30 November 2006

From Stonehenge to My Living Room

My third CouchSurfer, Steve, arrived at 1:00 am in the morning.

He had called several hours earlier from a payphone to let me know that he had missed the ferry from England and would be on the next one.

When he arrived I asked him what he needed, a glass of water, a shower?

He said, "A shower would be great. I camped at Stonehenge last night."

"You can camp at Stonehenge?" I asked.

"Well, I had to climb a fence. I wanted to see if those stones gave off energy. But they don't. I didn't feel anything."

Zapped from Stonehenge to my living room, I was in awe. Steve was the real thing, a real nomad.

This 30-year-old Canadian roofer had been traveling for three straight years through Europe and Asia.

When he returned to chat after his shower, I watched him like he was a rare breed in the zoo.

He had nomadic characteristics: When he sat down, I asked him, "How have you done this for three years? Financially? Emotionally?"

He said, "I'm really glad I took the time to travel. I made a lot of money when I was in Norway. I sent it to Spain, so I would have to go back there. Sometimes I ran out of money and had to beg. I discovered that when you don't have a place to sleep, you can just walk through the city instead of sleeping. I've seen amazing views on cities at night that other people don't see."

He said he recently decided to head back home, which meant he had developed a seven-month plan to finish traveling.

It just hit him one day, but he couldn't tell if he was tired of traveling or just tired of Europe.

I told him that when he did get home, it would probably feel nice, but stifling.

I explained my mixed emotions about 'coming home' and how doing 'home' things like sweeping the floor felt wasteful of life.

He listened and nodded, trying to picture that future place in time.

Then it was late. We stopped talking and constructed the futon bed for him in the dining room.

The next day, open sourcing my musical development with Steve went poorly.

While I worked on the computer, he asked, "Do you have a tape player?"

I replied, "Yes."

"Do you want a tape of Queen's greatest hits? I found this on the ground."

"Well, I already have a CD of Queen's greatest hits, from someone else who also didn't want it."

"Oh, OK."

Steve stayed only one night due to a mis-communication.

I had made plans to stay in Utrecht the next night since I thought his plans were to leave for Belgium.

As we briefly explored the misunderstanding, I told him that my first CouchSurfer had had a phone and a laptop with WiFi and I forget that not all CouchSurfers can make arrangements so easily.

When he explained that he had communicated as best he could, but it was impossible, for instance, to check his email at Stonehenge, I noted that in his reply he said, "We don't usually have daily access to telephones or Internet."

I took comfort in the "we," knowing that I too was part of this rare nomadic breed, even though I was becoming more and more domesticated with each day that I lived in only one home.

But Steve simply used my internet connection to contact another CouchSurfer in Rotterdam and arranged to stay at her house.

He gave me a North American hug and he was gone.

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