Note: I have known Tina and Adolfo since I first visited their hostel several years ago. When we visited them recently, Adolfo offered us a chance at a discounted scuba diving experience in exchange for an honest review of his services. He doesn’t need the review, he consistently gets 5 star ratings from everyone who dives with him but I agreed anyway. I started to write the review and realized a basic review couldn’t do him or his services justice. That is when my brain started churning and I realized why he and his partner, Tina, are already such an important part of our journey……
One of the topics on a full-time traveler’s mind is the concept of “home“. What is “home”? Can “home” be found in more than one place? Can it be recreated? Can it lack everything but the basics and still be “home”? What are the characteristics that make a “home”? The answers to these questions and more are as varied as the travelers who answer them.
One thing we are realizing already is that “home” is not lacking when living a nomadic lifestyle. In fact, “home” can be found in abundance when traveling.
How? First, consider this… Have you ever stepped off a plane in a city that you have visited before and felt a sense of familiarity deep in your gut? A feeling that says “welcome back!” Have you ever had a place that you considered a “home away form home”? Well, the whole world to elicit those feelings for a long-term traveler.
The first time I felt that sense of familiarity was as I stepped off a plane, by myself, in India. I loved it. I felt like I was coming to visit an old friend. I didn’t feel any of the first time anxiety over Indian taxis, haggling, exchange rates, or unfamiliar territory. There were still things to explore, but none of the anxiety. I had been here, I knew how to do this.
Last week, we re-visited a hostel in Cozumel, run by two of the most amazingly warm people I know. Tina and Adolfo run the Beachouse Hostel in Cozumel, Mexico and have created a wonderful environment where guests are treated like family. Victoria and I first met Tina and Adolfo almost four years ago on Victoria’s first trip our of the country with me. They were so kind and so welcoming that when we had the chance to take Victoria to Central America this year, she begged to return to see Tina and Adolfo.
Tina has regularly asked me to send her pictures of Victoria online “just to see how she is doing” so I was not surprised when Tina scooped Victoria right up for a night on the town as soon as we arrived. Victoria, of course was all too happy to escape with her beloved “extended family” and happily left us in the dust for the evening. Those who know me, know that there is nothing that pleases me more than to see a young person act independently and fly off into the world to enjoy whatever intrigues them. Watching a somewhat anxious kid waltz out the door with two people she hadn’t seen in years without a second thought, spoke not only to her ability to act independently but also of the amazing warmth and kindness that Tina and Adolfo possess. I mean, how many other hostel owners have you run into that not only take another person’s kid out for the night, but insist on doing so?!
Days later, when Victoria mentioned that she would like to try scuba diving, Adolfo, a dive instructor, set up a special dive session just for us. He cut us a break, knowing three dive lessons were not in our budget and asked me to write a review for him in exchange for a discount. He doesn’t need the review, his diving and Tina’s work at the hostel routinely get 5 star ratings from everyone who patronizes them. He suggested the exchange so that we could have the experience. He held Victoria’s hand when the diving experience proved to be nerve racking for her. He stuck with her when she wanted to quit and treated her like his own kid telling her “you’re not quitting. You will regret it. This is just the beginning.” When she did, in fact, complete the entire dive he hugged her and celebrated her accomplishment right along with her. He never lost his temper, he never showed annoyance. He was the instructor any parent would want for their child when sending them down deep into the sea.
People like Tina and Adolfo are the people that make it possible to feel like we are “coming home” all over the world. This sense elf belonging comes not only from returning to a previously visited location but also from reconnecting with the people who become your extended family around the world.
Do we miss “home”? No. Because thanks to people like Tina and Adolfo, “home” can be everywhere and anywhere.