Finding Your Home Away from Home
I loved being part of The Three Tomatoes Renewal Summit and meeting so many wonderful Tomatoes. Recurring questions and comments I shared during the day regarded changes in lifestyle and traveling preferences. Tomatoes seem to be leaning towards longer, less expensive trips, which is exactly what I do. My goal is always to find the least expensive, yet most immersive and rewarding, experiences possible.
A number of people wanted to know what I think of some of the housing alternatives available. In April 2017 when I drove straight across Canada from Weston, Connecticut to Prince Rupert, British Columbia to pick up the Alaska Ferry to Haines, Alaska, on my way to my summer job as an oral interpreter in Denali National Park, there were very few accommodation choices beyond camping out or motels.
Tourist season was not yet officially open the end of April when I had to travel to be on the job May 1. Driving along the Alaska Highway towards Destruction Bay, population 35, in the Yukon on Kluane Lake, I almost collided with a Momma Bear and her two cubs. They literally jumped over and across my right front fender.
It was getting dark. I was a bit shaken up. As I pulled around the bend, there stood the only motel in town, which was the most expensive one on my entire trip.
That experience taught me that planning ahead is wise. Last summer I lived and taught at an American University in Rome. While teaching I had a wonderful apartment in a dormitory. While traveling I turned to Booking.com and AirBNB. I learned through using both services to always call ahead and speak with the management to ask lots of questions.
By planning ahead, and being very proactive, I found affordable discounts and did well with all of my accommodations except one. Planning to sleepover two nights in Orvieto, I specifically asked if I could walk to the hotel from the train station. “Yes,” responded the man on the phone. Unfortunately, he only spoke Italian along with minimal ‘hotel’ English. It turned out to be a beautiful location five miles outside of town, lovely and remote for a weekend getaway for a couple, but not what I needed at the time. They refunded my money and I found a place in town much more walkable.
Recently I drove down to Richmond, Virginia to visit family. The days and times I was expected to arrive changed a bit. To make it easier on myself, I decided to book an Airbnb in Fredericksburg the night before arriving in Richmond. I was born and raised in Fredericksburg and love being there. I reviewed all of the listings, and called four different possibilities, selecting one in the neighborhood on Sunken Road near Mary Washington College. From there I could walk or drive to the historic parts of town I love to visit and my favorite Allman’s BBQ and Carl’s Frozen Custard.
When I pulled up to the house, it seemed very familiar and inviting. Initially I parked in front of the Victorian home and unloaded my bag entering the front door. The owner/operator asked me to move my car to the side street. Then I entered via the side porch and knew I’d been there many times before.
“Did you know the Waite family?” I asked.
“Yes, I bought this house from them.”
I was stunned. Then she showed me to my room and I realized I had rented out my childhood friend’s bedroom. I’d spent many sleepovers there growing up. It was a wonderful experience and all because I decided to try out something new.