Human Hotel

Taking social risks

EDITOR’S NOTE: This post was originally made in July 2016

Many things I do are cause for great consternation among my family members. For example: going to Europe by myself for several months, voluntarily giving up owning a car for several years, and online dating.

I have always loved people, and I have never been afraid of taking social risks or interacting with people I don’t know.

Early on, I had decided to go to the Democratic National Convention to participate in protests as a Bernie Sanders supporter. I am no stranger to protests, and I wanted to bring attention to the ideals Bernie espoused – such as getting money out of politics, raising the minimum wage, and fighting for racial justice. I also wanted to act as a citizen reporter to let my social media followers see what was going on outside the convention.

Last month, as I was working on my travel arrangements, I saw an ad on Facebook for Human Hotel. I had no idea what it was, but the name intrigued me.

The website doesn’t say much, but I understood it to be a way to connect traveling artists and activists with like-minded folks to stay with in major cities. You couldn’t see who the hosts were, scroll through images of their accommodations or get any such information. The creators of the site hand-pick hosts based on the information you give them. You don’t pay the hosts, but you pay a one-time membership fee of $50 to Human Hotel if they find you a match.

They are currently only connecting people with hosts in  NYC, London, Paris, Berlin and Copenhagen, but at the time, they had some folks in Philadelphia to coincide with the convention.

It sounded like a marvelous adventure, so I filled out their form.

A few days later, they contacted me to say they’d found me a host. They included a link to her Facebook page. She was 84 years old and a member of the Granny Peace Brigade. I was instantly in love!

Not only that, she lived right in the center of downtown Philadelphia. I couldn’t have asked for a better location.

I still had no information about the accommodations, but I said “Hell yes!”

I got the side-eye when I told a few people about this. “How could you stay with a complete stranger?”

I just really love humans, and I think most of them are good.

This woman turned out to be a peach. Highly educated, sharp as a tack, living in a secure co-op building. I stayed in a comfy twin bed in her office. I bought my own food and had the use of her kitchen. We interacted in the morning and at the end of the day, and the rest of the time did our own thing. She was very engaged in the convention, and we watched some of the speeches together in her living room.

It was just such a lovely experience, and I made a donation to the Granny Peace Brigade as a thank-you before I left.

If I chose to pass up on some of these social risks, I would miss out on so many amazing experiences. I am someone who values human connections and experiences over material possessions. Interactions with people, instead of shiny baubles, feed my soul.

My life is made so much richer because I am willing to take social risks.