We Have No Place

“Wanna Get Away?”

Inflation is making that more difficult, with fuel prices climbing and hotels marking up rooms even while scaling down amenities. Airbnb is a sound alternative, which I plug shamelessly because my wife Carrie and I run one. Before we bought and fixed up a full-time house for this, we got our feet wet by offering up our home on weekends when away camping or traveling. Now, scores of tourists and travelers have enjoyed our home.

Yet I can see where it might be uncomfortable for some to share a space with someone else’s family photos and cats. That’s not for everyone. Nor is staying (as may be expected) with extended family on a road trip. Particularly when you’re staying with a second cousin’s stepmom or are roped into a similarly distant arrangement. That is time endured in the oxymoronic interaction between family-strangers; charging a room at the Hilton would have been the smart call.

I had one of those less-than-comfortable experiences in Europe during our travels that followed a big reunion shindig in Germany. I don’t recall how this tiny lady was connected to our tribe, but she and her timid husband were our stop-over in Zurich on the way to see the Matterhorn. This was a time before cell phones, when only the military had access to GPS. Location services and Google translate surely would have helped, as her English was disappointingly sub-par for a Germanic European. (I am an expert about this because I am of German descent and English is all I speak.) Thus, it was a comedy of errors finding her diminutive apartment, but eventually we arrived: my wife and I, my sister and brother, and our eight-month-old.

Our intense co-host could see our perplexity about the sleeping arrangements, but she wasn’t apologetic—I don’t know whether she spoke on behalf of herself, her city, or Europe in general when she declared matter-of-factly “Here we have no place,” meaning, of course, no space. Mind you, not “large apartments are expensive here” or “I didn’t realize how huge you Americans would be”—simply “we have no place.” But the sleeping arrangements worked out okay in the end because she did have some place.

The following morning as we awoke from our bookshelves, she offered us muesli for breakfast—“healti muesli,” she announced while rationing us each one quarter-cup measure—a leveled scoop of the crusty mixture, graced with some skim milk so it could actually be ingested. I thought to myself that perhaps her pantry also had no place, or maybe her stomach. But more so, she was schooling us Americans about our food choices and portions—an acute lesson in realizing that humans can and, more importantly, should subsist on squirrel forage. A few days of withering away on that diet and she would have gained back some of that elusive space we were taking up.

Fortunately, we were just traveling through, and by that evening we were stretching out in grand privacy at a Zermatt hotel. Ha, I wish—the budget required a multi-bunk hostel room. But we did enjoy hiking in the open place.

Copyright © 2022 Richard Berndt – All Rights Reserved.

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