Three years ago a tired couple who were backpacking across NB randomly stopped at our house and asked if they could borrow our backyard as a campsite. Simon and Mieke were from the south of France and we had a beautiful evening with them, and in the morning we shared a warm cup of coffee. Meike was expecting a child so we chatted about all things baby. It was wonderful.
Simon and Meike taught me that sometimes life brings you amazing opportunities in the form of strangers. Welcome this.
The next summer, as I drove home the twisty-turny roads of Route 114 towards Hillsborough, I noticed a couple of cyclists labouring their way in the darkest, stormiest rain.
We enjoyed a short visit with them over coffee the next morning. Later that year, I received a Christmas card during a fairly difficult and stressful time, and I was reminded of all that is beautiful when you open up to a stranger and meet them where they are. From them I was reminded to listen to my gut.
Having had two beautiful chance meetings, this year we decided to create an account with www.couchsurfing.com, which is a community of travelers from all over the world. This gave us a chance to get a sense of who our guests were before they arrived, to check references and to make plans for their stay.
At the same time, we signed up for www.warmshowers.org, which is a similar network, but for cyclists, and offers a spot for them to either freshen up, grab coffee, or a camping spot for the night. What you offer through Warmshowers is really up to you. Both Couchsurfing and Warmshowers are free to join, and puts you in touch with the world in a very short time!
A family of three joined us from around Paris, and with their arrival, came a sweet little one named Moira. Moira and her parents felt as much trepidation as we did, as Couchsurfing is new to all of us. But Lukas and she quickly latched onto each other and engaged in the universal language of play. He offered her his Elsa dress and with that won her over.
We enjoyed a beautiful meal, Ben and Steve played guitars well into the evening. In the ephemeral light of morning, we had coffee and the children played in the dirt, swung from the hammock and giggled for hours! We said goodbye with full hearts.
From them I learned to take moments more slowly, and that Lukas and I needed to spend more time with our paints and paintbrushes. And, what it means to treat ourselves as though we were our best friend.
We also welcomed Andrew from New Hampshire who has been everywhere, and who knits. I told him we are welcoming guests this way because I want Lukas to see and learn from people of different cultures. And I said I believe in people, and he said he knew exactly what I meant. He loves food and loves talking about it. From Montana to Alaska, he's worked in forestry and trails, and now is off to teach children in the wilderness of Wisconsin. I cooked a rabbit and some veggies and Andrew took a lot of time eating, savouring the food. Steve and he shared a beer. He even did the dishes! I taught him how to clean and season a cast iron pan.
From Andrew I learned to put my fork down between bites, chewing helps digestion he said. He's now biking 80km to his next destination.
With Lisa, we got to experience the Hopewell Rocks again for the first time, after a picnic supper and a day-long journey along the Fundy Coast. When Lukas got to the viewing deck at the Hopewell Rocks, he exclaimed with great excitement “IT’S MY CARD!!” He repeated the same thing all the way down the stairs and then welcomed the flower pot rocks with open arms and the same excitement. “It’s my card, mommy.”
It took us a couple of minutes to catch on to his logic. His Medicare card.
This weekend we were joined by travelers from Poland, who live just 20km shy of the Ukraine border.
Amanda and Agnieszka have spent the last two years traveling across our home and native land, and with only a few weeks until their return to Poland, they joined us for an evening. They are documenting their travels on film – their goal? To demystify travel, and to show others how they managed to see our entire country on a very slight budget. They are hitch-hiking, with a combination of Couchsurfing and work along the way.
We shared a meal of homemade Indian food, and chatted about their adventures. From Amanda and Agnieszka’s stories, I have begun to imagine how we might be able to see the world, with Lukas.
We won’t be hitchhiking with Lukas (though it would make a great short story), but I do have a few new ideas about how we might just make it happen, thanks to Amanda and Agnieszka. Follow their journey on this Facebook page if you’d like. They’ve graciously subtitled their videos in English!
Meet the Writer: This article's author, Rachel Leblanc, lives with her husband, Stephen and son, Lukas, overlooking the beautiful Hillsborough marshes. She cares deeply about social and environmental justice, women and children's rights and is grateful for the cultural lessons she has learned through opening her heart and home and offering genuine Albert County hospitality.
You can watch the ATV Segment done on this story here.