The Importance of Community

By Jennifer Miller   |   June 4th, 2014   |   Comments (0)

Eight years ago, when we began planning our first big adventure, we felt very alone.

We had our dream, we had a launch date (two years away), and we knew what we needed to do. We were committed, 100%, to doing it.

But we didn’t know one single other family who was doing anything like what we were attempting. There weren’t tons of travel blogs. There weren’t groups of traveling families to be found on social media sites. Believe it or not, social media was just emerging (the very first tweet was actually sent in March 2006). There was nothing to do but just put our heads down, do the work, and get going on our dream, alone.

There was nothing to do but just put our heads down, do the work, and get going on our dream, alone.

It was late 2006, near the beginning of our planning, when I stumbled across BootsnAll. I felt like I’d hit a gold mine. Here was a whole community of other folks who were out there traveling, many of them long-term, and all of them the way we wanted to: on a budget, independently, and open ended. Granted, most of them weren’t doing it with four little kids in tow, but I knew I’d found my people.

I joined the community, made a profile, and dove into the chat boards with gusto. I’ll never forget the thrill of getting a personal email back from Sean (co-founder and CEO of BootsnAll). In retrospect, it’s amusing, but at the time, that little finger of humanity reaching back meant very much to me.

Want to find people who<br />
understand your travel dreams?
Want to find people who
understand your travel dreams?

It was a lifeline to what I knew in my heart to be true, but what wasn’t apparent in our “real world” experience. And that was….

We weren’t crazy, long-term world travel was possible, big dreams can become reality, the world is a safe place to wander and raise kids, and most importantly, other people were out there doing this, too.

Well over eight years later, the world has changed greatly, largely due to the expansion of the internet and the explosion of social media. Now, I have dozens of dear friends who live and work on the road like we do, many of them with lots of kids, too. I belong to several communities of location independent professionals, nomadic families, and dreamers of big dreams.

There is also a whole new community of outside the box thinkers who dream of different things who have become my support and my circle.

My job and my co-workers are entirely made of travelers, and we work together online. Every single morning I check in with five or six continents and the folks I love who live there. All of the traditional, static friends that I had to begin with are still there, they’re still dear to me, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, but there is also a whole new community of outside the box thinkers who dream of different things who have become my support and my circle.

I’m a big believer in the importance of community

Traveling friends

I facilitate a course for people who are chasing hard after big dreams or trying to change their lives in some significant way. A huge part of that process is building a tribe. Making connections with people who have done what you want to do is so important in believing that you can do it, too. Having people to lean on for support, to ask questions of, and who will lend you the encouragement, sympathy, or kick in the butt that you need (depending on the day) can be the difference between sticking with your dream or trading it in for something less.

Making connections with people who have done what you want to do is so important in believing that you can do it, too.

Unfortunately for those of us with unconventional dreams, community can sometimes be hard to find. To my way of thinking, the internet has been one of the greatest forces in both building community and changing the way we live in community in the history of the world.

We’re no longer limited by geography, or culture, or religion or language. In an instant I can become connected, on a personal level, to individuals who I would have had zero chance in a million of meeting fifty years ago, even fifteen years ago. Isn’t that amazing?

I couldn’t even begin to list the people who are dear to us who we have met first online, the innumerable homes we’ve visited and stayed in as a result of a social media connection, the support systems that have been formed because there are groups of likeminded individuals coalescing in cyberspace. Some of our favorite “real world” moments have grown out of online interaction.

In an instant I can become connected, on a personal level, to individuals who I would have had zero chance in a million of meeting fifty years ago, even fifteen years ago. Isn’t that amazing?

The traditional definition of community has included people living together in one place. In a way, we now choose who we live together in one place within the virtual world. Our support systems have grown, and most people now know people almost everywhere.

The essence of community is that support, and to me, that’s one of the biggest benefits of our increasingly interconnected world.

  • When my little nephew was born and my Mom and I flew across the continent on a moment’s notice, the man waiting for us at the airport was the result of a call put out to “strangers” on the net.
  • A group of mothers I’d never met drove from all over Wisconsin to have lunch with Hannah (my daughter) and me this fall and to invite us back to the continent.
  • The projects I’m working on right now are almost all in the works with people scattered around the globe.
  • Gifts and notes of encouragement are exchange in the physical world from folks whose faces I’ve never seen. This month, alone, I’ve gotten four.
  • When we needed to purchase a truck, it was friends we’d met through our blog who provided it.
  • Regularly, our first meal on a new continent is provided by virtual friends, or our last send off before we’re on our way.

He has a face, and a name, and a place in our hearts, even though we’ve never met his family. He’s a member of our community.

Time and again we’ve seen our community rally around folks who are sick, or stranded, or suffering in some way. Just this week we’ve watched love, best wishes, and gifts pour in from families all around the planet to lift up the heart of a little boy who’s unexpectedly sick and to encourage his family. He has a face, and a name, and a place in our hearts, even though we’ve never met his family. He’s a member of our community.

Aren’t those the things that are the hallmarks of community?

Travel Friends

Working together, meeting physical needs, providing support and encouragement, sharing the hard things in life, and making sure people feel special and remembered?

You’re going to find the help and encouragement you need. You’re going to find friends and mentors. You’re going to find couches to crash on and adventures in the making.

BootsnAll is “relaunching” their community this week with new and exciting features for everyone. If I have one encouragement for you, as someone who is just beginning to work on planning your big trip, it’s this: Join the community.

You’re going to find the help and encouragement you need. You’re going to find friends and mentors. You’re going to find couches to crash on and adventures in the making.

If I have one encouragement to you, as someone who’s already taken that trip or is well into her seventh, it’s this: Join the community.

You’re going to have the opportunity to give back to all of the folks who helped you forward by supporting the new travelers.

You’re going to find other seasoned travelers who “get it” in a way that so many others don’t, but you’ve come to. You’re going to have the opportunity to give back to all of the folks who helped you forward by supporting the new travelers. Your wisdom and experience is valuable, and a good community is one that is diverse and deep. You bring that to the table.

Travel far, travel deep, travel wide, find your tribe, and build your community.

Photo credits: Visions, Sithu Wu



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