My husband and I have been Air Bnb hosts for more than a year. In addition to providing income, hosting brings emotional rewards. It feels good to offer hospitality to people who need a place to stay. (I’ve blogged about hospitality in relationship to ministry here and here and here.)
This summer Doug and I had the opportunity to be on the other side of the hospitality equation. During our recent house/dog-sitting escapade in Norway, we took a 4-day trip to Oslo. To economize, I booked a whole flat on Air Bnb. The access to a kitchen meant we could pack picnic lunches and cook our own suppers, rather than rely on restaurants. We made a long list of sites to see. We even watched film versions of plays by Ibsen, Norway’s famous playwright.
The first rule of traveling is that life does not go as planned. Not only was the weather dreary and rainy, but Doug got sick on the day we arrived — the kind of sick that keeps a person very close to the bathroom. It’s dispiriting to spend a long-anticipated holiday under rain and clouds, especially while the person you love is miserable. It’s like watching a sidewalk list of gaily chalked plans wash away in the rain. There goes the happy face — dissolved into a smear of yellow chalk. And you can’t even complain because you’re not the one who’s sick.
Still, on the second day — with Doug’s encouragement — I left him behind, borrowed my host’s umbrella, and ventured into Oslo on my own. There were many moments when I almost turned around. It’s not that fun to be alone in a strange, overwhelming place in a pounding rain. Not only did the wind threaten to turn my umbrella inside out, but most signs were in Norwegian only. I struggled to decipher the bus and subway maps. I kept on, determined to return with a story worth telling, at the least. Eventually I found my way to the peninsula housing the Fram Museum (polar exploration ships) and the Kon-Tiki Museum. After that I took the bus to the Ibsen Museum, and the subway home.
The next day — our last full day in Oslo — Doug felt a bit better. Loaded up with medication, he even dared to leave the apartment. At least I knew how to get downtown. It was still raining so we opted to buy day passes on the Hop On/Hop Off bus. They give a good perspective on the city, even in the rain. The rain sometimes let up, and we did manage to get off the bus to see the Vigeland Sculpture Park, the Maritime Museum, and the Royal Palace.
At the end of that long day I texted my Air Bnb hostess about a detail. I also mentioned that Doug had been sick. She texted back immediately with the contact info for her personal doctor, as well as the location of a clinic. What’s more, she offered her flat to us for another night or two at no charge. The weather was supposed to clear and she wanted us to see her city under a blue sky, hopefully in better health. We were unable to take advantage of her offer for many reasons. But her hospitality warmed our hearts!
Our train to Bergen left the next day at noon. Fortunately a morning drizzle cleared away by 10:00 or so and we had a couple hours to enjoy a somewhat-sunny Oslo. We walked on the Opera House roof and visited the Akershus fort. Despite our misadventures, I left Oslo with pleasant feelings about the city. Perhaps the main reason was our host’s kindness.
Being offered true hospitality makes the heart happy. Get out the gaily colored chalk! Rain doesn’t deserve the last word.
My experience made me ruminate on this: Perhaps hospitality, like grace, is best appreciated in a moment of true need. A lesson worth noting for church leaders, who are in the hospitality business.