Creating a sense of home for travelers
I’ve been searching for a place that feels like home my whole life.
I moved around so much as a kid — a new school ever 2-3 years — and then when I came to Scotland from Washington, DC, I met my husband-to-be 3 days into the trip (at a hostel no less, but that’s another story) and simply never went back. So now I live on an island in the far north of Scotland called Orkney and still I search for home.
I get moments of it, of belonging, groundedness, utter contentment and relaxation. I certainly remember feeling it when I arrived in Scotland and stood looking out towards the sea and mist, amongst all that green and crumbling stone.
Simple, cosy things
Feeling home is a form of magic and I’ve found it in humble places: a cup of tea steaming in a handmade mug that nestles perfectly in your palm, sitting in front of a glowing fire while the sky outside is grey and cold, burrowing my toes under my husband’s legs as we settle down for a long talk while our baby sleeps. Still I want to stretch those moments out until it feels that way all the time.
A lot of people searching
Being in Scotland with family and friends in America plus playing host to over 100 people on Couchsurfing has helped me realise that I’m not the only one looking for home.
Just about everyone I meet longs to reach the place where they can rest, totally accepted for what they are, appreciated, valued, trusted. They can stop working, working, working. And maybe they can stop worrying too.
I love creating that space for people here in our house and it’s I’m why I’m part of Hostel Hub and a big part of why our family is on a mission to run a hostel in Scotland for two years — because I want to create a place that feels like home for a lot more people.
It’s how you feel and act, not what you facilities or stuff you give people
It doesn’t take a lot of money. The wonderful thing about hostels is that they’re affordable, democratic. What makes them is the people who run them, the welcome you receive.
A beautiful building helps, so does an inspiring location, but what I’ve seen have the most impact is how I feel and therefore how I treat people.
It takes energy because I need to be relaxed myself in order to help others relax. I need to make them feel at ease in a genuine way, and that means genuinely being at ease myself.
Before someone arrives at our house, I try to take time to read a book, eat something and chill out. Malcolm is the official host so his job is to greet the person, show them around, pick them up at the airport if need be.
You are welcome here
My role is much quieter: it’s to simply show that I welcome a person into my home, that I’m happy to have them here and am looking forward to listening to whatever they have to tell me (because who feels they’ve been listened to enough?).
So we gather around the kitchen table, drink a pot of tea from our Alice in Wonderland pot that makes me smile every time, in handmade mugs that I love, and we all slowly let down the defences we keep in place with people we don’t know.
The best international Get to Know You game I’ve ever seen
The turning point is usually after dinner when we sit down for a game of Ticket to Ride: Europe, which we just call “Trains”. That board game is the single best ice breaker I’ve ever encountered. Something about riding trains, collecting pretty cards and plotting your route across the Europe of old just gets everyone excited, acting like a kid in the best sense of the word.
Then it’s off to bed to the soundtrack of our island life: gusts of wind, muted roar of ocean waves, tweets of birds up in the surprisingly bright summer hours of midnight.
The occasional baa of a sheep or moo of a cow and all is quiet. Sleep comes and they sleep and sleep.
I like to think it’s home for a time for these travelers who have come all this way — Orkney is quite a ways from anywhere — and I go to bed feeling happy and contented, glowing with the sense that, by creating home for some weary traveler, I’ve found it for myself.XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
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