Airbnb and the Art of Hospitality

Zarr photo IMG_4518As I write this, my husband and I are on our twentieth day away from home as we travel through parts of Europe and England on holiday. It’s a celebration trip for us—as of this August, we have been married twenty-five years. Though at one point we envisioned six or eight weeks abroad, neither of us has ever been outside of North America before so we kept the scope of the trip manageable and will be headed home in another week.

To save money, we’ve used Airbnb for lodging in a couple of places along the way. If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, it’s a network of people around the world who have rooms, apartments, houses, treehouses, houseboats, RVs, yurts—and any other type of space you can think of—on offer for travelers to use instead of hotels, motels, hostels, or other managed properties. Property owners (or “hosts” as they are called on the site) list descriptions of their spaces along with maps and pictures and, perhaps most importantly, reviews by previous guests.

We booked an apartment in Amsterdam (our first stop on the trip) and a converted shed in someone’s backyard outside of London through the site. Leading up to our arrival in Amsterdam, our host, Camille, provided helpful and detailed instructions about how to get from the airport to the apartment, just as a friend or family member would. He was there to greet us when we arrived. Hanging from the staircase was a heart-shaped chalkboard on which was written “25 years together! Wow!” just for us. [Read more...]

The Bearable Weightiness of Being

By Amy Peterson
61pASF-GwkL._SL500_I was restless this spring, edging manic. I think my kids noticed. One Thursday I checked them out of school for an impromptu road trip.

“Isn’t this fun?” I asked. If this were a novel I’d say my eyes were glittering, but this is not fiction: I have no idea how wild-eyed I was.

“I just think it’s a little weird to leave school for no reason,” my six-year-old said.

It wasn’t for no reason. The responsibilities of adult life were weighing heavily on me, and I felt stuck with mortgage payments and email responses and writing deadlines and the feeling that every person in our small town was watching me. At the same time, my body was remembering another spring, the spring when I felt most free.

Karis and I took a gently rocking train from Budapest to Prague, clutching paper cups of coffee, steam fogging the green view outside the window. It was May 2002, and I was twenty-years-old, wearing my hair in greasy braids, mostly unaware of my privilege, and taking myself and my freedom very seriously. [Read more...]

Seeing The World As It Is

The Death of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram“My religious commitment: to stay in conversation with Jewish stories.” That’s Nancy Fuchs Kreimer in “The Face under the Huppah: Relating to My Closest Stranger.” The essay is a meditation inspired by a drive with her husband from Philadelphia to Boston. Near the beginning of the drive, Fuchs Kreimer and her husband get stuck in a familiar conflict: a disagreement over whose proposed route is best: hers that is shortest, his that sometimes involves less traffic. They’ve been here before: on this highway, on this trip, caught in this disagreement whose stakes to them seem high.

Given the “circumstances”—their late start, the threat of snow and ice in Connecticut, and the building Friday afternoon traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike—her husband declares that “he will be determining” their route. “Alone.”

How does he get away with simply claiming the authority to choose their route? Fuchs Kreimer doesn’t openly protest her husband’s autonomous action. Rather, she devotes the rest of her illuminating essay to considering her response to him in relation to relevant rabbinic texts and others, including Freud, Levinas, and the Israeli novelist David Grossman. [Read more...]

Roots Trip To the Castles in My Bloodline, Part 1

If you grew up in the Seventies as I did, you might recall a popular children’s T-shirt of the era—one at least popular among the reputedly disaffected youth of Cocopah Elementary in Scottsdale, Arizona. The caption (no graphics) went something like this:

My Parents Went On Vacation To Las Vegas and All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt.

Not just Las Vegas, of course; but Seattle, Chicago, New York, and so forth. Yet all we kids got—for the message was contagious despite the various places I had been with my parents—was a dusty, sunbaked playground in Scottsdale.

Fast-forward thousands of miles, and even more years than it seems, to the grassy, rain-soaked Highlands of Scotland where I just finished a hurried, harried “roots” trip with my wife and kids en route to a family sabbatical in Ireland. [Read more...]