human connection astounds me. Micro-moments astound me. 
Last night Sarah and I went camping just beside her home way up in the mountains in a tiny community off the beaten track. Without cell network we sat around a fire with her neighbors and shared our deepest moments. We watched for bears, we listened to the rain hitting the roof of the tent, and I occasionally woke her up in a panic with a, “is that bear?!” No she assured me. “It’s a bird.” #connectioncure
  • This summer I'm returning to the people and the micro-moments that have moved me. Suzanne and I met 7 months ago at a pie shop in Fort Collins, Colorado. The next day she invited me to church with her family and I agreed without any hesitation. That evening I found myself sitting with Suzanne and her family for my first church service at a small congregation in a strip mall in Colorado. During the service Suzanne would occasionally lean over and whisper in my ear, "are you ok? does this feel ok?" Social Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson would call this moment "mutual care," the third ingredient of a micro-moment. After our brains have coupled over a genuine positive exchange, our mirror neurons have fired, and we've experienced a moment of shared empathy, it becomes difficult to not mutually care about one another. We are, in fact, wired for connection. 
After I left Colorado Suzanne would check in on me as I continued my travels, sometimes sending me music that made her smile, other times just a "hi toots, thinking of you." Today I came back to this smiling face for pie and hugs, and a promise to sit down with her to record and listen to her stories. Being back here I can’t help but be amazed by how much love can exist in a single moment. #connectioncure #connectioncurecolorado

Share The Connection Cure

#connectioncure

Social Psychologist, Barbara Fredrickson, defines micro-moments as, “a genuine positive exchange, not just with friends or loved ones, but with strangers.”

We all have a story about a moment when we connected unexpectedly with someone; a time when we were moved by a stranger, someone different than us, someone just like us. We now know that these moments have the potential to heal our bodies, but what becomes possible when we start sharing our stories?

The connection cure is asking YOU to share your moments.

Can we be a catalyst for engagement and start a ripple effect of connectedness, state-by-state, by creating a space for you to share YOUR surprising interactions, meaningful conversations, and moments of connection? We hope that sharing these stories will inspire others to do the same– to reach out, engage in conversations with strangers, and be open to the element of surprise.

Share your micro-moments on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using hashtag #connectioncure.