You might expect a homeless guy in Iceland to be cold on New Year’s Day, but thanks to the hospitality of a stranger, this one was not.
Instead, I spent the day sitting in the comfort of a warm apartment, pondering the sin (as I was quickly coming to consider it) of traveling on a much smaller budget than was necessary. Taking advantage of spontaneous hospitality had become the norm during my Christmas Break adventure – a cold three-week jaunt through Europe’s most sparsely populated country – even though I could have quite comfortably compensated many Icelanders for their helpfulness and care.
Too cheap to rent a car? Mooch a ride. Too cheap to get a room? Lie on a local’s floor for a few nights. Too cheap to even buy food? Gorge yourself when someone offers you something for free, of course. Suck as much out of the system as you can without putting anything back in besides the words “thank” and “you.” In other words, be a leech.
I began to wonder if this somewhat irresponsible (and undeniably selfish) way of saving a buck while having a blast was worth suffering the guilt with which freeloading was drenching my conscience.
But just as soon as I decided that I deserved punishment for preying on peoples’ goodwill, I realized how a shift in my attitude had already redeemed the whole ordeal.
My focus had become the overwhelming hospitality of the people I met, not the number of dollars I saved thanks to them. Over the course of the trip, my thoughts had shifted from “I am saving so much money” to “People are so good.” Had I stayed in hotel suites and eaten fancy and filling meals, I doubt I would have left Iceland so hopeful and inspired. I had breathed in the aroma of hospitality and was ready to blow it out on anyone I met.
As a new semester starts here at EMU, and familiar and unfamiliar faces once again roam campus, I am convinced that we are capable of inspiring each other every day to greater kindness, generosity, and warmth. How can we best extend hospitality to one another?
-Ryan Eshleman, Co-Editor in Chief