New friends.

In 2011, did you meet anyone new who changed your perspectives or taught you something new? Who were they and what was the experience like?

Because this picture makes me giggle.

One of my favorite parts of traveling has always been the new souls you encounter and the stories shared among you. Chance meetings with people halfway across the world who on any given day, you may have missed meeting by only a minute or two. You could have passed each other by without noticing, never to learn about their passions or hear them laugh. But sometimes, moments align to bring someone into your life. We may never know why people come and go, but we can always appreciate the light they bring with them and the memories they weave. In the traveling context, this exploration of others is a huge part of the experience. Yet when we return home, to what is familiar, we so often settle into old patterns and lose that drive to extend our hand and our friendship.

First impressions are important, but the more I open up to others, the more I find that so many of us are not who we may have at first seemed to be. That there is so much underlying our faces, so much more than the simple smile we first share. Laughter and compassion, understanding and a desire to be, simply, happy, and to share that with others. A good friend said to me, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we acted like backpackers, or international students in our own city? Ready to reach out to new people, welcome them and treat them as friends? Returning home from a few years traveling, I didn’t want to settle into old ways – I wanted to meet all the other people who made this city so brilliant, to learn from their stories and share new adventures with them.

And DID I! By following our dreams and striving to find that place where we belong, we so often find the other people who share those ideals, and can help us along our path. I was so lucky this summer to work with an amazing spirit named Erin, someone whose sweet nature, warmth and humor light up my day. She inspires me with her tireless dedication to creating stronger communities and building knowledge through teaching others about food and health. She is an innovative thinker, and someone I know I can turn to when I need advice or support in pursuing sustainability.  Learning from her about local food security, I am even more driven to bring everything I can to the work we do.Plus, she taught me how to make a mean kale and apple salad!

And earlier this year I had the great fortune to attend a sustainability conference where one Drew De Panicis walked into my life, bringing with him an incredible group of people who have taught me endless lessons about resilience, enthusiasm, environmentalism, coffee, performance outerwear, cooking, hand jamming, rope management, music and more. A few in particular pushed me to explore what I had never considered, and made me see what I could truly be capable of.  These are the kind of friends everyone deserves to have in their life. Amazing adventurers, passionate people and kind souls who live to the fullest.

Never pass up the opportunity to smile at someone and ask them how they are. There is beauty in every simple exchange, and possibly an incredible friend.

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