The story of how I met is a little different from most in that I learned about who he was through a friend of a friend. Then I introduced myself to him and asked him to participate in this project. He immediately struck me as a wonderful human and every interaction I've had with him has confirmed that idea. Despite a very busy schedule, he invited me to his home and we chatted in his living room while his wife Heather tended to their two beautiful sons, Ole and Arlo. Listen carefully, and you'll hear each of them in the recording - sometimes even snacking on an apple. Among other things, Erik is working towards a dream of creating an intentional music listening space. I'm rooting for him. Take a peek at his project.
Who are you?
My name is Erik Fossmo. And I've been living in Bend for, I guess, four/four and a half years. Moved up here from Texas. Spent most of my life in Texas, but I was born in Minnesota.
What brought you to Bend?
What brought us to Bend. Or me, I say us because we came together - my wife Heather and I. We left Texas to just hit the road and live in a motorhome and play music. Before we left Texas we had this idea - my wife's a singer/songwriter, so with her stuff we really wanted to go on a tour with it before we started having kids and stuff like that. And before we got married - it's kind of a long story, but we were actually engaged twice. In between engagements, I lived in a van. We met in Austin, but I lived in a van up in Denton during the time that we were split up. While we were split up that was something that I thought was really amazing - was living in a van and hanging out in front of this coffee shop and making very little money but being able to just meet people and kind of share my story with people in front of coffee shops. Especially during that time whenever we were apart. I was going through a lot of hurt, but at the same time was experiencing a lot of joy that I couldn't figure out - well, I knew where it was coming from because during that time I was really pursuing the Lord. The only thing I can say is that he was giving me joy whenever I really felt like I was... it was a joy in suffering kind of deal. Just being able to not try to share that with people in front of coffee shops, but just like meet people. A lot of people were just curious about who I was because I was this kid that just showed up in a van and no one knew who I was and I biked everywhere and people called me the Biking Viking. People were just curious about me, so I just got to kind of meet people and share my story, but a lot of it was just like people just need someone to listen to them. So a lot of what I did was just listen - and it was awesome. And just kind of really connected with people and made a lot of friends. So, after we got married, we decided we really wanted to pursue this music and then at the same time I just wanted to go hang out in front of coffee shops and talk to people (laughs). So we decided to do both. We lived in a motorhome and traveled the whole country. We left from Texas and went up to Minnesota, then over to New York and up to... didn't make it to Maine... we went to Vermont and then down to South Beach, Miami, Florida. From there all the way over to California - started in San Diego and made our way up to here and then got stuck. In the best way and we haven't left.
So the way we got here was once we hit California - it was like month 11 of that year - and our marriage was falling apart, our motorhome was falling apart (Heather laughs), we were running out of money. Or we ran out of money, really - we were living off of credit cards. One of the cool things that we experienced, I just have to say, while we were on the road, though, is we kind of had this idea of really serving people in any way possible and what we found is a lot of people ended up serving us, which we weren't really expecting. Financially and just giving us a place to stay or letting us take a shower. Because we didn't really have money to stay at RV parks. We lived off a tip jar and two free PBRs - pretty much that was every show we played was what we got. Just trying to figure out how we were gonna do this. We weren't sure how we were gonna make it or if we were gonna make it the full year or what we were gonna do, but people just got to know us just through one night or something like that. People just ended up really serving us almost as much as we did any serving at all while we were on the road. So that was really cool. The only reason we even came to Bend is because right before we left Texas, we met a couple that was gonna move up here and he was gonna be the foreman of this horse sporting ranch. He was like, Hey when you come up to Bend let me know and I'll give you some fair wages and give you a little work if you need some work while you're on the road. So, like I said, when we were in California we were falling apart. We were either gonna go back to Texas and work on our marriage and try to focus on that and being okay and just kind of recovering from the road or we were gonna make it to Bend and stay for a little while and work on this horse ranch. So we decided to push through to Bend. Then we did and then once we got here our friends - they actually didn't even work on that ranch anymore and they couldn't pay us anything. But they were able to get us a free place to park on that ranch that they used to work on. So that's kinda how it all started. We ended up on this ranch and thought we were gonna stay for maybe a week and then turned into a month and then it turned into I decided maybe I should look for a job. Everyone said it was so hard to find work here and I was one of those lucky people that found a job really quickly and Heather, too, found a job really quickly. And then winter was coming and we knew our motorhome that had been falling apart this whole time would not last a winter. Coming from Texas, we did have freezing rain and it would freeze sometimes, but we knew that snow would just destroy it (laughs) and so we decided to find a place to live. And that, too, we heard was impossible. We've never had doors open for us before like they did here in Bend and just kind of like sucked us in. We had this cozy little place to live that we could afford and a place to work. My first job here was at Backporch and I feel like I still owe Dave and Majell just so much. Because of them giving me a job but also they helped us buy our first car here 'cause all we had was a motorhome, so I was riding my bicycle 12 miles one way to work every morning. That was just one of the many things in Bend that just sucked us in.
