The act of hosting a foreign traveler in your home is right on so many levels. The Judeo-Moslem-Christian tradition of hospitality emanates from Abraham, the father of all three religions.
In the book of Genesis, Abraham welcomes three travelers. He goes out to greet them since they are respectfully hesitant to intrude. He washes their feet, as was the Semitic custom, invites them into his shade to rest and feeds them.1 That the three travelers turn out to be Angels is irrelevant to the fact that Abraham’s hospitality is a role model for the generations that follow him.
I remember that my earliest couchsurfing was in college and the experience was rich. My introduction to fried ice cream was a delicious, homemade version on a farm in upstate New York where I had dinner and spent the night while traveling home from college. The circumstances of how I came to be there escapes me after all these years, but not the warmth and generosity of the family. Nor does the taste of the fried ice cream, to which I’ve never found an equal in some forty odd years since.
While living in Wilton Manors, Florida, I hosted couchsurfers many times, including with Deena after we started living together. The most remarkable aspect of hosting or traveling is much more than free lodging. It’s a chance to participate in personal dialogue with fascinating people from all over the world. It’s a hands-on cultural experience that has no equal. Like Abraham, we discovered the angel in all the travelers we hosted.
On the way south from Toronto to New Jersey, we checked the website BeWelcome.org just to see if there were any hosts on the way. Surprisingly, we found a hosting member in the tiny village of Livingston Manor which is nestled in the Borscht Belt. It was on the way since we were heading toward New Jersey from Binghamton.
The online profile revealed an IT guru about the same age as I, living with an JewInjun poetess.23 It doesn’t get much more compatible than that we figured. We wrote them a note and they invited us to stay for a couple of days.
John and Susan were terrific hosts. John, who had been on a low-calorie diet (and looked pretty slim by now), was overjoyed to have an excuse to cook selections from the heart-attack menu for us. It was delicious. Even if we feel a little guilty about keeping Susan from her writing, the conversations were intelligent, meaningful and a joy. Besides, how many guest interruptions could one possibly have in Livingston Manor in winter? She’ll have the rest of the season to catch up.
I wondered how Livingston Manor could survive, now that the Route 17 traffic was re-routed to an Interstate. It manages with visitors who come for the hunting and fishing. The area and environs has some of the best fly fishing in the eastern U.S. The trails, rivers and woods in the area are beautiful, even with the naked trees of winter.
We had a fantastic meal in an unassuming restaurant in a tiny town. We had an amazing hike in snow flurries. We had wonderful conversation and company. We had delicious home-cooked comfort food. Abraham would have been proud.