The day a stranger turned into a friend
Little did I know, a two minute conversation with my child would change our lives forever. About five years ago, my son, then sixteen years old, asked me to open our door to the world.
Him: “Mom, can we do Couchsurfing?”
Me: “What’s that?”
Him: “It’s when you host people from all over the world.”
Me: “That sounds fun, but who? What people?”
Him: “The people from the internet.”
Me: “Whaaat?! NO! From the INTERNET?! Are you out of your mind? Absolutely not. We are not hosting random people from the internet! What kind of crazy do you think I am?!”
Our foray into Couchsurfing began with Susy Freelove. When my son refused to let me off the hook with a knee-jerk NO reaction, I decided to humor him by creating a profile on Couchsurfing.com. I never intended to use it. I just did it to placate him. (Teenagers are relentless, as you know). Plus, I figured we’d never get any hosting requests anyway. It’s not like Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was on anybody’s top ten travel destination list.
And then, it happened. We received a hosting request from one Susy Freelove. Freelove? No, c’mon. Really? I was certain that couldn’t be her actual name and was about to decline the request just on principle. Plus, the timing wasn’t great. She had asked to stay the night before we were leaving to go to Disney World. But…we were already packed and prepared for Disney, and I remembered my mom had briefly dated a man whose name was Truelove. Dick Truelove. For real.
I liked Mr. Truelove. He was nice. Maybe a little Freelove wouldn’t be so bad? So, I clicked on Susy’s Couchsurfing profile to see what she was all about. I discovered that she was a U.S. citizen in her mid-fifties, living in Ireland these past 20 or so years, and traveling from Maine to Florida to visit family. She had excellent references and only asked to stay with us for one night. So, despite my reservations…I said yes. (I figured since she was older than me and alone, the boys and I could take her down if she got all freaky and tried to stab us in our sleep, or something).
When Susy knocked on our door, we were ever so excited, and curious! Our first Couchsurfer was here! Fortunately, Susy turned out to be one of those people that you just instantly like. She is artsy, and real, and just plain fabulous. I kinda want to introduce her to Dick Truelove!
The kids and I spent several hours talking with Susy. She taught us a lot of interesting things about Ireland and the social customs in Ireland. One of the things she mentioned is that an Irish person will always invite you to their home. But! They are being polite. They don’t really mean it unless they’ve invited you three times. Anything less then that and you can expect a cold shoulder if you take them up on their offer! (I think she was probably kidding!)
The kids were fascinated with Susy and she was so engaged with them. I knew then, that signing up for Couchsurfing was a life changing event for all of us.
After the wee ones (I can’t help myself! When I think of Susy, I gotta bust out a bit o’ Irish speak!) went to bed, Susy and I shared a bottle (or was it two?) of wine. Susy is very passionate about art and dedicated to supporting social causes that she believes in. When her artistic talent collides with her activism, the result is powerful.
Susy also has a whimsical side and loves to perform in local theater productions. Sometimes she writes her own scripts and even films her own short, one person skits. If you have the good fortune of meeting her, you should consider yourself blessed.
Although my artistic abilities are limited to stick figure drawings, Susy and I discovered that we had a lot of things in common. We could have stayed up all night chatting, but I had an early flight to Disney and Susy was tuckered out from the long drive. Still, it wasn’t until about 1:00 a.m. that we called it a night.
Three hours later, there was this riotous pounding on my bedroom door. It was Susy! Good lord! She’s gone psycho!
And then, I heard what she was trying to tell me through the door: “Audrey. Audrey! Aren’t you supposed to be on a plane soon?”
“Oh my gawd!” I screamed, as I knocked over my bedside water glass while shoving on my glasses and frantically grabbing at the alarm clock. [Dear reader: Feel free to insert numerous curse words of your choice – or do this in your brain – %$#@*&^$%, because we were screwed]. Our flight to Disney was leaving in 45 minutes.
A year or so later, I had the opportunity to travel to Scotland. I decided to extend the trip and spend some time in Ireland. You guessed it. I immediately sent a Couchsurfing request to Susy. (Couchsurfing aside, she had invited us to stay – more than three times!). Plus, since we’d stayed in touch, I was pretty sure it was okay to ask!
Susy lives in this charming little Irish town named Ballydehob on the Southwest coast of Ireland. (Ballydehob means “mouth of the two river fords”). According to those in the know, this tiny town “is a microcosm of Irish local history, and legends and folklore abound in the locality.” I could not wait to visit Ballydehob. Who wouldn’t want to visit a town with such an adorable name, and Freelove, to boot!!
Stay tuned for my Ballydehob adventure….coming soon!