Sunday, September 20, 2009

Talking to Strangers

For awhile now our family has been signed up as hosts on the Warmshowers website, a place where touring cyclists can connect with families willing to host them. Some day, we hope to take off a-touring on the tandems again and maybe we'll get to experience the other side of the deal, staying with a local person or family somewhere on the road. But for now, we get to live vicariously by hosting touring cyclists and hearing a little bit about their journeys and plans. Since our town sits squarely on two major cycle touring routes (Canada to Mexico and coast to coast), we've gotten a fair number of emails from the warmshowers website. But because our town is also extremely cyclist-friendly, many of the cyclists end up having more than one host family to choose from here (isn't that cool? I love our town!).

In any case, last month we got to host two different coast-to-coast cyclists. One is an Englishman living in the Netherlands who according to his blog has now made it to Nebraska in the 35 days since he arrived here from the coast. And the other is Ryan, pictured above with his cool touring setup who is heading back to his home state of North Carolina. Along the way he is raising awareness and money for the Wounded Warrior Project. For people who love cycling as much as we do, it was both inspiring and a little jealousy-inducing to get to hear about all of his plans for his cross-country journey. More than anything, it has definitely nudged us toward making plans for more cycle touring next year with the kids. I've been following Ryan's blog as he makes his way across the country.
More than anything, I'm always grateful for an opportunity to connect with truly amazing people doing incredible things. If you watch the news, or even become inundated with the inevitable flashing ads and links as you try to connect to your email you might begin to think that the entire earth is populated with people like Jon and Kate feuding about whatever they feud about, or killers who stalk young women at Universities, or greedy executives trying to shoot down any possibility of health care coverage for everyone. It's always good to be reminded of the essential fact that there are many many good and wonderful people on this earth, all around us, even if we don't know them. And a simple website like Warmshowers that can connect one of these people seeking shelter for the night with another person who has shelter to offer shows us that our basic humanity is indeed where it should be and that we can continue to reach out to others and not shrink back into our own little shells.

When our first guest was going to arrive, the kids were a little nervous. Why were we inviting a stranger to stay in our home? But as they have gotten to know these adventurers, it's also been a great way to show them that "stranger danger" isn't always the best approach to life. Sometimes it IS good to talk to strangers, or even invite them in.


Walt said...

We're on warmshowers too. If you want to participate on a larger scale, I suggest you also check out There is a families interest group there which is good for linking with others who won't be surprised by kids. We've stayed a half-dozen times on trips, and hosted a few too.

Robin said...

Thanks for the tip, that sounds great!