What does community mean to you?
It's really just like doing life together and people that you can rely on or enjoy easily with little to no effort. I don't know. People that just grow with you, you know, like in friendship and in any way. You just kind of grow with each other and benefit each other and encourage each other. That's community to me, I guess.
What do you appreciate most about this community?
Oh, man. I think I said a lot with just how we got here (laughs). I appreciate - everyone is very friendly here, you know. I say that coming from Texas - I know a lot of people haven't been to Texas - but people are very friendly in the South. And then Minnesota - Minnesota Nice is like the slogan, I guess. And Bend is just right up there with all those places. Especially when we first got here, people really pursued building relationships with us, which we really appreciate, too. It's something we always long for - you know, I think anyone does - is just relationship and community.
What are your thoughts regarding Bend's growth?
I don't think of it is as a negative thing at all. The only negativity, I think, is we have a little highway and 45mph.. you know... it's something I love about Bend. I feel like a lot of people here - that are from here, at least - haven't really experienced like traffic. We're starting to see a little bit of that, but that's why I just encourage people to ride your bike. You can get anywhere faster on a bike in Bend than you do in a car - except for during winter, of course. Especially this last one - it was, uh, interesting (laughs). The growth, I mean, I think it's beneficial for the economy. I know housing is a really big issue. That's something I can see both ways. A lot of people buying vacation homes and stuff like that. Or rentals. And not many people actually living in the home that they own, you know, I can see where that could be somewhat negative. I do think that's it definitely benefitting the economy and local businesses. More and more places are opening up. I'm one of those people that sees competition kind of as a good thing, you know? I don't see it as a bad thing.
What do you wish for the future?
I guess I can answer it in a few different ways. For myself, I guess I wish to be able to support my family with one job at some point. Which I haven't figured that out yet (laughs). I also don't mind it - I mean, I love that we can live here and that my wife can stay home and we can raise our kids - we've got two boys. I definitely wish that. I wish that I can open my own listening room concert venue here in Bend. We're musicians, like I said. That's how we got up here was playing music and just really crave that type of venue and we knew that a lot of other people do, too - just that intimate atmosphere where people that come, they come to listen and a lot more story telling and freedom to tells stories between songs and stuff like that. I really want to create that here in Bend and hope to do that here in the near future. Also just that we can accept anybody with open arms, for sure, and continue to build our community. It's one of those things. It's always hard. It's like we know a lot of people, but just trying to really build relationships with people when just life is so busy. A lot of it's not other people - it's our life is just crazy right now. We always long for community and we definitely have some great community here already. For Bend I wish I really just hope it continues to thrive and is stable and there aren't any crashes like I've heard about it the past. We weren't here for, but it sounded really devastating. And just the art community and stuff like that continues to grow. (Looking to Heather) I don't know. I have a hard time answering that question.
Then Heather chimes in...
I think what we've talked about is our hope is to live our best life and be able to enjoy everything and be able to provide a future for our boys in a way that we can still be creative and active in the community and serve people and all of that, you know. I would assume that our biggest hope for the future is the boys - for them to thrive no matter where we are.
Definitely. Definitely our family to thrive and to have more than we need so we can just continue to pour into the community.
I feel like that's where it's been the hardest for us to be in this season is to come from the road and have been poured into more than we wanted because we wanted to be the ones pouring out, but needing to be poured into. And kind of still in a season of that 'cause we're not close to family - we're starting our new family with zero support. And we want to be able to support our family, but we also want to be able to pour into others, you know? So it gets hard for us. We're not used to receiving so much kindness from people, which we have, without being able to reciprocate. I know my hope would be that as a family we'd be able to pour out more than we are right now.
And time goes by so fast, especially after kids (laughs). Oh, man. Like, I don't want to blink.
How do you wish you were spending your time?
For me, I guess, I wish we were just pursuing our dreams without having to worry about just covering our day-to-day life (laughs). I wish we could pursue our dreams full time. I wish that we could date each other more (laughs). I wish we could spend more time with other people. A lot of times I feel like we're just our little family and have a hard time getting out or spending time with other people unless we invite them over here. But getting out of the house is always interesting and takes a while. You know, you plan on going somewhere and it takes at least two hours to actually get ready to actually leave (laughs). But I know it's just a season and we definitely wouldn't change anything.