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Couchsurfing in the Borscht Belt

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.

Livingston Manors 1916
A 1916 hotel catering to the visitors of Livingston Manor

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.

Covered Bridge in Livingston Manors NY
A few of Livingston Manor’s covered bridges, though reinforced, are still used.

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 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.

Livingston Manors
Late fall in Livingston Manor, NY, USA

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.

Lake, Livingston Manors, NY, USA
Light dusting of snow at the lake.

8 thoughts on “Couchsurfing in the Borscht Belt

  1. Blogging by the belt of your pants I hear 😉
    Hello beauties ❤️❤️
    Sooooo happy to read your updates and knowing your both well cared for in your journeys makes my heart warm. Be safe and know you are both loved enormously here in the south east of America by me 😀 xoxxooxo see u when the sunrises and wishing u both memorable moments suspended in time to carry you through your roads. Love

  2. I just read the two blogs about your and Deana’s sojourn in Livingston Manor and our home. I especially enjoyed what you wrote about Abraham and his greeting and washing the feet of the three travelers, yes, angels. It had been a long time since I read that story and I like the mystics’ view that we are all “sons and daughters of God” (one way of expressing it … the “Jewinjun” would probably use the term “Great Mystery” although one can not ever say any one word that sums up what IT is). I like the Irish tradition of leaving a candle in the window at night for any wayfaring wanderers.
    I want to thank you and Deana for being the angels in our house for a couple of days. What extraordinary people ye be with your combined brilliances, sense of humor and fount of stories! It is going to be fun following your travels on this grand adventure you and Deana have embarked upon. May you fly safely and perhaps one day you will circle back around to these Catskills, my “heart country.”
    As for the Borscht Belt, I am about to give my “magnificent other” a special showing of “A Walk on the Moon,” one of my favorite movies … about a bungalow colony and one Jewish family during the summer of Woodstock and first walk on the moon. I am sure he will appreciate the poetry of this film. I am so sad about the old hotels gone to ruin, many burned to the ground. Some of the bungalow colonies hold on. However, we still have our mountains and trees and rivers and lakes and all the birds and animals and many etceteras. Route 17 should have been preserved. It is a memory trail.

    1. Ah, I didn’t know about the Irish candle tradition. I love that idea. I’d forgotten that you mentioned that movie, but Deena already added that to our watchlist. I like the Great Mystery term. I never used it but I’ll start because all the other monikers for “IT” have polluted connotations, some more, some less polluted.

  3. Love this! Love couchsurfing as well!
    I have you and Charis to thank for assisting me to find the CSer website and the many amazing people I have met along the way!
    Continue having fun!
    Miss you

    1. I’m doing what I have time to do to help become a really viable hospitality exchange. It’s truly non-profit and actually run by its members. Invite all the cool people to join! 😀

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