‘welcome home’

If you were curious about the “unimaginable rewards” that I mentioned lie at the bottom of Sonny’s “yikes cliff”- here are some specifics:

My great friend and former travel buddy, Pol-Ewen, whom I met at Davis and traveled with from Poland, through the Baltic Region, and into Scandanavia, had been in Australia for over six months, meeting people and making connections (as he does). He was part of the inspiration for this trip and when I got down here he was picking cherries on a farm in Tasmania. He told me he was staying on a piece of property that a kind lady opened freely to camping backpackers. So naturally I bought a one-way ticket to Tasmania.

One theme I’ve found throughout my travels is the idea that if I have a friend somewhere, that’s it- that’s all I need. I’m ‘in’. This is one of the many feelings that feed my travel addiction: being ‘in’. Being able to truly say that I’ve extended my community to include some wonderful people wherever I’ve been. So much so that if I were to give travel advice I would simply say to go where you have a friend. Forget the monuments and wonders of the world- those will be there. Instead, go where you’ll be ‘in’. One of the truly rewarding things to gain from travel is that international extention of your community. If you’re willing to put a little time in, you can have it with any sort of people, anywhere in the world. And to think- some people might not even have it at home.

The easiest way ‘in’ is to have a friend with their whole own local community. That will definitely get you ‘in’. Sometimes you only need a name and you’ll be set (see: couchsurfing, warmshowers, etc.). And if you’re a little bit lucky and have a little bit of experience you might even be overpacked with a name. Sometimes all you need is a smile and if you play it right you’ll get yourself ‘in’ (more on that later). I showed up at “Barb’s” with her name and Pol as a friend and not much else (although in Tasmania you should probably bring warm, waterproof clothes and a hot water bottle if you’re camping- even in the summertime)- I was ‘in’.

My first impression of Barb’s, to be honest, was mixed. It is an absolutely stunning landscape covered in dense, deep-green vegetation, mountains in the distance and (at the moment I arrived) a massive blue sky above. The land felt so alive, with the crisp, clear creek rushing through the thick green grass. Most of the campers were off in the cherry fields, but many were just spending their holidays in what I quickly found to be a truly amazing place. As I got the tour I met Akio, warming himself by the fire in one of the very few covered common areas that doubles as the semi-outdoor kitchen. He was stark naked but still greeted me with a sincere hug that I swear lasted a good minute. I admit, I was a little weirded out, though comforted, when he uttered “welcome home” with his very thick Japanese accent.

At this point I didn’t know what to think. I had mixed feelings. I’d hardly been exposed to this “Rainbow culture” which I would soon learn very deeply. But this episode with Akio, whom I would come to know very well and who is a downright delightful human being, is what got me thinking about home in the first place. Not in the sense of oh my god, what am I doing here, I want to go home. Home as a place where you are comfortable being yourself. Akio was obviously a fair distance from his physical home- I could tell that by his thick accent. And I would have guessed that he wasn’t surrounded by the people he felt comfortable around because, quite frankly, he was surrounded by me and we’d just met. Yet I can’t really imagine he could have felt much more comfortable- much more at home.

It might sound like hippy bullshit that someone might feel at home in this mysterious place surronded by perfect strangers. I admit, I didn’t quite feel at home in that moment, but I have no doubt that Akio did. I think this says two interesting things about this idea of HOME: First, there is some varying degree to which people can feel at home simply by being in their own skin. People like Akio are fairly comfortable being themselves no matter where they are or who they’re with. Second, there is some varying degree to which communities put aside judgement and make a space for perfect strangers to be themselves. Some communities can be ‘home-like’ to anyone and everyone simply due to the predisposition of the people that the community attracts. That’s what I found at Barb’s place (and what I’ve come to expect from Rainbow culture).

I imagine there is some natural attraction between places like Barb’s and people like Akio. And when the two come together it makes for very real, very beautiful, and very powerful interpersonal connections and community based on freedom of expression. I think of it as essentially the polar opposite of what I mentioned before as homelessness (no place to comfortably be oneself). HomeFULLness, let’s call it. Homefullness, I can say first hand, is downright spectacular to behold, and positively life changing to feel. And to think- all you have to do is take the plunge!

More to come.
-willrl

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