Monday, March 12, 2007

My couch receives its first surfer...

I signed up last year at Couchsurfers offer short-term accommodations to travelers and - obviously - allows them to search out free sofas in locales they plan to visit. Most couchsurfers are young people, I guess, but it seemed like a neat, very old-fashioned idea, so I joined.

(Old-fashioned - in the old, old days, before Motel 6, it was considered a social responsibility to take care of travelers and strangers.)

I had my first couch-surfing guest this weekend. He was about my age, from the Midwest. After a career of, he said, writing, directing, acting, and producing, he had decided he wasn't sure of his future course. He was taking a multi-week trip, especially across the south, to visit different places and see if any of them "spoke" to him as future homes.

Mine was his thirteenth couch on this trip; he described meeting a lot of kind, friendly people along the way. His host previous to me had taken him to her country club for dinner!

I was caught flat-footed by his visit, in the midst of a whirl of obligations, so I wasn't the kind of host I'd imagined being. There was no food in the house (other than milk and shredded wheat and some carrots and oranges) so I couldn't cook him a nice dinner. We did chat quite a bit, though.

He was pretty vague about what he was looking for, but he'd been looked for whatever-it-was in lots of places - including a two or three other continents. It occurred to me that maybe he was asking himself the wrong question - he was framing his search as "where do I want to live?" but I think maybe his question was actually "what will make my life, at this point, meaningful?"

When you ask yourself the wrong question it's hard to come up with an answer. But what do I know?

(My ex-husband, a clinical psychologist, said the main difference between an amateur and a professional in his business is that the amateurs feel free to give advice and the professionals don't.)

I'd been a little bit afraid he would turn out to be an ax-murderer and most of my friends and my kids thought I was nuts to invite a total stranger into my house. It worked out fine. Maybe Hannah and I will try some couch-surfing when we go to Bulgaria in August.



At 8:04 PM, Anonymous sylvia said...

Wow, what a concept. I'm afraid I might be too skittish to participate in such an arrangement, even though it is very pragmatic. That being said, I am usually the first doofus to stop along the freeway to help somebody change a tire, or give a stranded motorist and her kid with chicken pox (the most recent) a ride to the hospital, so what in the heck do I know about "safe and cautious?"

At 10:37 PM, Anonymous susanlynn said...

I think it was very discerning of you to consider that your visitor might be asking himself the wrong question, Melinama. And, the question that you suggested is one that I try to ask myself periodically : ''What will make my life meaningful.'' It's good to stop now and then to assess where one is and how one feels and where one wants to be and what one wants out of life. As Socrates wrote : ''The unexamined life is not worth living.'' [or something like that...I collect quotes and that one was on the fireplace in my daughter's dorm lounge!!!] Like Sylvia, I would not be as brave and trusting as you. ~~~Susanlynn

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous susanlynn said...

P.S. I once read about a teacher who told her students to ask themselves 4 questions : 1] What do I want to do? 2]What do I want to have? 3] What do I want to be? 4]What do I want to give?

At 10:56 PM, Blogger melinama said...

Susanlynn, hey thanks, I sent those four questions off to my kids. Wonder what they'll come up with...


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