On the evening of November 8, 2016, we sat with close friends and watched in shock as Donald Trump was projected to win the U.S. presidential election. We were not alone. Millions around the world were stunned by the outcome, even many who supported him. Even though his message was ultimately rejected by a significant popular vote, the official outcome offered validation for a discourse and politics more uncivil and polarizing than we’ve seen in our lifetimes.
As the returns came in that night and the result was becoming clear, I turned to my wife Betsy and said, “I can’t do this.” She locked eyes with me and slowly shook her head, making it clear she couldn’t either.
Do what? Go on living? Stay in this country? Remain happy? Maintain the Whole 30 Diet? Believe the Cubs won the Series? Perhaps a little of all those, but mostly we couldn’t pick out tile patterns.
You see, just two months before the election we had sold our 105-year-old house in the mostly-progressive neighborhood we loved. We had bought a rare building lot on the same block, and architectural plans for our smaller 1920s-style bungalow had been completed. It was going to be the house we died in. We were set to begin construction within days after the election. On The Day Everything Changed, we decided we couldn’t spend the next few months of our lives designing a beautiful kitchen, or deliberating over the style and color of window treatments. It all seemed so trivial and insignificant now. We needed to do something. Something big.
A plan began to form. We contacted our builder and told him to stop the bulldozers. At first, our idea was a red state escape. Missouri, formerly a bellwether swing state, had become part of the deep red Trump tsunami, and we wanted out. That quickly changed. Our escape became a pursuit. We are not the types to run away from things, unless we have something to run toward.
So, over the next few days, and even still today, a more refined plan has emerged. I’ll give you the highlights here, then we’ll unpack a lot more of it as we go.
Betsy and I have both given notice that we are leaving our teaching positions at the end of the academic year. We plan to sell our cars and most of our things, storing what’s left over. We plan to get some sort of mobile home, and take to the road for a journey that will cover much of the country and parts of Canada. Our goal is to hold conversations and interviews with all sorts of people we meet, from the ordinary to the powerful, asking them how we got here. What are the big things that divide us? What are the big moves we need to make to build bridges and improve our public discourse?
We will be posting about how we are planning for the trip (mode of transportation, itinerary, packing, etc.), the forming of our legal organizational identity (501(c)(3), LLC, etc.), means of financial support (sponsorships, grants, fundraising, etc.), plans for documenting our trip (blogging, filming, publishing, music…maybe tattoos), our strategies for dialogue (interviewing, listening skills, important topics, etc.), and all variety of other things. We welcome you to stay tuned and join us for this journey.