I mean, let's be honest, there's really nothing inspiring about things going "according to plan," is there? It's only when I let go of what I think is best that the most beautiful things happen.
When I left New Mexico, I once again threw myself into the deep seas of unknowing. I left what could have been a whole winter of being stationary, with all my stuff in one place, a kitchen full of pots, pans, and spices, and a part time job in town to refurbish my dwindling bank account.
I knew that with Jacob's help (my temporary travel partner), I could just barely afford gas and food to get to California, but I had no idea what I would do once there. When we drove off, we didn't even have a place to stay.
After sending out multiple couch requests on couchsurfing.org, I had heard nothing. We went to sleep in our po-dunk hotel room the first night with the subtle pinprick of uncertainty poking at our brains. Upon waking the next morning, not only did I have an email confirming a couch for us in California, I had several. Instantly, we had free places to stay for the rest of the week until Jacob flew out to Hawaii.
But I still didn't know what I would do after that.
On the drive to Watsonville, California, where our first host lived, Jacob - a couch surfing novice - asked me about my past couch surfing hosts. I told him that in my experience, the people with the least are the most willing to share what they have. I told him how I often drive through beautiful neighborhoods of houses that probably have multiple guest rooms to spare, but would never be on couch surfing. The people I stay with are simple, kind-hearted souls who offer me the small couch or only piece of available floor in their humble homes.
As we approached our Watsonville host's home, we spiraled up a mountain road. At the tippy-top of the hill, we were greeted by a huge gate. We punched in the code previously given to us, and the wrought iron swung open to reveal the rest of the driveway. The sizeable house sat overlooking the entire valley, surrounded by tropical plants and lush, green grass.
Jacob looked at me and said, "What were you saying about people with means never opening their homes to strangers?" I was speechless. This was hands down, the biggest and most breathtakingly beautiful home I have ever been invited to stay in.
We brought our things in, greeted everyone, took showers, and came back down to visit with this family whom I was now burning with curiosity to know better. Gary and Jess met when they were only 19 and both in the Marine Corps back in Maryland. Now in their 30's, Gary works in computer security, and Jess is a nurse who currently stays home with their two, beautiful children.
I immediately felt a touching humility from Gary, and a tender kindness from Jess. Over dinner, Jacob and I discovered that we were their very first couch surfers. I could hold back my curiosity no longer. I asked, "What made you join couch surfing? I mean, why did you host us? Why are we here?"
Gary put down his fork and glanced knowingly at his wife, as though I had asked a question that touched on something they had recently been discussing. She smiled in return, confirming my suspicion.
He turned to me and said, "You know, I've been thinking a lot recently. The more successful we get in life, the further we get from each other. We live in bigger and bigger houses, further and further away from each other, and then we buy electronic gadgets to keep us occupied." He motioned to his daughter, who was now pretending to brush her mom's hair with a whiteboard eraser, and to his son, who was banging his fork on his high chair tray. "I want something different for them. I want their world to be bigger."
I almost cried. He was so genuine. So open and generous right from the start. Here was a man who was blasting all of my carefully built ideas about wealth. He wanted nothing more than to share all he had with those who would be grateful to receive it.
Just when I thought this whole situation couldn't possibly get any better, Gary asked me, "How long can you stay? I mean, I know you need to take Jacob to the airport on Sunday, but do you have plans for Thanksgiving week?"
"No, I don't. I honestly don't know what I'm doing. I kind of need to find a way to make a bit of money soon."
"Well we haven't been able to find a house sitter to care for the dogs while we're gone over the holidays. Is there any chance you could stay here for the week? We'd pay you for your time."
Good lord this wasn't happening.
"Uh, yes." I stammered. "Yes I think that could be arranged!" I laughed, and both Gary and Jess sighed with relief.
I should really stop being surprised when this stuff happens. My ventures into unchartered territory have only ever been richly rewarded with blessings beyond what I could have imagined in my most carefully constructed realities.
So if you wonder where I am this Thanksgiving week, I'll just be chillin' up in my mountain mansion with two mastiffs and a cat. Ain't no thang.
|Mommy Jess with the little woman|
|George and Dora, my two roommates for the upcoming week|
|Meatloaf the cat|
|A shot from the top of the landing|
|Gary at the puehr tea ceremony he prepared for Jacob and I on our last night|