I sometimes see myself conditioned about what to find when I enter a family home – a man , a woman, two men, two women, may be a child, may be a living a room, sometimes a pet, and definitely a kitchen.. and things to those effect. All those things give a feeling of ‘normal’ or ‘safe’.
Last night, moments before putting my camp in the Harris Beach State Park, I heard from a couchsurfing host Matt Stump that he could host me for the night. I decided to go check the host and his house before freezing myself in the park, like I did in Yellow Stone. As I entered the house, and did a quick mini tour, I was scanning not just the house, but also my own thought process. There were doubts, questions, suspicions in my mind. Absence of a kitchen kitchen and lack of a ‘regular’ structure of house and its walls were not helping it either. My mind was racing to place Matt and the house in some imaginary bucket to make a sense of things I was observing. I was not answering his questions with complete thoughts because a part of my brain was processing something else. Matt asked if I would like to get dinner at a neighboring restaurant. With the compliant nature that I have, I answered in affirmative without saying Yes to myself first.
As we entered the restaurant, and I saw that he knew people and people knew him and were happy to see him, I felt better. When we sat down, and I bombarded him with my questions like where he was born and raised, where his siblings , parents were, what he likes to do, I realized that he is a family. He is a hardworking man, who has reached where he is today without any fancy education degree. He is a single father raising a daughter. He follows Buddhism and tries to find inner and outer peace with that. He manages computer administration at a state prison in the town and earlier worked for Intel.
He then introduced me to his landlord – Rob and Dave. These two British brothers came to Brookings OR fifteen years ago. They run a printing shop here and enjoy the wilderness , the surfing, and the ocean here. That’s why they left London for Brookings! Matt actually cooks in the kitchen of Rob and Dave. And the brothers take shower at Matt’s. These people hang out often and they have created their own interesting family structure here that support each other. I felt comfortable enough with Matt to confess my initial doubts which thankfully had evaporated by now. Matt told me that the image I carried in my head about a family was what it was there in United States in 60’s, pretty much everywhere. But then over the years, that has changed due to various reasons including economic ones.
This road trip is definitely making me more comfortable with such alternative families and home structures. All theses hosts have been kind and gave me a safe shelter each night. That’s why I think that couchsurfing helps to break stereotypes and to un-condition our minds. It is helping me understand that it is love, respect and care that makes a place a family and not necessarily certain gender or certain number of people or certain number of rooms.
He offered me the bed of his daughter who had gone to the grandmother’s place. So my twenty-nine year old self slept on a nine year old’s bed!
And the house has these interesting lights all around.