“Find the good.”
This plaque greeted me when I walked into the bathroom of my Airbnb suite. I felt very taken with it.
I’m not sure if it’s a result of my upper Midwestern upbringing, but I struggle accepting gifts. “But are you sure?” I always find myself asking when someone offers me something for nothing. I’d hate to inconvenience someone, you know? Not inconveniencing people was like our golden rule growing-up.
For example, I was always under the impression that accepting seconds from a host or hostess who cooked a meal was inconveniencing them out of leftovers. My perspective changed when I hosted a dinner party. I felt elated when my guests returned for seconds. It meant that they enjoyed the food and this made me happy. I couldn’t have even cared if they cleaned-out the crock-pot.
Just this past month, I booked a room through Airbnb in Iowa City. For a very reasonable price, my accommodations included a private bedroom and bathroom suite inside a family’s home. I had never used Airbnb before and expected my hostesses to be relatively hands-off. While they respected my privacy, they also offered me everything under the sun to make my stay more comfortable and welcomed me with the warmth I’d expect from old friends. One of the hostesses reflected on their Airbnb experience, sharing that they’ve been fortunate. Everyone who has booked with them has brought good into their lives.
My hostesses invited me to join them and their toddler for pancakes the next morning. They insisted and so I gladly accepted. I felt humbled by all of their gestures of hospitality. Something as simple as sharing pancakes brought all of us a lot of joy.
The funny thing about traveling is that it kind of thrusts you into the arms of strangers. You’re away from home and oftentimes lost. You’re weary, probably hungry, and a glass of cold water might sound like the best thing in the world. I regret spending my money on a lot of things, but I don’t regret spending any on travel. It makes me grow, it challenges me to me push through my anxieties, and it connects me with others. Travel makes me braver but it also makes me vulnerable. Accepting the hospitality of strangers humbles me and inspires me to be more hospitable to others.
These days, it’s easier to avoid many day-to-day human interactions that we never could years ago. We can check in and out of hotels, choose self-checkouts at grocery stores, and order any type of food delivered to our homes with phone apps. This first Airbnb experience and many bed and breakfast visits has connected me with the coolest people over a common dinner table; college graduates just returning from their Peace Corps roles overseas, engineers, architecture enthusiasts, and retired folks on bucket-list road trips across the United States.
Strangers who wanderlust connecting with other strangers over food usually leads to good things. Taking the chance has paid off with heart-growing dividends.