Seeking adventure and a new kind of life, former school teachers Chris De Ville and Emily Dearborn moved to Montana from Massachusetts. Their Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in Big Sky consisted of De Ville’s shepherd’s pie made with lamb and served with Guinness. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Awkward to awesome

One couple’s journey to each other and eventually out west

The relationship between Chris De Ville and Emily Dearborn started from a kind of slow burn. But at the very beginning it would have been more as if someone dumped a dozen buckets of water on a bonfire. After their initial introduction any future spark should have been impossible.

They met at Bed, Bath & Beyond when they were both with their mothers – who knew each other – preparing for their freshman year of college.

According to De Ville, their mothers were like: “You’re going to college and you’re a young adult. We’re going to get you some plates for your dorm and some utensils and some bed covers.”

Dearborn joked that while the adults were having social skills, she and De Ville had a robotic exchange with anxiety-caused missing words along the lines of, “Do you same college also? What classes?”

Both describe the experience as painful. De Ville mostly stared at his boots. Every sentence spoken by either was met by an awkward silence that seemed to expand with every utterance. Grasping, Dearborn even broke out the question, “What hospital were you born in?”

“I knew it was not normal immediately as I said it,” she said. “And then that was uncomfortable.”

They parted ways determined to never see each other again. There was just one problem – they were in the same degree program at the same small hippie university in Arizona. With less than 10 people in their major – they saw each other again. Every single day – for years.

And ever so slowly, the spark ignited.

De Ville’s senior class at Prescott College was an independent study, so he traveled to Ireland to try his hand at archaeology. He bought a kilt long before he traveled there, so that area of the world was always of interest. He and Dearborn stayed in consistent contact while he was gone.

When he returned stateside, he started working at restaurants. From there he pretty much became a foodie, preparing meals with a perfectionist flare and ideas for pairings. He also began teaching outdoor programming – things like educating kids about geology from taking nature walks and building catapults to teach physics.

They moved to Massachusetts and Dearborn began working at an all-girls summer camp that needed a ropes course specialist. De Ville had the skills and was hired as the only male employee.

“I was officially a 24-year-old Girl Scout,” he said. “I’m pretty proud of it. I was happy being a Girl Scout – it’s a great ‘Two Truths and a Lie.”

Then they began working in secondary education in special education programs. Mutual frustration with the educational system in Massachusetts mounted. De Ville hatched a plan with a friend to have a Western adventure, his friend cancelled, but Dearborn moved out a few short months after him. Though De Ville said he was lucky to make it West at all. His car kept breaking down in every state and repair bills became more expensive. Finally, he had to scrap it and buy a new vehicle.

They now live in a little cabin on the outskirts of Big Sky and have adopted a rescue cat named Cleo, who has two endearing bald spots. Now, they work taking care of hot tubs and De Ville shovels snow. It is no doubt a big transition for trained educators, but they are happy.

Ultimately, they seek to embrace their youth and the adventures that present themselves. As their neighbor who left his career as a therapist and became a snowboarding instructor pointed out during a dinner, so many people argue, ‘Oh, you’ve been at your career for three years, so you should just stick with it.” That is wrong. He observed that when you are on a road trip and find that you are going down the wrong road, it is logical to turn around and find the correct road. In life, people should not just continue down paths that lead them further from their destinations.

Quirky and friendly, the couple embraces the nerdiness in each other – in fact they feed off of their mutual nerdy ways. That initial meeting of few words has transitioned to expansive conversations about current events, the meaning of life, the quest for adventure, and the books they read that changed them and made them better humans.

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