We all know travel can change lives, but we rarely think about the impact we have on those we visit (unless, of course, we’re stealing pierogi from them…).
To set the stage for this story, you need to know that last weekend I stayed in my first yurt.
This therapy studio-turned-weekend-vacation-rental in Mendocino, 3 hours north of San Francisco, proved the perfect escape. What I didn’t count on was connecting so strongly with the owner, Marilyn. A kind, worldly woman whose kids have grown and left the nest, Marilyn runs an art therapy practice during the week out of her yurt, which sits just beyond her beautiful home through a path in the woods.
At the urging of friends, Marilyn only recently started welcoming weekend guests. After living 30 years in the remote artist’s colony of Mendocino, her world is cozy and comfortable, if limited in population. But hosting travelers in her yurt has provided a constant stream of new experiences.
“It’s so energizing,” she exclaimed several times during our conversation. “Meeting all the people with such different lives coming from so many places, it’s fascinating!”
Her friends love hearing stories about the people she hosts. Marilyn’s 94 year-old mother, who lives in a nearby retirement home, eagerly awaits Marilyn’s reports. “Who stayed with you this week?” she demands to know.
In a way, I shouldn’t be surprised. One of my favorite things about renting out my various homes over the past few years has been the people brought into my life.
It must run in the family. My mother, through her vacation rental business in Barbados, has counseled couples through marital strife, created memories for honeymooners, and forged deep friendships. She, too, is energized by the people coming into her properties and her life.
While local communities fight to outlaw vacation rentals and slick companies seek to commoditize the process, I hope we don’t forget the personal dimension of this age-old practice of renting a room to a stranger. That bond of sharing our lives, even for a short while, is what community is all about.