Home Stays / 14.09.12

As we were drying out our tents in Michael’s yard in Geneva, I began to think about the notion of
security. We were so grateful to be here, in a yard, where we could spread out our stuff to dry and have a hot shower and sleep under a roof… All these things are benefits and trappings of what we sometimes call the pursuit of security. And we were loving it. In fact, it kept us going to have these “security checkpoints” (so to speak). All of these security checkpoints for us were offers of hospitality and welcome from those who had gained some security in life.

Our first open-home experience of generosity came from Kallie’s parents, Bill and Tina, as we met up with them on our way to fly out of New York and spent the evening packing up our stuff. My father came out as well from Minnesota to see us off, and helped. The garage floor was covered with bicycle parts, bags, tape, and packing materials as we figured out what parts we needed and how to get them into Devin’s car. Thanks to Bill’s donation of his soft-pack carrier that they rigged to the top, we were able to get four people, two bicycles, a tandem, and all our bags and some food into a Chevy Malibu. We couldn’t have done it without the help and extra space.

Our next stop was to visit Tori’s aunt, Maia and her husband Alex. They welcomed us (Devin, Tori, Kallie, and I) into their home near Rochester, New York. They fed us marvelous pizza (thanks to uncle Skip and Phil’s Pizza) as well as other nutritious and delicious meals, and put us up in a large room upstairs known as Cam’s Studio. We spent the day in their yard packing up boxes to take on the plane, and downsizing. Thanks to their generosity, we were well equipped for the next phase of our journey, flying out of JFK.

When we got to Frankfurt, we were able to make contact with Claudia in Worms, who quickly became our mother for the pre-trip and made her home into “base camp.” We had tents in her yard, stinky clothes in her wash, and six bodies to shower. Her place was the first time the six of us managed to converge, and she put out a spread that night of meats, cheeses, tomatoes, and breads that was truly magnificent, crowned with a toast of champagne! We stayed there two days and tuned up our bikes, broke down our boxes, and got rid of the extra weight we didn’t need. The night before we left she grilled an array of barbecued meats–fish, pork, steak, and chicken–so that we “at least would have one good meal.” It was good!

Our first week was a bit of a test, finding out how our bikes rode, where to find the roads, and who would take the prize for the most flat tires (Kallie and I with six punctures). One thing that kept us going was the thought of arriving at Jess’s apartment in Freiburg. Jess is Kallie’s friend who had a gig for a couple months in the town she had studied in several years before, and so she had a flat that she let us invade with all our bike gear and personalities. We found all her outlets to recharge gadgets, took over her kitchen, and enjoyed our first hot shower in a week. The night we arrived (exhausted from an 80 km day with a few detours) we went out for pizza and German beer, and celebrated arriving in a city with a place to stay. She let us stay for three days, and we got to hang out with her boyfriend Lynn who came to visit. Though she was our age, she had some security–at least for the time being–and she willingly offered it to us.

Finally now we find ourselves in a beautiful home under the cliffs that tower over Geneva’s left bank, drying out our tents, washing our clothes, and using the wi-fi. Our host Michael rode out 25 km from Geneva to meet us, helped us navigate the trains (Devin broke an axel) and got us to a bike shop, and then brought us to his house and put all six of us up. Thus far he’s managed to make sure we have a good breakfast and good directions to where we want to go, more often than not leading us there. This is all from someone who until yesterday was a complete stranger, known only by email and text message through an internet site. He has security he is willing to offer us, and we are grateful to accept it.

I hope we will have more home stays before the trip ends. I trust we will. I hope we will be as cared for as we have been so far. I trust we will. These rests give us strength to continue and something to look forward to when the hills are long or the wind is cold and wet or our clothes just won’t dry. We benefit from the generosity of others’ security. And some day, some place, we also hope to have enough security to offer some space to strangers to see if they might become friends, and to share what we have been given. We are grateful.

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One Comment

  1. Sander de Haan said on September 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    Wow, this is fun, and what a joy to read your reports. God bless and keep on the adventure.

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