I’m a sucker for gold stars. There was no better feeling as a child than watching a beloved teacher peel off a gold star and stick it next to my name with a special smile just for me. Oh, how I loved watching those gold stars line up.
AirBnB guests rate hosts with gold stars based on questions: Was there anything special: thoughtful touches, quick responses, outstanding hospitality, stylish space, local tips, sparkling clean, amazing amenities. What was the neighborhood like: residential, scenic, family friendly, lively, quiet, hip. Rate your stay: accuracy, check-in, cleanliness, communications, location, value.
With the same single-minded tenacity, I wanted five stars ratings and rave reviews as a host of our vacation home, Sweet Water Hideaway. Gleefully, and with deep sighs of contentment, I watched our accumulation of stars. We became AirBnB Superhosts within a few months. To me, those stars proved that I was on the track of my True Self, my Destiny.
There are many things that can be said of my Early Californio Ancestors – but my favorite stories are those that exalt their deeply-felt generosity and hospitality. It was said they would give a weary traveler a posh bed for as many days or weeks as needed, gold coins lay by the bedside, horses awaited in the stable, wine and music at the fiestas and solid companionship. Their word was their bond and they would give everything to the guest. Never will I eat until the guest is served. I taught my sons at a young age to extend the same gracious hospitality when we hosted traveling cyclists via Warm Showers.
A saunterer has been referred by John Muir and Henry David Thoreau as a Saint of the Terrain or la Tierra, the Earth. These wanderers are the threads that bind and remind us that all inhabitants on this Earth exist as a whole community. Thoreau also suggests in his essay “Walking,” that the word saunterers could also mean “Sans Tierre” or without land, at home anywhere.
Either way, I am their host. My position is humbling as in hummus, from the earth. I am the one who brings them comfort as they wander, angels disguised as bohemians. I am the sacred guardian who waits at the portal to another world. I believe there is a lost word for this act of hosting and yet I can taste it, like a memory. Perhaps the word exists in another language, as in the hosts who provide shelter and companionship to travelers along the Road to Santiago, on The Way to their unique version of enlightenment.
I am replenished with the saunterers’ stories and rewarded with the knowing that I am helping keep a strong the path that stitches together people and culture with each step and welcoming hug. I am a welcoming light to travelers, standing at a holy threshold: Come in from the outdoor, Pilgrim, and tell me your stories. Break bread, slake your thirst, warm your bones, rest. Come. Rest.
An adaptation of this article first appeared on Rebelle Society.