Sleeping in other people’s beds

My husband’s mother has been ensconced in an upscale ‘retirement community’ in California since her stroke on my watch seven years ago. We frequently spend weekends in Southern California visiting her there, but my husband stays in hotels for his work so we began looking for another option. Air B and B. Duh.

Our first Air B and B experience was a house in ‘The Valley’, in what appeared to be a couples spare room. The hosts really took their hosting seriously and we had a coffee maker in our room and everything.

We got a tour when we checked in, but I couldn’t help but notice the scale of the furniture. Even the art seemed too big, as if it once resided in much larger, grander circumstances than the little white track house in the Los Angeles valley.

Okay, that was our first novice experience. We kept trying. I really wanted to fine-tune my instincts and possibly find the perfect place, so I downloaded the app, signed in, and started scrolling. I found a lovely house in Woodland Hills for our last trip to see my mother-in-law. We were ushered into our new, temporary quarters by our host and apparently his daughter was away at college because we got her room.

Now that was an odd experience. I could see probably every book the girl ever read in her life from my side of her bed, because they were all still in her bookcases, lined up like little soldiers. They were organized in alphabetical order from kindergarten (the bottom shelf of the bookcase) to her high school years (the top shelf and on a shelf over the desk). As I read the titles on their spines I’ll admit I was tempted. I love young adult fiction.

This Air BNB thing is odd, if you really look at it. You’re traveling, you don’t want a hotel but you don’t have any friends you can stay with. You download an app on your phone or look up a website on your computer and presto. Like magic you have dozens of folk perfectly willing to step in and let you stay in their house—for a price.

It’s kind of an odd combination of gambling and nosey-parker-ing, because you never really know what you’re going to get (no matter what the posted photos look like) and you acquire a brief glimpse into other lives. For the most part you aren’t connected to these other lives in any way except they have a spare bed and you need a place to sleep.

It becomes a weird, voyeuristic experience, intimacy without actual intimacy, like staying with friends who aren’t you really friends.

Quite often the hosts encourage you to use their kitchen, their pool, their hot tubs. I’ve never felt comfortable rooting around in a strangers kitchen, and there’s hardly ever time to use the pool. If our particular room didn’t have a separate entrance we would need to walk in through your hosts front door, with their key.

That’s the odd thing, when you think about it. It used to be a standard parental warning, “don’t get into cars with strangers” but now with Uber and Lyft, we do it all the time. And, pay some stranger person to sleep in their bed without ever meeting them first? Yes, we do this–we do this willingly.

Losing your luggage (can be a good thing)

It was my husbands birthday on the tenth of September. Since he travels so much we always try to plan to be together for our birthdays, wherever he happens to be, and this year it was Bolivia.

I left for the airport on the 9th and took my shoulder bag, small carry-on and one medium sized checked bag. Most ladies I know would consider this ‘traveling light’.

That day it poured. Weather delayed my flight into Houston. And delayed. And delayed. I landed in Houston ten minutes after my connection to Peru took off, and there was no flight into Peru from Houston until the next day.i would have to spend the night in Houston or search for an alternative.

A very sweet and helpful agent rerouted me, so four planes (Austin to Houston Texas, Houston to Santiago Chile, Santiago to Lima Peru, Lima to La Paz Bolivia) and 36 hours later I’m finally in La Paz. Unfortunately my checked bag was not.

Of course my husband’s birthday gifts were in that bag and that was that. So, the jeans and boots I had on, one light shirt, one long turtleneck sweater and the little leather jacket I bought in Rome were all I had to wear. But I was in La Paz, an incredible city. The airport was built on top of a mountain at the highest peak so driving down the mountain zig-zagging through those narrow streets was the beginning of a true adventure.

Everywhere were faces resembling ancient Incan sculptures. La Paz is the highest administrative capital in the world and you felt it. The hotel provided bowls of coca leaves and hot water for tea, supposed to relieve the altitude issues.

We went sightseeing in their new air tram system to the top of the mountains, astounded by the views of terra cotta buildings climbing up every square foot of mountainside as far as the eye could see.

After his show, Pat signed autographs for a young musician who promptly burst into tears—that night was his birthday, and he’d been a Pat Mastelotto fan since he was nine. Meeting Pat was a dream for him.

Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in the world, musical events aren’t cheap, even there, and I was reminded once again how often we make an impact on people’s lives without even knowing it—and put my lost bag into perspective.

On day four my bag magically arrived intact (minus a wheel). I opened it and stared at the contents in wonder. What made me think I needed all of that stuff?

I had an ‘a-ha’ moment of crystal clarity, comparing my first-world view of traveling with the truth: I had the clothes on my back and my husband. Everything else was just dust in the wind. Then I gave Pat his birthday presents.